• 81°

PNGISD officials hold bond information meeting; early voting starts next week

GROVES — The Port Neches-Groves Independent School District held its final informational bond meeting Monday at the West Groves Educational Center.

The PNGISD Board of Trustees originally voted in August to bring the $130 million bond referendum to the voters coming this November.

The proposal includes reducing the current seven-count campuses to four by building new elementary schools in each city, two in Groves and two in Port Neches. Each town would have one PreK-2 campus and one 3-5 campus.

The maximum tax increase upon the approval of the bond is $0.124 per $100 taxable value. Over 65 Homestead Exemption is not impacted.

Members of the community expressed concerns with the proposed 2019 Bond in a Q&A with Superintendent Mike Gonzalez, Groves Assistant Fire Chief Kelly Moore and PNG Maintenance Director Jeff Bergeron.

Moore gave a school report on the current elementary campuses after having done several fire code safety checks, walkthroughs and drills at the beginning of the school year.

“The reasons I wanted to do this, No. 1 — our kids’ safety,” he said. “Nothing beats our kids’ safety, and there are major safety issues. We want to make sure our schools are safe.

“Next, is our teacher and staff safety. Without our teachers and staff, who is going to watch our kids? We’ve got to take care of them. Simple.”

Moore gave a detailed account of some of the fire safety issues per a campus. Common factors found across all seven campuses include exposed wires, missing smoke detectors, holes in ceilings, no sprinkler systems, lack of storage and hazards due to over capacity and portable buildings.

“Often times when I do my walkthroughs, I’m looking to try to prevent a fire than try to fix some discrepancies that I know can’t be done,” Moore said. “These older buildings are very hard to retrofit for safety. Not only the sprinklers, but the fire alarm systems and other security issues are really hard to refit.”

The average age of the existing campuses are 64 years old, with the oldest building coming in at 71. Several schools are also over capacity, exceeding TEA standards.

“A lot of questions I get asked when people want to move to this area that know me, is ‘Why should I come move to Port Neches-Groves?” Moore said. “’What’s the crime rate and how is the school district?’

“Being a Port Neches-Groves ISD person, I want to tell them how good it is. So, we have to remember that we all want to expand but we have to make sure that we get all of these schools up to where they need to be first.”

Following Moore’s report, Bergeron gave a PowerPoint slide showing pictures of maintenance hazards across the district.

Bergeron noted many buildings are not TEA (Texas Education Agency) or ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant by showing cracked foundations, non-secured entryways, unsafe mechanical exposures, out dated breakers, electrical issues and more.

Gonzalez said whether the bond is passed or not, he just wants to encourage the community to get out, express their opinions and vote.

“Our schools are outdated,” he said. “We have issues with the facilities themselves. They are outdated and overcrowded. Those are the issues that caused the bond to move forward. We need safer and securer schools. We want people to get out and vote, whichever way they go.”

Early voting for the 2019 Bond runs Oct. 21 through Oct. 25 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Oct. 26 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and Oct. 28 through Nov. 1 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Voting locations include the Groves Recreation center located at 6150 39th St. in Groves and Effie and Wilton Hebert Public Library located at 2025 Merriman St. in Port Neches.

Election day is Nov. 5.