San Benito CISD denies holding back info in $40 million project shutdown

dfwnewsa | January 25, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

San Benito CISD denies holding back info in  million project shutdown

SAN BENITO — Facing residents’ concerns, school board members say they’re “not withholding any information” behind a $40 million bond-funded construction project’s 10-month shutdown.

Earlier this week, trustees met in closed session to discuss the project after a construction team proposed repairs to two buildings’ foundations before board member Rudy Corona read a statement before the audience.

“I want to let the public know that the San Benito school board is not withholding any information about these construction sites and is relying on the advice of our construction counsel, Mr. (Baltazar) Salazar,” Corona, chairman of the district’s building committee, said during Wednesday night’s meeting. “I would like to inform the public that our previous (administrator) hired Mr. Baltazar Salazar as our attorney for the construction of these buildings.”

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Corona said the project’s construction team was working to determine repair plans.

“As construction remedies and information are made available to us, we will advise the public in open session in a timely manner,” he said. “It is not the board’s duty to point fingers at who is to blame for these issues. Rather, the board should be open to recommendations from our construction legal counsel Salazar in order to see the project through to completion.”

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Corona also debunked critics’ claims board members closed the district’s building committee meetings to the public.

”I would like everyone to know that at no time did I, or the board members present today, decide to have these particular committee meetings closed to the public,” he said. “This, again, was recommended by our previous (administrator) to have these meetings earlier during the workday and it was (the board’s) effort to make sure that staff were able to go home without working extra hours and take care of their families. Administrators, staff and board members will continue to hold each other accountable and keep the best interests of our students, employees and faculty at the forefront of our decision making.”

Next week, Salazar, a Houston-based attorney, is expected to release a statement regarding the construction project.

Last March, then-Superintendent Theresa Servellon, under the past school board, ordered the district’s biggest construction project halted after architect Mike Allex, with McAllen-based ROFA Architects, found some geopiers, or deeply anchored 2-foot-wide rock columns, misaligned with the foundations’ targets.

For months, Allex and officials with Davila Construction, the project’s San Antonio-based contractor, have been working to determine repair plans.

While the shutdown pushes the project about a year behind schedule, board President Orlando Lopez said Davila Construction, as part of its contract, was covering repair costs.

Since a previous school board proposed a $40 million bond issue in 2018, the construction project has become one of city’s hottest topics, a political football drawing fire from opponents.

A sign displays renderings of the finished SBCISD Performing Arts Center and Natatorium Facility Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at the construction site in San Benito. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

In 2018, Lopez helped a previous administration push for the bond issue to fund construction of a $21.3 million performing arts theater, an $8.8 million aquatics center and a $5.7 million indoor practice field, which has been completed.

In a heated election, 54% of voters passed the bond issue.

In October 2021, Davila Construction launched the project to build the performing arts theater and aquatics center.

Last February, before officials shut down the construction project, a district report showed Davila Construction was requesting the performing arts theater’s completion date be pushed from July 21 to Dec. 28 while the aquatics center’s completion date be changed from April 14 to Sept. 19.

Officials haven’t announced a new timetable.

The post San Benito CISD denies holding back info in $40 million project shutdown appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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