As I reflect on this season of thanksgiving, I feel very thankful to live in a community that values education and sees the need for investing in the future of our students. As evident by the passing of the bond election in May, we have a community that wants what’s best for its future citizens. Now it’s time for the real work to begin, so that we can build something that the community will be proud of for another 60 years.
First things first, after the election it was time to shop for the perfect interest rate on the bond that would ultimately be fair to our taxpayers. We sold $40 million worth of the $75 million bond. We were hoping to sell the bond at a 4.2-percent interest rate like we originally projected, but when we actually sold the bond, the rate came in at 3.3 percent, which was excellent news for our voters. Our taxpayers’ monthly bill will be lower than we had expected. We will secure the rest of the $75 million next summer, and hope to get a great bond interest rate like we did this year. Two bond sales also allows us to spread the impact on the voters over two years instead of all at once.
After the money was lined up, it was time to select the architects and construction manager at risk. We have moved ahead with finalizing our contract with Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong and hired them as the architects for the projects. They were with us hand-in-hand during the process of planning out the possibilities of the bond, and we feel confident in continuing that relationship.
To select the CMAR, administrators and board members took a field trip to Slocum, Rusk, Tyler and Whitehouse to interview two different companies based on the requests for qualifications we received. From those interviews, we’ve selected Berry and Clay Commercial Construction from Rusk as the CMAR for the middle school project and the multi-purpose gym at the high school.
Berry and Clay is a family-run business with more than 41 years experience in the construction business. This particular company has a heavy focus on hiring local subcontractors. Over the past three years, they showed us evidence of giving almost $26 million back into the local Lufkin and Nacogdoches economies. We look for them to do that as well with the subcontractors for our project. It’s important for our voters to know that their money will stay mostly in Lufkin and the local area.
Langston Construction was selected to build the ball field complex that will be housed at the high school campus and will consist of a baseball and softball fields along with concessions, restrooms and dressing rooms. Langston Construction is a well-known company in our community and has a reputation for their high integrity and personalized service, which made them the obvious choice for this project.
The next step in the process is the design phase, or the fun phase. We have already started to meet with administrators, coaches and the architect design team to discuss needs and wants of the projects. I love that two of the architects that are working closely on this project are Lufkin graduates and will help us to preserve the past while designing for the future.
We are in the process of arranging focus groups to meet with teachers, administrators, school board members and community members, as well as taking many more “field trips” to schools to collect innovative ideas.
Once again, voters, thank for you for the tremendous support and confidence you have in the school district to plan and build for the future of our students. We have so much to be thankful for this holiday season, and I can assure you that living in this community that supports and shows love for children is at the top of my thankful list.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday!
Lynn Torres is the superintendent of Lufkin ISD. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. This column originally appeared in The Lufkin Daily News.