El Paso

EPISD willing to lease land to City of El Paso

Land would be used for flat fields bond project

EPISD willing to lease land to City...

EL PASO, Texas - The EPISD Board of Trustees is discussing the possibility of leasing land to the City of El Paso.

Several schools within the district will be consolidated, as part of the 2016 bond. The district is willing to lease that land to the city at a low price, for the city's proposed plan to create 25 sports fields in Central El Paso.

"I'm going to let city council know that EPISD is willing to work with us to provide land for flat field use," parks and recreation director Tracy Novak said.

The city's 2012 Quality of Life bond program approved scattered flat fields funds in the amount of $5,000,000. Back then City Council reps recognized central El Paso was lacking in fields compared to other parts of the city. 

Former city council representative, and current EPISD trustee Susie Byrd was the one who proposed that money from the bond be allocated to create the fields. 

In December 2017, city council postponed a vote regarding a plan to create the fields. Part of the hesitation stemmed from an email Byrd sent city council before the vote. In the email, she urged council not to approve the plan created by city staff because two of the proposed fields would not be located within the city's central planning area. She also told council that EPISD could potentially offer "below market leases" for the fields.

"We're trying to maximize the number of flat fields that we can put in the central planning area of El Paso, and to do that we need to keep our costs down. So we're hoping to avoid demolition or acquisition costs," Novak said.  

EPISD superintendent Juan Cabrera said he's looking forward to growing the district's relationship with the city.

"Nothing's off the table for us," Cabrera said.

But, trustee Al Velarde said he wants to make sure if the land from consolidated schools is leased to the city, that the city demolish the buildings.

"I want to make sure that four years from now, we don't have vacant schools sitting in a community that become a draw for not so good things to happen -- for gangs to start hanging out, for graffiti," Velarde said. "Obviously, with the city wanting to do this, whatever arrangement, if they are willing to take on the demolition, that's the best case for EPISD. But in the end, my hope is that we can come into an agreement."

The two schools that the city is interested in are Clardy Elementary in South Central El Paso and Bassett Middle School in the Northeast.

"We conducted an analysis and determined those are two areas of the city that have gaps, that don't have access to flat fields," Novak said. 

This issue will be brought up once again to city council on January 23.

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