Little Cypress-Mauriceville outlines upgraded facilities, plan to pay for it

Published 12:30 am Saturday, May 21, 2022

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The community of Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD plans to celebrate upgrades to school facilities later this year, improvements district staff members say have been a long time coming.

Among the facilities that were lost or damaged by Hurricane Harvey were offices for the LCM Special Programs department, the Education Center used for training and instruction and several storage facilities and rooms.

Since the storm, Special Programs staff have operated out of reconditioned storage spaces in the Administration Building, and training that would have occurred in the Education Center was juggled to various campuses as time and space allowed.

LCM Maintenance crewmembers saved what storage facilities they could, but some will have to be torn down due to safety concerns and FEMA regulations.

While the process of negotiating FEMA requirements has been long and arduous, district staffers say it will be worth the time and effort once additions to the Administration Building are completed to replace the spaces lost to the storm.

As with the renovation projects, which have already occurred on the campuses, FEMA reimbursements will cover 90 percent of the cost, with the remaining 10 percent paid out of the district’s fund balance.

Alternative FEMA projects that have already been completed include driveway repairs in Mauriceville and at LCM High School, and the replacement of desks and materials on every campus.

Undoubtedly, this is good news for the stakeholders of the district who have seen their share of storms since Harvey — a fact that has district staff eager to complete these projects and tackle new ones.

“The safety of our students must always be our No. 1 priority,” said Athletic Director Eric Peevey following a meeting of the LCM Board of Trustees, during which he discussed the instability of the football practice field, which is low lying and often wet.

There is risk of undue heat exposure to band students who practice on hot pavement in the summer in preparation for marching season.

The proposal approved by the Board addressed the installation of artificial turf over the existing football field at Battlin’ Bear Stadium, replacement of the existing track, replacement of the home side restrooms, replacement of tennis courts, a new scoreboard, replacement of existing fence and the replacement of existing field lights, as funds allowed.

Along with the turf, district staff were able to negotiate the highest rated safety padding in the industry, and materials that are guaranteed to last up to 20 years and will keep the field as much as 30° cooler.

Also taken into consideration was the availability of a turf field for daily use by multiple student organizations, including band, junior high, junior varsity and varsity football, boys and girls soccer, track and the possibility of field rental to organizations such as little league and summer league.

“It’s important to have facilities like this one available to the residents of Orange County,” Superintendent Stacey Brister said. “It’s not just about being able to host playoff games, or marching competitions or district track meets. While all that will undoubtedly increase revenue for the district, it’s important that the residents of our community have a place to use that isn’t limited by poor weather conditions the way grass is.”

In order to pay for the facility upgrades, the Board approved a $4 million maintenance tax note, which can only be used to replace existing district facilities in their present location.

Since the current restrooms are not ADA approved and will need to be relocated, they cannot be included in the tax note. The Board approved an additional $2 million to be paid from the district’s fund balance to cover the cost of the restrooms and the tennis courts, which will also need to be moved.

According to Chief Financial Officer Hollie Fregia, the funding received from the tax notes will not negatively impact taxpayers.

“The district has been diligently paying down the debt owed following Hurricane Harvey,” Fregia said, “and we are still submitting several FEMA projects that we hope to see reimbursed over the course of the next year.”