Mascorro presented the plan at last week’s school board meeting.
Superintendent Jack Gaskins said the decision was an easy one for the board — the trustees agreed to trade the land currently used for a practice field to the county.
In exchange for the property, the county will install artificial turf on the field at Jack Sportsman Bobcat Stadium. Because the school is not allowed to give its assets away, the trade-off is considered “a sale,” according to Gaskins.
Mascorro said the site was chosen so that the dome will have maximum usage - as a fully self-contained emergency management center and shelter by the county and as a gymnasium, sports and activity center by the school.
“The Emergency Operations Center is currently on the third floor of the courthouse,” Mascorro said. “The generators are in the basement and the basement floods. The dome will be fully self-contained, fully functional and independent. If the power goes down at the lift station, it won’t be affected. First responders and people who are not willing or able to evacuate will have a place to go.”
The plan to put the multi-purpose dome near the school will ensure it doesn’t become another seldom-used building, according to the judge.
“A costly building not used beyond emergency operations is not a smart use of taxpayers’ dollars,” Mascorro said. “It’s great to have when you need it but it’s wasteful.”
Under Mascorro’s plan, the EOC will have a permanent space in the second floor of the dome while the school would have a new gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, playoffs, meetings and a host of other events, guaranteeing high usage by the school.
Under the judge’s plan, the dome will be funded by “certificates of obligation paid for by money already in the budget.” No property tax increases are necessary, the judge said.
Three months of revenues amounting to approximately $200,000 were not figured into the budget. That leaves $200,000 per year that can be used to repay the money borrowed under the certificates of deposit.
Mascorro said there is no better time to borrow money.
“Interest rates are the lowest in any of our lifetimes; we have a triple A credit rating and no debt so it’s the best time to invest in a project of this scale,” he said.
Waiting for available money through FEMA or other government grants would take a minimum of five years, the judge said.
Mascorro will present the plan to the commissioners court during its next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
The judge went to the school board first to see if the interest was there, he said.
RISD will be responsible for funding the hardwood flooring and seating at the dome along with any other requirements for sporting events. In exchange for artificial turf, Mascorro said the school agreed to upgrade the stadium. The artificial turf has a life expectancy of 10 years, according to Mascorro.
“The school spends about $3,500 per year trying to get grass to grow,” he said.
New artificial turf estimates for the stadium are in the $500,000 range.
With the new turf, the team and band will use the field for practices. PeeWee football games will be allowed on the field. Upgrades at the stadium are expected to be a draw for playoff games as well, Mascorro added.
The dome will have an economic impact for the town of Refugio, according to the judge.
“People will be staying in motels and spending money in the town,” he said.
“The multi-purpose dome will be the county’s facility with long-term use by the school,” he said.
Also planned is a major overhaul of the drainage ditch which runs between the stadium and school.
Mascorro said culverts will be added to expand the usable property from the field to Hwy. 183 so that much-needed parking can be added around the dome.
“The building will be a centerpiece and the first thing people see when they come in from the north side of town,” he said.
With RISD’s blessing, Mascorro’s next step will be to gain approval from the commissioners court.
Word of Mascorro’s plan has already “trickled down the grapevine.”
“The first I heard of it was after the judge went to the school board,” said Commissioner Stanley Tuttle. “Judge Mascorro criticized me for speaking my mind during an open commissioners court meeting that he did not attend because I did not go to him personally. But what did the judge just do when he went to the school board?”
Commissioner Rod Bernal also said he “heard about it through the grapevine.”
“It sounds like a good idea,” Bernal said.
Commissioner Gary Bourland, in whose precinct the dome may be built, said the judge informed him of the preliminary plan before he went to the school board. However, Bourland was adamant that he was against any plan that will cost the taxpayers more money.
The commissioners court meeting on Nov. 13 will determine if construction will begin in June, as the judge hopes.
“This project solves a lot of issues on problems we’ve been trying to fix with an out-of-the-box approach,” Mascorro said. “This will impact a lot of people over a long period of time... well beyond my term and into new generations.”