Ghosts of South Park Middle School haunt appeals court

David Yates Jun. 2, 2010, 6:00am

Demolition of South Park Middle School began on April 2.

Even though demolition of South Park Middle School began on April 2, the battle between the Beaumont Independent School District and residents who fought to preserve the campus lingers on in the Ninth District Court of Appeals.

On May 27 Beaumont justices dismissed the appeal of a lower court's ruling filed by the Beaumont Heritage Society and local "South Park Greenie" Eddie Estilette.

The Heritage Society and Estilette had filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, assuming that appealing a judgment granting a permanent injunction had become moot since the 87-year-old campus is now in rubble.

However, in response to the motion, BISD Superintendent Carrol Thomas and Board of Trustees President Woodrow Reese filed a brief arguing that their cross-appeal "has not become moot" and that they wished continue their appeal of the trial court's ruling to award attorney's fees to the Heritage Society and Estilette.

The district also desires to appeal Judge Bob Wortham's ruling prohibiting the use of bond funds to demolish South Park.

"The motion to dismiss is voluntarily," states the Ninth Court's opinion, authored by Justice Steve McKeithen. "Thomas, BISD, and Reese also filed notice of appeal; because they have raised an issue relating to attorney's fees and that issue has not become moot. Their appeal remains before us and will proceed in due course."

Last summer, the Heritage Society and Estilette sought and received a temporary restraining order, halting BISD from razing South Park and erecting a more costly structure in its stead.

Judge Wortham, who presided over the litigation, had determined there was enough evidence indicating that BISD may have misled voters during the $389 million bond election held in 2007.

On Jan. 6 Judge Wortham ruled against BISD, verbally ordering that no bond funds could be spent to demolish South Park.

Nonetheless, the district dipped into its general capitol funds to acquire a permit to hire a demolition crew and bulldoze the campus.

In a previous interview, BISD attorney Melody Chappell told the Southeast Texas Record the school board voted on March 18 to use approximately $135,000 from general capitol funds to tear down the building.

The Heritage Society and Estilette are represented by attorney Michael Getz.

Appeals case No. 09-10-00155-CV
Trial case No. D184-425

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