Judge Floyd allows BISD to press on with possible $50M event center & hotel

David Yates Nov. 10, 2010, 7:00am

The Beaumont Independent School District can carry on with discussions about possibly building a hotel and events center -- a speculative $50 million project -- near its new football stadium, thanks to a local judge's Nov. 8 ruling.

Despite contradictory testimony from a board member, Jefferson County Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, found that Superintendant Carrol Thomas was following the direction of the BISD school board when he began requesting qualifications for potential builders.

On Oct. 27, Beaumont residents Sonny Sherman, Chester Sherman and Michael Neil filed and obtained a temporary injunction against BISD, hoping to stop the district from constructing a proposed 8,000-seat multipurpose event center and 200-300 room hotel at the site of the Carrol A. "Butch" Thomas Educational Support Center on Interstate 10.

A hearing for a temporary restraining order was held Monday in Floyd's court.

During the hearing, BISD board member Tom Neild, the only member of the board to shoot down the hotel idea, testified that he believes Thomas discussed agenda items with members before meetings, effectively setting the direction he thinks the board should move.

Neild also said it didn't make sense to construct an events center right next to Ford Park.

"We're in the business of educating children ... not building event centers and hotels. There are a lot of unanswered questions."

The board voted to approve requests for qualifications during an Oct. 21 board meeting. A legal notice appeared the next morning in the Beaumont Enterprise.

Neild testified that BISD must have placed the advertisement before the board vote, indicating to him the district knew how the board would vote before the meeting.

He added the numerous members of the public he's spoken with do not support the project.

The plaintiffs in the case maintain the proposed building site, according to the $389 million 2007 bond, can only be used for the construction of new school buildings.

They allege BISD misled voters in 2007 by not declaring that they intended on building an events center and hotel with taxpayer money.

They further claim the athletic complex has already "ballooned" over budget by $15 million.

Judge Floyd said since no contract has been signed and there was only possible discussions between the district and contractors, then he could not issue the restraining order at this time. He said the matter could come up again in the future, however.

Beaumont attorney Michael Getz is representing the plaintiffs.

Getz previously represented the Beaumont Heritage Society in an unsuccessful fight against BISD to stop the district from tearing down South Park Middle School.

BISD is represented by Beaumont attorney Melody Chappell.

Case No. E188-690

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