Aransas County Commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Aug. 24, took action regarding two items related to the TEAM Workforce Development and Entrepreneur Center.
The court unanimously approved the Economic Development Administration (EDA) Grant application for an amount not to exceed $2.5 million for a TEAM Center, and amending matching funds based upon cash, in-kind and force account donations not to exceed $500,000.
After meeting in executive session, commissioners also approved a Real Estate Option Contract in an amount not to exceed $35,000 for option fees, for the property located at 2000 Highway 35 Business North for a potential TEAM Center.
Aransas County Long Term Recovery Team member Kim Foutz said there has been a “significant amount of work (put in on this) in the past week.”
The LTRT, working with the Aransas County Partnership EDC, originally applied for a $4.5 million grant, but learned that amount would not be granted.
At the court’s Aug. 17 meeting, commissioner’s tabled authorizing reducing the grant application from $4.5 million to $3.5 million, with a $350,000 match.
At that meeting EDC Chairman Jatin Bhakta said the board is looking at multiple options, which is why the court was asked to delay action on the matter.
The “significant amount of work in the past week” noted by Foutz, referred to the proposal brought to the table at Monday’s meeting.
Bhakta noted the EDA told the EDC that due to the volume (request for funds) the amount of grant funding requested should be further reduced, and include a 20% match.
He said the new plan calls for purchasing only the north building (in the former Little Bay Elementary complex), and the four lots to the north of that building. The EDC will now re-submit the grant request for $2.5 million, with a $500,000 match.
Bhakta said the EDC has secured written commitments for the $500,00.
“Judging by the outpouring of support this past week (securing the commitments), it’s clear this community wants to see this happen,” said Bhakta.
Purchasing both buildings in the former Little Bay Elementary complex would have cost $1.75 million. The north building and four lots will run $1.075 million.
Commissioner Wendy Laubach asked when the TEAM Center will be expanded, requiring additional funds.
Foutz noted expansion can be accomplished at first using open air pavilions.
“I’m just trying to get what the county commitment is,” said Laubach.
“You will have ownership,” said Foutz. “Del Mar has committed to operations and maintenance (expenses).”
The county should learn if the grant is awarded in early October.
Foutz said at that time all the contracts will be signed.
“That’s when we’re having to make the final decision,” said Commissioner Charles Smith.
Laubach asked Foutz what is being cut (by reducing the grant amount requested).
Foutz said classroom space and programming.
Laubach asked if the TEAM Center has a better chance being funded than the Aransas County Navigation District’s request for funding for its proposed marina project.
Foutz answered affirmatively, noting the TEAM Center is “in its wheelhouse,” meaning the EDA likes this type of project.
Addressing the comment made by Jeff Hutt during the citizens to be heard portion of the agenda, about the county “being out of its lane” regarding the proposed TEAM Center, Commissioner Jack Chaney said the ACISD isn’t eligible for this grant, and doesn’t have the buildings.
Del Mar College Vice President of Workforce Development and Strategic Initiatives Lenora Keas, addressing the court virtually, noted the college has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the county and appreciates the opportunity (presented by the TEAM Center). Del Mar has also had an MOU with the ACISD for many years.
“We are committed to the ongoing maintenance and operations (expenses),” she said.
She noted the 16,000 sq. ft. in the scaled down plan is adequate.
“We’ve already walked through it and we believe the facility fits well,” said Keas.
Referring to the fundraising for the required matching funds, she added, “I’ve never seen so much community support in just one week.
“You are in our service area, and we’re looking forward to working with you.”
The question was asked if Del Mar has plans to add Aransas County to the Del Mar taxing district after the TEAM Center is operational.
“Our taxing district includes the City of Corpus Christi and five ISDs. In order for Aransas County to become part of the taxing district, you would have to initiate it,” said Keas.
Commissioners then unanimously approved seeking the $2.5 million EDA grant with the matching funds.
Real Estate Option Contract
The court then addressed the option contract, which has been in place since May, to secure the Little Bay Elementary location as a possible site for a micro hospital.
The new contract eliminates any mention of the micro hospital.
Mark Wagnon, the county’s representative on the EDC, said if the grant is approved, the county should be able to close by the Feb. 14, 2021, the final day of the option.
He noted the sellers of the property will provide shared access, as well as some expenses, and some of the option payments could be recoverable from the grant, but that’s not assured.
Commissioners then went into executive session.
After returning to open session, Laubach outlined what the court was to be voting on.
She noted the option was initially for the micro hospital, but the court is entering a new option agreement for the TEAM Center, with the option payments made at closing.
“If we don’t get the grant we will still be responsible for paying the option,” said Laubach.
Smith made the motion to approve the Real Estate Option Contract. It was seconded and carried with a 4-1 vote. Laubach cast the dissenting vote because there were “too many moving parts in the last hour.”