Weslaco sprints to save Boys & Girls Club - The Monitor: Mvtc

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Weslaco sprints to save Boys & Girls Club

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Posted: Friday, July 19, 2013 1:31 pm

The city of Weslaco is racing to construct a Boys and Girls Club before Texas Parks and Wildlife pulls its $400,000 in funding six years after the project was approved.

At a workshop with Weslaco Independent School District on Thursday night, City Manager Leo Olivares said the city received a letter from the state listing the deadline to get its paperwork in order as last Monday. But, he said, since then he's had several conference calls with state senators and representatives.

"We believe we will be OK," Olivares said. "The state is interested in making this a success."

In order to move forward, the city needed the school district to lease property for the $1 million building. They planned to submit the lease and the contract with the construction company by Friday, July 19.

But the school board tabled an item earlier this month that would have approved the lease because trustees had several questions on the building.

Trustee Richard Rivera wanted to know the reason for the delay.

"It's for the kids, and we should just be moving forward with it, but given the history, now it's ... six years later and we're in a hurry to get this rolling," trustee Erasmo Lopez said.

Olivares said there were a variety of reasons, including a lot of employee turnover in the parks department.

And City Commissioner Lupe Rivera said now isn't the time for blame. It's time to get the building moving, he said.

School Board President Dr. Robert Sepulveda agreed it was a good project and he remembers touring the location, which has two portable buildings on it, when he first was elected.

"I said, 'Why are these buildings like this, why aren't they being used?' If we can get children in those buildings, I'm all for it," Sepulveda said. "It's taxpayers money, and I really feel if we could make some viable there."

When asked by trustees how the Boys and Girls Club felt about the design of the building, Andrew Gonzalez, who's on the board, said board members did not have a say in the construction or design.

And Mary Lopez, who works for the Boys and Girls Club, said "Right now it's done. We can't change anything."

Lopez said their one issue now is the number of bathrooms for boys. The current design shows two stalls and two urinals. The previous building had five stalls, and the building the organization is using now only has one, resulting in several accidents, she said. It's difficult to say exactly how many stalls they would need in the new building because the agency has not received the capacity of it, but Lopez is expecting it to hold at least 300 children.

The organization also hoped to use the portable buildings on the property for a space for teenagers; however, that's not covered in the lease, and neither is the use of the parking lot.

Olivares said any changes to the facility or lease agreement could be handled through a change order later in the process.

The 12,500 square-foot building would be built on the northwest corner of the old Horton Elementary, off North Iowa Avenue. The city recently downsized the building from 22,000 square feet because it didn't have enough money. Still, the facility will have a gym and computer labs for children to use. The city is contributing $600,000 for construction, using some of the proceeds from selling a property.

In a meeting later Thursday night, trustees unanimously approved the 50-year lease of the property.

Olivares said the city is looking to have the building substantially complete in six months.

"We're in negotiations with the state right now," he said. "They've been very patient. They don't want to withdraw the funds, but they've been very clear to us that we need to show progress."

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