SSISD, county revise Civic Center agreement
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor
July 17, 2007 - Sulphur Springs school officials and county leaders found common ground Monday on changes to the bylaws for what used to be the governing body of the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.
Sulphur Springs Independent School District officials openly complained when county commissioners decided to alter the bylaws of the Civic Center Board Inc.
Previously, the Civic Center Board was defined as the "governing body" of the facility, but changes approved by commissioners in June changed the description to an "advisory board." The changes also limited board members to serve no more than two consecutive three-year terms, although they could be re-appointed after sitting out for two years.
A few sticking points concerned school officials, however, who noted some changes in the bylaws conflicted with a long-standing interlocal agreement between SSISD and the county.
One area of concern was that the agreement guaranteed the school district could appoint two members to the Civic Center board. When rewriting the bylaws, county commissioners had discussed downgrading SSISD's representation on the 11-member board to one.
That idea has since died, however, and at least two people on the Civic Center board will be members of the SSISD Board of Education, or their representatives.
SSISD has a special stake in the Civic Center. When the facility was built in the 1970s, the school district deeded 12 1/2 acres, as well as $300,000 to help build the project.
In essence, it was a long-term investment. In return, the school district would be able to designate six dates each year for school events, and could use the facility on other dates when the Civic Center was not reserved by another group or organization. That meant SSISD did not have to build an auditorium on the Sulphur Springs High School campus.
The altered agreement still allows the district its six guaranteed days, but changes the wording to indicate the events will be placed on the reservation calendar according to availability. Civic Center Manager Dottie Ford explained that she already has events booked into 2010.
"We can't hold the calendar open [indefinitely]," she said.
"I don't think we ever intended that," said SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton.
Both sides indicated they were more than willing to work together to head off any scheduling conflicts.
Two other important changes in the agreement are being considered. One is the manner in which the school district pays part of the cost of overhead at the Civic Center. The agreement has always stated SSISD would pay a portion of annual utility costs — initially the number was $7,000, later $12,000.
That may change in the future. School officials indicate they would be reviewing their actual use of the facility to determine if they wanted to continue with that method or explore some alternative.
Both parties also agreed to a provision requiring the agreement be renewed each year. That will give them an opportunity to constantly review the agreement and make changes if needed.