SSISD closes land deal

Property could  be site of new schools

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Sept 7, 2007 - Parting with land that’s been in the family for years can be a difficult undertaking, but Abbie Gail Wisenbaker Rucker's decision to sell the 53.3 acres that belonged to her parents came after being assured the property would be used in the future for a school to benefit children.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

The Rucker family sealed a deal with Sulphur Springs Independent School District Thursday, parting with land that’s been in the family for 70 years. Pictured left to right, are (front) Director of Finance Miki Eddins, board member Jackie Brice, Superintendent Patsy Bolton;  property owner Abbie Gail Wisenbaker Rucker, her daughter Pamela Cooper, sons John Hooten (checkered shirt), son-in-law Jerry Cooper and son Otis Anderson; (back)  board member Jack Chubb, Director of Plant Operations Dale Guest, board members Foy Williams, Clay Johnson, Don Sapaugh, Carolyn Thomas and Judy Gillem, and former board member Norman Sanders.

Rucker, along with her sons John Hooten and Otis Anderson and daughter and son-in-law Pamela and Jerry Cooper, made the journey from the Houston area to complete the land purchase deal with Sulphur Springs Independent School District Thursday.

The deal has been in the works for quite some time, with SSISD board member Clay Johnson negotiating with Rucker and her family. The purchase represents potential space for two additional school facilities for the district.

The property, located about 2.3 miles off of State Highway 19 south, will front two roads. On one side will be the State Highway 11 extension, a project where a new south loop is lated to be constructed within a few years. The other side fronts County Road 1103.

The school district, which recently put up portable buildings at Bowie and Travis elementary schools, has been looking for land on the south side of town, an area which is expected to grow following the construction of the highway extension. 

�If we continue to have enrollment increase like it has done since Labor Day, or if a big industry comes in, we want to be ready if we have to do something quickly,� SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton said.

SSISD officials scouted several properties in the area of the Wisenbaker land, which Rucker’s parents bought in 1937. After Johnson contacted Rucker, she was at first reluctant to sell the land, but agreed to the sale “if it will be for a school.” The rest of her family indicated they also liked the idea that the land would be used for a school, a great legacy for the property, according to Johnson.

�Following the closing of the deal Thursday afternoon, all seven members of SSISD�s board, along with former board member Norman Sanders (who helped work toward the completion of the project), Bolton, Director of Plant Operations Dale Guest and Finance Director Miki Eddinsl joined Rucker�s family on the property.

The land had been farmed with dairy cattle, and Rucker recalled a large garden where her parents grew “the best watermelons." Milk from the cows was sold to the local co-op, and double-yolk eggs were sold as well, Rucker and her family said, recounting happy memories from the old homeplace.

The selling price was $430,776.34. The district used most of the $435,000 designated last year for construction of a new athletic track for the purchase as that project was delayed a year. 

Bolton said the $8,000 rate per acre was considerably less than the rates quoted to the district for other properties in that area.

Before agreeing to the deal, district officials had an architect look at the site. He determined two schools could be built on the land.

As for what the district will do with the property, they “don’t know what we’re going to build on it.”

�We have a long way to go before we determine that,� Bolton said. "It will probably be four to five years before the highway and utilities are in. I talked to [Texas Department of Public Transportation Area Engineer] Earnest Teague about a time frame. He said about four to five years is a safe length of time before the highway opens and the utilities go in."

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