WISD ag groundbreaker

Photo by Kristy Quijas

Wharton ISD hosted a groundbreaking ceremony this month for the Agriculture Project Center. See a related Facebook video of the event on the Wharton Journal-Spectator’s Facebook page.

Ever since Wharton Independent School District’s $59 million bond passed in November 2018, much of the fanfare literally went to the stadium. It was set up this way and Wharton ISD administrators let the public know it early in the construction process through board of trustee meetings, civic organization luncheons, or other meetings like those of the Wharton Economic Development Corp. where administrators are part of its advisory board.

It would be the stadium and the sports complex first and second that commanded the most attention because of the earthwork involved. The latter is showing signs of what is to come in the next few weeks. The stadium eventually got its name and inaugural football season out of the way, although there were still some concerns made to trustees by those near the stadium about how the dirt was laid out. Wharton ISD has many times met with citizens who voiced those concerns at meetings.

The next sports programs that will use Eddie Joseph Memorial Stadium are boys’ and girls’ soccer and in the spring track and field.

As a new year begins, WISD’s Agricultural Project Center is finally at the center of attention. It wasn’t like this in 2019 as several times WISD administrators placed more emphasis on the construction of the sports complex, which will house the baseball and softball programs. WISD Superintendent Tina Herrington said at the beginning of this year, much of the focus would be placed on the “ag center” as many were simply calling it.

But it will be much more than that, she said and recently, the school district hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 14. Herrington explained to stakeholders, some trustees and school administrators who attended, and even students who will be using the facility, how important it is to the community, but especially to youth.

“This has been a wonderful part of our bond project; (Wharton ISD) is excited about moving forward with this,” Herrington said. She added that officials anticipate this to be a six-month project, weather permitting.

“Our hope is that when school begins next year, our students will be able to move in with their projects,” Herrington said. “This is all about our kids and we want them to have access to this facility.”

This event was preceded by an ag community meeting that was held on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at Wharton High School.

Herrington spoke about it, and information about the procurement method and how it was selected was explained.

Among those who spoke about the ag center about the planning, design and details was WISD Construction Project Manager Mike Lanier.

Like with the stadium and sports complex, RWS Architectural Firm’s Cheryl Lawrence and Polasek Construction, Inc.’s Greg Polasek will update WISD staff and trustees throughout the construction process.

The ag center site supervisor is Kevin Stehling and the site manager Tom Coblentz.

Wharton ISD provided information about the ag center at the beginning of the year.

The information is as follows:

Where is Wharton ISD with the ag project center development?

The project has cleared the planning and design phase and ready for construction. The WISD Construction Team, which includes RWS Architectural firm and Polasek Construction, Inc. has met with campus personnel and devised a project center that will be suitable for the students of Wharton for years to come. This project center will include wash stations, large and small animal pens, loading and unloading areas, modern security systems with access control, educational space, and undeveloped areas for animal exercise and roaming or for future grass feeding.

What is the next step before construction?

The WISD Construction Team petitioned the city and was granted the right to close Abell Street that runs north and south through the campus to be included in the new design of Wharton Sr. High School which also includes the Ag. Project Center. At the moment, the WISD A&E (Architectural and Engineers) partners are waiting to secure pre-construction permitting to begin construction. At the conclusion of construction, that portion of the road will be closed to through traffic.

● What’s the cost to WISD?

The cost to construct this project center was just shy of $3 million funded through the 2019 bond issuance approved by the voters November 2018.

● How long can WISD expect construction to last and when will it start?

No one can guarantee the exact time or date that construction will begin or end due to unforeseen and unpredictable things we cannot control, most notably the weather. We can project expected construction should last about six months from start to finish and we hope to begin at the end of this month.

● What is the aesthetic impact of having this project center in our community?

The WISD Construction Team and staffers have designed this facility with the influence of the most trendy agriculture project centers in rural areas similar to ours. This facility will be manicured and maintained by the school district employees and students and will add value to the community, not diminish it.

● Can the community access this facility?

No. This is a private facility and the intended use for this facility is for educational purposes for the students of Wharton ISD. Any visitors must check-in at the front office like any other area of the campus.

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