Thursday's city council meeting might be one where you want to get some popcorn ready, for a lease agreement between Victoria College (VC) and the City of Gonzales is on the agenda.
According to Victoria College-Gonzales Center Manager Jackie Mikesh, the proposed lease and interlocal agreement hammered out by VC officials was sent to the mayor, city manager, councilmen, and city secretary on July 24 for adequate review. Included are concessions by VC to pay up to $5,000 per occurrence for needed repairs and capital expenditures on their building, the old amount being $500; plans to report annually to council on enrollment and activities at the center; and has asked for a city designee to become a member of the Gonzales Center advisory committee. The college said it commits to coordinate efforts to seek outside funding for the needs of the Gonzales campus.
"Victoria College is committed to the partnerships it has formed in Gonzales with the city, GEDC, local businesses and area school districts,” Mikesh said. “It is our hope that the proposed lease can be discussed and voted upon at the Aug. 9 city council meeting".
Also in attendance will be Dr. David Hinds, president of VC and one of the negotiators in the new deal. He intends to speak publicly on the matter.
"The new lease codifies what we have been already doing in the past at the center,” Hinds said in a statement. “There are three items that change in the lease to better reflect our commitment to the county and City of Gonzales.”
Readers will recall last month's marathon council meeting, where numerous community members stood in support of the college. Gonzales Mayor Connie Kacir took some heat for appearing to be aligned against the college, but reiterated that her stance is only to get the best deal available for taxpayers for the city-owned building that VC has occupied for the past 11 years. She seems prepared to offer lease terms that the city has drawn up, too.
“The City has been negotiating for 17 months to date and believes the college will be agreeable to the favorable terms we have provided to them for consideration,” Kacir said. “The lease is based upon a rate of less than five cents per square foot and further exemplifies the commitment the City has to our college.
“Additionally, we are asking for the College's permission to bring in a premier career firefighting academy whose commission is held by Texas A&M University and rated top in the state and among the top in the nation. This opportunity is a prestigious offer Gonzales does not want to lose. The firefighter academy is of no competition to Victoria College as they do not have a firefighting academy.
“Noteworthy of mentioning, Gonzales also has the opportunity to implement a high school firefighter academy, which does not require Victoria College's permission to implement in our school district and is in no competition with Victoria College. This program could be available to our school district as early as this school year. The program promotes an opportunity for our students to take classes for four years — freshmen through senior — and upon graduation, they would only have a 21-day boot camp remaining for program completion. This would provide GISD students an opportunity to be employable at a starting salary of approximately $45,000 a year, full employment benefits and zero student loan debt.
“Program implementation is pending GISD approval at present. The City is looking most forward to working with our GISD administrators to implement this exciting program for the benefit of our students. This is the first year the program is being offered in Texas and Gonzales is both extremely honored and proud to have been extended this extraordinary career opportunity.”“The City is a strong supporter of our college as illustrated through our 11-plus years of partnership and substantial investment of $2 million-plus dollars in funding from City and GEDC funds in addition to only requiring $1 a year in lease payments. The City is awaiting approval from the college on the proposed lease. The City sees no reason the lease would not be accepted and once done, we look most forward to many more years of higher education in Gonzales.”
The fun starts Thursday at 6 p.m. at the city municipal building.