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Gym in the rough: City OKs funding for MHS gymnasium project

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
The old Midlothian High School gymnasium sits empty today, but will soon spring back to life through a revitalization project. The Midlothian City Council has authorized the Midlothian Community Development Corporation to provide $500,000 to refurbish the gym.

The long-discussed renovation of the historic Midlothian High School Gymnasium is a step closer to fruition.

The Midlothian City Council approved a $500,000 grant from the Midlothian Community Development Corporation to go toward restoring the old MHS gym, which was built 70 years ago but has sat vacant since 2010.

Allen Moorman, president of MCDC, told the council that MCDC has gone through all the steps required and is ready to move forward.

Duke Burge, a member of the non-profit Midlothian Historic Gymnasium Project overseeing the renovation and a former Midlothian ISD board president, said the gymnasium project has been in the works for four years and is an architectural treasure that is worthy of preservation. Burge said the gym should become self-sustaining “in short order.”

Burge told councilmembers the main items in the renovation involve plumbing, electrical and cosmetics. Burge said asbestos remediation on the old building will be surprisingly minimal for a structure of that vintage.

“It’s not a hugely complicated project,” Burge said. “Plumbing is the most complicated project. That’s why we shut the building down, because the old sewer lines collapsed.”

The half-million-dollar figure is a relatively cheap amount to spend for a community facility, Mayor Pro Tem Justin Coffman remarked.

“To see it come back to life again is exciting to me,” councilmember Wayne Sibley added. “I played a lot of basketball and volleyball in there. I remember when it was built, it was the premier gym in Ellis County. Nobody had anything like Midlothian had.”

Danny Rogers, a member of the project committee, told the council that the end of 2021 is the targeted completion date for the renovation, with caveats attached based on COVID-19 uncertainties.

A related motion was approved giving the city a 25-year option to take over the property should the non-profit organization not complete its end of the agreement.  Mayor Richard Reno noted that the city would not be at financial risk.

Other items

• Because the council did not meet for its second November session, development and administrative matters consumed a large part of last week’s meeting.  A 9.74-acre tract at 1120 Apple Lane was denied for single-family development after several residents of the area objected. The vote was 4-2 for denial without prejudice, with councilmembers Ted Miller and Clark Wickliffe voting against.

• A rezoning of a property at 1507 U.S. Highway 67 was approved and a specific-use permit for the same property was approved, allowing for a veterinary clinic at that location. After a 10-minute discussion, a roughly 5-acre property on McAlpin Road was approved for a canine training facility. Other approvals included a specific-use permit for a water well for The Mark on Walter Stephenson Road, and an SUP for a restaurant, Twisted Sisters Pizzeria, at 138 North 8th Street.

• All bids were rejected for redevelopment of the former Fire Station No. 1, located across the street from City Hall at 235 North 8th Street. Assistant city manager Clyde Melick said the selection committee that was reviewing bids recommended rejecting all bids because of the city’s recent purchase of the Lawson buildings and uncertainty over the city’s immediate plans for downtown.

• The council appojnted several citizens to various city boards and commissions.

• Councilmembers amended the 2020-2021 budget for the general and utility funds to carry over budgeted items from the previous fiscal year.

• An insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London for wind and hail deductible buyback property coverage was approved at a cost of $58,800 for 10 months.

• The council approved an agreement with Kimley-Horn & Associates to evaluate inflow and infiltration of the city’s sewer system. A separate agreement with Insituform Technologies for manhole rehabilitation was approved. Additionally, the council approved the replacement of membrane modules at the Auger Water Treatment Plant at a maximum cost of $315,000.

• An agreement with Freese & Nichols was reached to prepare an update of the city’s impact fee study. The city every 10 years is required to reset impact fees for water, wastewater and roadways. The process will take about a year to complete.

• A two-year contract with three one-year extension options was awarded to Bound Tree Medical to provide medical supplies for the Midlothian Fire Department and EMS. An alternate contract was awarded to Life-Assist, Inc.

• All five directors for Midlothian Municipal District No. 3 were reappojnted to new terms, and the issuance of $2.4 million in bonds for roads in the district was affirmed. This district covers the Hawkins Run area next to FM 663.

• The council conducted two executive sessions. Following the first session, the council took no action. After coming out of the second session, the council agreed to approve a real estate purchase option agreement with Desert Willow Energy Storage, LLC for a lot in the Midlothian Business Park, on the recommendation of the Midlothian Economic Development Corporation.