After months of ongoing negotiations, members of the Gainesville Independent School District Board of Trustees recently agreed to sell a little more than three acres of school district property to the Texas Department of Transportation.
According to the resolution approved by the school board on Jan. 22, the TxDOT Right of Way Administrative Settlement Evaluation Team and TxDOT agreed to settle the dispute between the school district and state agency and pay $120,522 for 3.278 acres of Gainesville ISD property along I-35.
The land is approximately 1.4 miles from Spring Creek Road to one-fifth of a mile south of U.S. 82, the resolution states.
The vote to sell the district’s land was unanimous. Board members Brad Cox and Marvin Royal were absent.
TxDOT previously offered to purchase the Gainesville ISD property for $85,028, according to information provided to board members.
Superintendent DesMontes Stewart said the district was contacted late last spring about TxDOT acquiring the acreage owned by Gainesville ISD.
“These negotiations were ongoing, but right when I came on board they paused due to the changing of TxDOT personnel who was handling the negotiations,” Stewart said in an email interview with the Register.
Stewart signed his contract with the district in August after he was named lone finalist in the district’s search for a new top administrator.
Stewart said he and school board member Will Presson had a conference call with a TxDOT representative in which they sought fair market value for the school district’s property.
“It was in December that we were informed that they had accepted our offer and that we could move towards wrapping up the sale,” he said.
TxDOT spokeswoman Adele Lewis said the land purchase is in preparation for the widening of I-35.
She said the agency is widening I-35 from its current state of four lanes — two in each direction — to a six-lane interstate and “ultimately to an eight-lane interstate.”
The first portion of the project is from 1.4 miles south of Spring Creek Road to one-fifth of a mile south of U.S. 82, and TxDOT officials expect to spend $183 million in construction costs, Lewis said.
She said the county has 20 miles of interstate to improve. The project will be divided into six portions and spread from February 2021 through 2040.
“We are in the middle of purchasing right-of-way,” Lewis said. “We are buying enough to allow the interstate to grow to the ultimate configuration with an eight-lane design. So we will not be coming back to property owners in the future.”
Construction for the entire project is estimated to cost $900 million based on 2018 pricing, Lewis said. Right-of-way acquisitions, plan development and utility relocation are not included in the construction costs, she said.