The location of a new Southside school campus could threaten the future of the Navy’s investment in South Texas.
“Everyone I’ve talked to from the Pentagon to the local base commanders (say) encroachment is their number one concern,” said Dick Messbarger, chairman emeritus of the Texas Defense Aviation Aerospace Alliance.
Messbarger has spent the past 28 years working to defend and expand naval base and air installations in Kingsville and Corpus Christi. He’s also sat through more than two dozen hearings for base realignment and closure, also known as BRAC.
Encroachment is what the Navy considers unwanted development near an airfield, and that’s what the new Mary Carroll High School would become if it’s built on land already purchased by Corpus Christi Independent School District.
“The fact that the Navy sent a letter that was very clear to the school district that they thought this was a bad idea and recommended against it, I think is significant,” Messbarger said.
In March, the Navy sent CCISD a letter recommending the school campus not be built on a 60-acre site on Saratoga Boulevard near the intersection of Weber Road because it was in a Navy Accident Potential Zone (APZ). In response, the school district re-configured the campus site plan and switched the school building with the parking lot and athletic fields. That updated plan means the athletic fields and parking lots will be built in the accident potential zone.
CCISD board members have finalized the purchase of the land, according to Leanne Libby, spokeswoman for CCISD. And in November, voters agreed to pay for the new campus, an estimated $175 million.
The campus would be in an accident potential zone for the nearby Cabaniss Field, which is where student pilots train on multi-engine aircraft. Much of the public concerns voiced at recent school board meetings have been about student safety, but there is another significant issue at play. It’s one that South Texas Military Installations Task Force member Loyd Neal raised back in November.
Plans for the new campus are now moving toward construction. If the campus is built on that site, Messbarger said there could be big consequences.
“This is the only base the Navy does multi-engine training at, and if you took multi-engine training away. If they felt like there was too much encroachment, that’s one thing and I’m not going to play Chicken Little with you, but I’m just telling you that’s a factor that could lead to the possible relocation.”
No one knows for sure if relocation or base closure could happen, but Messbarger said officials at the Pentagon are paying attention, but it could take years to find out if anything will come of it.
“You know, (the Navy) won’t stop flying, but you’re going to have better than 50,000 flights going over this area, every year, and in a time of evaluation and analysis that could become a factor,” he said.
Corpus Christi ISD declined an interview for this news article, and instead sent a statement that read in part that at no point during the land evaluation process “were concerns expressed regarding encroachment.”
In October, a spokesperson for the Navy said it had recommended the new campus not be built in that area. The concerns were for the safety of students and noise from low-flying aircraft.