Last Thursday, the Gonzales City Council entertained a motion introduced by Councilman Dan Blakemore to consider other alternatives to the services provided by Victoria College here in Gonzales. After a lengthy presentation by Mayor Connie Kacir, Councilman Blakemore made the motion to consider other possibilities as an alternative to Victoria College.
The motion died from lack of support.
We are glad it did.
However, there has been a lot of discussion and complaining about the council’s action, and many statements being made throughout the community are painting certain members of the council as villains and are questioning the motivation behind the motion. We think the drama and speculation needs to die down, as there are always two sides to every story and we think the council acted with good intent and in the best interests of the citizens of Gonzales on both sides of the issue. Let us explain.
Victoria College is an important and essential part of this community—there cannot be any doubt about that. Under the direction of Jackie Mikesh, Victoria College-Gonzales Center has grown into a vibrant and responsive member of our community providing wonderful educational opportunities to our citizens. In addition, Victoria College has been a major asset to our business and industrial community, training the next generation of nurses, CDL drivers, welders, plumbers and HVAC techs to name but a few. In addition, Victoria College has been a receptive partner in meeting the needs of area industry and retail businesses, as the college has developed programs to meet the necessities of growing industries for training. BYK, for instance, is counting on the college to develop a training program for technical programming as it expands its operations here in Gonzales.
The city approached Victoria College years ago and asked it to come here for $1 per year. The college agreed, and it has poured millions of dollars into the local economy and made improvements to the facilities since its arrival. The city has also met its obligations, however, and has spent a lot of money helping the college grow. It has not taxed the property since they made the agreement with Victoria College.
Now comes the motion to seek possible alternatives, and everyone was justifiably concerned about the outcome of what some council members were seeking to do. On the surface, it didn’t make sense.
The motion by Councilman Blakemore was rooted in a request made by Gonzales Fire Chief Keith Schmidt to new City Manager Tim Patek expressing the desire to build a fire fighter academy. Victoria College offered this at one time, but for various reasons shut the program down and does not intend to offer it again in the future. Both the city and college agreed that there were alternatives for a fire fighter academy, and the college encouraged the city to look for alternatives. That is the genesis of the effort to seek alternatives to the college.
However, the city has come to the realization that it has serious financial issues that it has to resolve. In looking at its alternatives, the city began hinting and then suggesting to the college that the financial relationship needs to change. The college informed the city that they were happy with the original agreement and wanted to keep the original agreement in place.
Currently, we agree with the college. They have acted in good faith, have been a major asset to the community, and are one of the major factors behind the enhanced quality of life the citizens and businesses and industries of this community have enjoyed since they came here.
We are glad they are here, and we hope they stay a long time.
With that said, we are not blind to the issues raised by the mayor and Councilman Blakemore. After all these years, it would behoove both parties to sit and talk about the future and long-term growth and development of both the college and the city and how the two interact together. This is a long-term strategy, and it requires serious and prolonged dialogue over the interests of both sides.
We are glad the motion failed for lack of support this time, but don’t ostracize Councilman Blakemore for at least raising the question of what is best for our citizens in the future. It is his job.
At this time the best interest of our community is clearly to keep Victoria College here.
Our recommendation is that the leaders of the city and the college get together and have serious discussions and about their needs and their visions of the future. Talk, ask questions, and then come up with solutions and plans that work for both sides. There is a win-win here in here somewhere; it just requires good faith, dialogue and creative thinking. It also needs to be done in an environment of mutual respect and openness.
Until then, we are thankful for the college and its impact on the community. Let’s hope their future in Gonzales is as bright as its past.