Various community leaders gave updates on their respective organizations during the fall meeting of the Nolan County Forward Planning committee.
The meeting, held on Wednesday at the Sweetwater Country Club, was hosted by SEED (Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development) and gave the participants a chance to learn about the ongoing activity from the Cline Shale oil development.
Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District (RCISD): Dr. Kim Alexander, the superintendent of RCISD, discussed how the district is taking part in a new method of learning.
Recently, an engineer from India developed a network that allows teachers to submit their lesson objectives, which then allows classrooms to connect with workers and leaders in related industries. This past week, students were able to take a virtual tour of a robotic assembly line at General Motors.
The virtual visits will be a cost-effective way to take field trips and promote relevant learning in the classroom. RCISD was asked to be a rural pilot in this program offered through the Texas Association of School Administrators.
As far as their building project, the district hopes to hold a ground-breaking in November. They continue to work on STEM endorsements, and are also working with Western Texas College and TSTC (Texas State Technical College) to secure dual credit opportunities.
TSTC West Texas: Gail Lawrence, president of TSTC West Texas, said that the school is in the midst of exciting times as enrollment is up 23%. As they continue listening to the industry and learning about specific training needs, two current programs in regards to the oil industry are at capacity.
The downhole tool technology course runs for 15 weeks, and upon completion a student can earn around $50,000. Last week, they also started the CDL (commercial driver's license) class, a six-week program that gives students a chance to practice on a course with a truck that was purchased with a grant.
Many of the tools and equipment for these types of classes have been donated by industry businesses and have been supportive of the campus. The school will also take part in the upcoming Shale Show.
Outside of the oil field-related classes, all programs at TSTC are going well. Overall support of the college has been seen as well, as the college is partnering with the Roscoe and Sweetwater school districts.
Nolan County Coliseum: Since August 12, Jeff Howard has taken on the role of manager and marketing director of the Nolan County Coliseum. He is just one of six full-time employees who work with the county commissioners and Coliseum board in their area-wide efforts.
Howard hopes to modernize the facility with new website and logo, and is already working toward that goal with the addition of WiFi in the Annex, which serves as a multi-purpose facility. However, his goal is to diversify the use of the facilities and host different events.
On Monday, the Coliseum will be holding the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce banquet. The following day, the inaugural Shale Show will take place, with numerous vendors and booths to be set up in and around the facilities.
Looking ahead, the Coliseum will once again host the AJRA events starting in 2014, while other youth rodeos and cutting horse shows will continue to be held as well. The Sweetwater Jaycees' World's Largest Rattlesnake Round-up brings thousands to the Coliseum each spring, but Howard is also considering the idea of having a county fair during the fall, which could include a carnival and concert.
Built in 1959, the Coliseum is need of repair and updates, although financing is a concern. The Nolan County Coliseum understands that competition is present, especially as other similar facilities in surrounding areas continue their respective renovations.
Currently, the roof is being repaired, in which a spray to be laid on top of the roof should help lower utility costs. In their attempt to modernize the Coliseum, Howard said that they welcome various ideas and collaborative efforts.
Nolan County: Sheriff David Warren said that county law enforcement is looking at staying ahead of the activity, and will be able to do so through various means.
On Monday, construction will begin on the new jail and sheriff's offices. As of October 1, they will have 31 total staff members and will be adding three other workers.
The Nolan County Sheriff's Office (NCSO) will be working with companies as this progression requires for collaboration between businesses and law enforcement. Recently, the sheriff's office helped host an oil field training class, attended by many law enforcement entities.
They learned about the monetary value of equipment, in which one item can cost as high as $50,000. They hope to take part in another similar training exercise as the activity continues to grow in the area.
In addition, Judge Tim Fambrough shared that work continues at the Nolan County Courthouse. The exterior will soon see some notable changes, as the stone will be arriving and placed on the building in the upcoming future.
City of Sweetwater: Eddie Brown, the city manager of Sweetwater, discussed a wide variety of activity within the community. Currently, the annexation process is taking place on some properties so that taxes can be collected.
Various companies are bringing business to the area, and there have been many inquiries about the city itself as well as the businesses and facilities in the area. And as property continues to be purchased and sold, it proves to be a sign that activity abounds.
The Planning and Zoning Committee has been busy considering zoning issues, which are then brought before the City Commission for approval. The city is also working toward staying ahead of the activity through the implementation of ordinances.
Also among the discussion was that the city is in talks with a few hotel entities on the possibility of establishing extended stay lodging. RV parks are also growing in the area.
Additionally, with the increased activity already seen, sewer lines near Bradford Lane have already been increased. Water is also a concern, as discussion is being held on its availability and inquiries are being seen on the issue of wastewater.
And as the activity continues, the city is already seeing that some employees are making their move into the oil field workforce. They anticipate the trend continuing as the industry is a competitive field.
While the city is still unsure on what to expect from the activity, Brown said that he wanted the quality of life to be good in Sweetwater not just for the incoming residents but for long-time citizens. Ken Becker, the executive director of SEED (Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development), praised the city and the county officials for being proactive and looking forward as progression continues.
SEED: Becker expressed enthusiasm over the upcoming Shale Show, which has proven to be an excellent idea. All booth spaces have been sold, which total over 200.
Discussions among oil companies continue, which ensures their presence and continued work in the area. Various companies feel that the Cline Shale will be a lasting venture, and others are anticipating high semi-truck traffic.
Additionally, the rail industry is making its print in the county, as the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) groundbreaking is set to take place on October 26.
Although rail transportation typically cuts on shipping costs as well as road traffic, the oil activity is expected to increase both rail and road transportation. Other ventures in the area are the potential modernization of the Buzzi Unicem plant in Maryneal.
The West Texas Energy Consortium continues to be proactive and hold meetings from a regional perspective. Overall, Nolan County has proven to be a solid area in the logistical sense.
Most recently, SEED has been conducting research on the possibility of a new industrial park. The Sweetwater Business Park is filled with businesses, which was the result of the SEED board's forward thinking in purchasing the 88 acres.
Over an 18 to 20 month period, around 15 to 20 companies in the oil industry have established or expanded their business. The companies are eager to work with the communities, and SEED is excited to see the opportunities continue in the area.
This article is the finale in a two-part series recapping the fall meeting of the Nolan County Forward Planning committee, as they continue to learn and prepare for the oil development from the Cline Shale.