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Calexico hopes to buy land for new school

February 14, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — It's not just a proposal anymore.

The Calexico Unified School District will try to buy 21 acres directly south and east of William Moreno Junior High School to convert the junior high into the city's second high school.

Roberto Moreno, district superintendent, said, "The district needs a total of 40 acres to convert Moreno junior high school into a high school campus. The addition of the 21 acres would allow the district to build classrooms and fields to serve 1,500-2,000 students."

More than 1,000 kids attend Willie Moreno.

To house displaced junior high students, the district is looking to build a 19-acre junior high on a vacant lot south of Highway 98 near Mains Elementary.

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Before that happens, the state must approve the district's plans and then the district will have to purchase the land for the addition to Willie Moreno and the new junior high.

On Tuesday, the district board authorized the superintendent to pay for a state-required soil survey of the 19-acre vacant lot and negotiate with the owner of 10.8 acres south of Willie Moreno on the west side of town.

If the soil survey doesn't turn up any toxic substances on the 19-acre vacant lot, the state will likely allow the district to purchase the land.

Moreno said the district might purchase the 10.8-acre plot before final state approval because the owner of that plot is looking to build low-income housing this year.

CUSD Assistant to the Superintendent Scott Buxbaum said the district will try to buy the land without invoking eminent domain.

"We're trying to avoid that. We trying to come to an agreement," he said.

"Eminent domain is the power of government agencies to acquire property for public use so long as the government pays just compensation. Recognized public uses for which the power of eminent domain may be used include, among other things, schools, parks, roads, highways, subways, fire and police stations, public buildings and the elimination of blight through redevelopment. A key attribute of eminent domain is that the government can exercise its power of eminent domain even if the owner does not wish to sell his or her property," according to www.eminentdomainlaw.net.

If the district is successful in securing the 10.8-acre plot, it will enter into negotiations with the owners of land surrounding the parcel in order to put together the desired 21-acre site. If the district is not able to buy the 10.8-acre parcel, it will have to look for another site.At a public hearing during Tuesday's school board meeting, no one from the public protested the district's plans. Buxbaum said he thinks most people thought it was a done deal already.

At an earlier public hearing, the only concern raised by residents was the potential for traffic congestion at that intersection.

Most residents support the plan, according to Buxbaum and Moreno.

At the beginning of Tuesday's meeting, the district board lauded Louie Wong for years of tireless support when it awarded him its first-ever "community and school service citation " at Tuesday's board meeting.

The board plans to award two or three citations a year.

For the past few decades, the owner of Yum Yum Chinese Food has given gift certificates to high-achieving Calexico students. He also has sponsored Calexico High School sports in a variety of capacities.

School board President Salvador Pacheco said, "He gives so much to students. He's a great cook for a wonderful restaurant. He's a wonderful person."

Trustee Reynaldo Ayalda called Wong a true community leader.

Speaking about the citations, Ayala said, "We thought it was best to begin with Louie Wong."

Trustee Jaime Duron said people from outside of Calexico ask, "Who is this Louie Wong guy?"

Duron tells them, "He's the guy who never turns you down."

Trustee Rita Huerta was most impressed when Wong offered Chinese food at a football game.

"I smelled this different smell that wasn't butter or meat. It was Chinese food! The football players were scarfing it up," she said.

Wong thanked the board for the citation and said, "I want to share this with you. I couldn't do much without you. You give me money so that I can give back to the community."

Speaking on behalf of all five city councilmen, Mayor Victor Carrillo told the board it was a good idea to recognize community members.

Choosing Wong, Carrillo said, "You've already set the bar very high. The standard has been set."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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