Youth agricultural facility negotiations continue

News Reporter

After much discussion on where to place the displaced youth agricultural facility, Frost Bank officials have suggested an alternative tract for the county.

Hays County officials have been pursuing an agreement with Texas State’s administration to allow the construction of the youth agricultural facility on the Freeman Ranch property. The university has objected, citing legal conflicts with the terms of the Harold Freeman estate, which owns the land.

John Ferguson, senior vice president at Frost Bank, suggested the county build the youth agricultural facility on a separate 500-acre tract of land as an alternative. The tract is managed by Frost Bank in one of Freeman’s trusts and is governed by different regulations under the terms of his will.  

 “The new loop is going to go right through that property, and TxDOT has just given access to that property,” Ferguson said at the Feb. 28 Board of Regents meeting. “We would sell that to the county at a very reasonable price.”

There is no way for the county to build on the Freeman Ranch land without using eminent domain, Ferguson said.

County officials are researching contracts the university currently has with outside entities that allow use of Freeman Ranch, said County Commissioner Will Conley, Precinct 3.

“We’re collecting information and looking at (the contracts) to see if we can structure our argument a little better to be in line with the terms of the arrangements that are already in place,” Conley said. 
   
The county is happy to consider other options, but officials have not received any type of proposal from Frost Bank about the alternative property, Conley said.

The Board of Regents has no plans to include the proposal on the agenda for its next meeting, said Mike Wintemute, spokesman for the Texas State University System.

“This is a matter of privity between (Texas State University) and Frost Bank and our interpretation of Mr. Freeman’s will, which is very clear,” Ferguson said “We’ve given the county a perfectly good option, and we hope they’ll take it and run with it.”

Representatives from Hays County and Frost Bank went before the Board of Regents at the quarterly meeting last month to discuss the county’s proposal to build the facility.

Hays County Judge Bert Cobb addressed the regents on behalf of the county, stressing its dedication to finding a solution for the land while maintaining good relations with the university.

“We may fail in our current endeavor, but that does not preclude our future cooperation with each other,” Cobb said at the Board of Regents meeting. “Sometimes we degrade into personal attacks that do not benefit anyone, but that has never been my intention or the county court’s intention.”

The county’s proposal that a portion of the land entrusted to Texas State in Harold Freeman’s will be used as the new site for the Hays County Civic Center was rejected by university officials late last year, according to a Feb. 11 University Star article.

Ferguson said as a co-trustee of the ranch, Frost Bank could not allow the facility to be built there.

“A county show barn changes the equation fundamentally,” Ferguson said at the Board of Regents meeting. “All of a sudden you have a for-profit enterprise entering into and encumbering the property.”