Turtle Cove: A Good Neighborhood in Need of Help

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

        

     A vacant home on the corner of Blue Jay and Oriole with grass waist high, cars speeding down Oriole, meth addicts loitering in the park that borders NAS property, and a tent city along the Oso that appeared to be a haven for the homeless and drug users prompted Diane Bonneau and other Turtle Cove residents to take action in their neighborhood in June of 2015.  This subdivision is the home to many long-time residents who love their once serene neighborhood that was built around Turtle Cove pond where many water birds, including the Black-bellied Whistling Duck, glide in at sunset and settle in among their human neighbors.  In the last few years, Bonneau and her neighbors have grown tired of the illegal activity taking place in their neighborhood and are worried about the effects on the children in the area.

Turtle Cove 4

      “I love my amazing view on the Oso and my incredible neighbors who have become my extended family. I don’t believe I will ever live anywhere else,” said Bonneau.  “I am saddened by what I see in and around the Bluff and the drug that has robbed so many lives and all the collateral damage that goes along with a meth addiction.  It’s a community problem and requires a community response. I am frustrated with the mentality that ‘It’s the Bluff. There will always be meth in the Bluff.'”

Oso

     Like many neighborhoods across America, Turtle Cove is suffering from the fallout from the methamphetamine problem that is growing daily.  The difference is that the neighbors of Turtle Cove decided to take control of the situation.  After promises made by City officials at a town hall meeting failed to come to fruition, Bonneau and several of her neighbors made multiple calls to code enforcement, law enforcement, Parks and Recreation, and District 4 Council member Colleen McIntyre but got no results. The residents decided to clean up the tent camp on the Oso themselves.  This prompted  McIntyre and the other contacted entities to follow through with the promises to clean and patrol the area.  With everyone working together, the homeless tent community was cleared out and hauled off; the park was mowed and lighted; and all seemed well in the little community.

Turtle Cove 1

Turtle Cove 2 Turtle Cove 3

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     Six months later, the neighborhood was faced with a new problem.  On December 29, 2015, a man later identified as a registered sex offender and known methamphetamine user who had been evicted from his parents’ home, allegedly entered a house unlawfully on the corner of Raven and Oriole, took a shower, exposed himself to a 12-year-old girl who resided there, and left, according to Diane Bonneau and other neighbors. The owner of the house, who is the father of the victim, called the police.  After the responding officer dusted for fingerprints,  collected articles for evidence, and took statements, he left, and the owner sent his wife and daughter away for the night.

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     The next morning, between 4 and 5 a.m., the intruder returned, allegedly opened the window to the room of the 12-year-old girl, then fell asleep on the back porch.  Upon discovering the man, the owner of the house called the police and reported the incident.  The officer who responded recognized the intruder and stated that the man was known to do this.  When the officer addressed the intruder, the man jumped the fence.  The police apprehended him and removed him from the neighborhood.

     Later that morning, the owner of the house was going to breakfast at a nearby restaurant when he spotted a suspicious-looking man walking down the street, so he followed him in his car.  It was the intruder from earlier, and he was attempting to enter the man’s yard again.  When he saw the owner, he ran off.  The next day, the intruder was seen at approximately 7:00 a.m. by a neighbor.  He was again attempting to gain entrance into the man’s back yard.  The neighbor chased him, but the man escaped through a hole in the fence surrounding a nearby apartment complex.  The Turtle Cove neighbors did not give up.  After many calls and emails to CCPD, Mayor Martinez’s office, and anyone who might be able to offer assistance, they were able to provide enough information to have the man arrested.

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    Within two weeks, Bonneau sent an email to Chief Markle’s office when she heard that he would be in attendance at the Town Hall meeting held on Tuesday, January 12, 2016.  She let him know that increased patrols had “calmed things down.”  She also had several questions she wanted him to answer at the meeting:
  • What can we realistically expect this time around knowing that there are issues throughout the city, and resources can’t be continually concentrated in one area?
  • Is there a long-term plan to reduce the drug activity and crime that inherently goes along with drug issues for our area?
  • As a neighborhood, how can we help?
  • Since most neighbors are not interested in participating in a Neighborhood Watch program that requires meetings and a block captain, what are the other options?

 

     Two days before the meeting was to occur, another incident occurred in the Turtle Cove neighborhood.   Bonneau explained in an email to Chief Markle that she had seen a male wearing a red, Under Armour hoodie.  The man seemed to be upset and was cussing about something.  She watched as he walked to a light maroon, Dodge Ram, four-door pickup that was parked in the cul-de-sac.  The vehicle’s reverse lights were on, and a woman was inside. The man got in and continued to sit there. Within a minute, a neighbor on Lovebird walked out of her garage and yelled something at them about being in her garage.  A  girl in the front seat of the truck started yelling and cursing in response.  Bonneau then walked toward the truck and took a photo of the plates with her cell phone. The driver backed up a little and said, “We aren’t doing anything.”  (Please find below a clarification submitted by a woman who was involved in this incident.)

     According to Bonneau, an officer stopped by her house later to let her know that the couple tossed some of their possessions and ran into a home on Flour Bluff Drive.  The officer recovered a phone belonging to the female.  Bonneau was hopeful that the phone might offer some information that would lead to an arrest or at least to the discovery of other people who might be driving through neighborhoods, entering open garages, and taking valuables from her neighbors.

Cdr Todd Green

     Chief Markle was unable to attend the January 12 meeting but sent several officers in his place.  The officers who were in attendance were unable to appease the Turtle Cove residents and left them wondering what to do next.  Bonneau was unhappy that the only advice they were given was to look out for each other, something that the neighbors of Turtle Cove have been doing for some time.  The next Flour Bluff Town Hall Meeting will be February 10, 2016, at the Texas A&M Center for Innovation, at 6:30 p.m.  Council members McIntyre and Magill have agreed to attend and attempt to answer the questions posed by this very connected neighborhood.  Another meeting just for the Turtle Cove residents has been tentatively scheduled February 1, at 6:00 p.m.

Note: Watch for an update in The Paper Trail News relating recent events in this neighborhood.

Clarification:   “My garage door had apparently not closed all the way when I’d last come home. I walked into my garage to do something and realized the door was opened. At the same time, the man was approaching the garage and walked in towards me. I believe I startled him, because he quickly said he was going to come ask if he could use my phone. He said something about that he probably shouldn’t have come up ‘like this,’ referring to the bandana he had on his head. I said no to the phone request, and he walked back out. When I came back in the house, I noticed him walking down the street on a phone. Just then, my mom pulled into my driveway. I didn’t want her out there alone with this man so I went out to walk her inside. He was yelling into the phone, attracting the attention of other neighbors. The man got into the back of the truck that had been parked in the cul-de-sac. It was then that Ms. Bonneau approached and started taking pictures of the truck. I did not come out yelling at the girl in the truck. She rolled down the window and began yelling at me for ‘mean-mugging’ her because I was standing in front of my house looking at the truck. She yelled obscenities at me as they drove away as well. “

Related Article:  “Involved Neighbors Make for Good Neighborhoods”

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Involved Neighbors Make for Good Neighborhoods

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

Waxwing House

     In light of a recent rash of criminal activity in the Turtle Cove subdivision in Flour Bluff, it is understandable that some residents have been more than just a bit unsettled.  In the last week alone, the police raided a home on Waxwing that neighbors have suspected for some time was a haven for illicit drug use, answered a call where a 28-year-old woman reported her door kicked in and her home on Oriole burglarized, and responded to a shooting at 3:00 a.m. on the 900 block of Oriole where they met several people outside their homes after a car was damaged from gunfire.  Are the neighbors ready to give up and move out?  Residents who were interviewed love their neighborhood and have no intention of leaving.  They do, however, have a plan of action for returning their neighborhood to the quiet, safe area it was not so long ago, starting with a select group of residents meeting with District 4 Council member, Colleen McIntyre, and representatives from various departments of law enforcement.

     “It’s something that needs to happen since the last town hall meeting really didn’t give us any answers,”  said Wes Womack, a long-time resident who patrols his neighborhood four times throughout the day and even at night.  “From midnight to 4:00 a.m., there are lots of people on bicycles carrying backpacks through the neighborhood.  I’m just asking for more police to patrol our neighborhood and see what these people are up to – to be a deterrent.”

Turtle Cove Park

     Womack said that after the town hall meeting, he did see more of a police presence for a few days, but then there was nothing.  “I don’t want promises,” Womack said.  “I want solutions.”

     Womack said that he is trying to be proactive and even convinced his neighbors to install and turn on security lights a few months ago.  He said that many residents are gun owners and are headed to a local shooting range to receive training in handling, cleaning, and shooting a gun.  “Safety is the most important factor,” Womack said.  “They need to be proficient with a weapon if they are going to use it for protection.  You can read a book on being an astronaut, but it won’t help you fly a rocket.  You have to practice.”

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     The young woman whose home was burglarized said, “I’m not afraid to live here.  I have always lived in Flour Bluff, and I love it here.”  She, like Womack, has no intention of allowing a “few bad apples” in the neighborhood to steal her possessions or her peace of mind.  She said that she understands that the limited number of police officers in the BRAVO district make response times slower for non-violent offenses, such as the break-in at her house.  “Luckily, I have people – neighbors and family members – who come to my aide.”

      “Neighbors helping neighbors, we definitely have that happening here. I’ve not been the victim of any of the situations out here, but I do try my best to help my neighbors with information, and I do look out for those around me. We are networking together to share info and are exploring our options,” said Diane Bonneau, a Turtle Cove resident who has been a leader in getting the residents to communicate with each other through social media sites such as NextDoor and Facebook.

    OsoAll residents who were interviewed, expressed a desire to work alongside law enforcement and other social service departments to make a positive impact on their neighborhood.  Bonneau said, “I’ve lived in the Bluff for about 25 years, all of it on Oso Bay, starting in the Wharf Apartments as I finished college. I would sit on my patio and look out at the strip of houses that backed up to the bay and said, ‘I will live in one of those houses!’  I live on Oriole Street in Turtle Cove in one of those houses now. I love the Bluff. Love my amazing view on the Oso and my incredible neighbors who have become my extended family. I don’t believe I will ever live anywhere else.”

 

 

 

Related Article:  “Turtle Cove: A Good Neighborhood in Need of Help”

 

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Magill Speaks to FBBA at January Meeting

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

     FBBA

     The Flour Bluff Business Association, a task force of business leaders who promote the safety, service, and growth of the Flour Bluff community, welcomed Councilman Chad Magill as its keynote speaker at the January 6, 2016, meeting held at noon at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  Magill focused on the new year and talked about “big ticket items” for the city.

     “The EPA expects us to agree to pay $853 million on your wastewater system over the next 12 to 15 years.  We can’t afford it.”  Magill admitted that the system absolutely needs improvements and that the City has been discussing the issue since 2009.  Magill said that part of the reason for his failure to support Destination Bayfront stemmed from the knowledge of the pending wastewater bill.

     “Anytime we spend 72 million of tax dollars on anything but what we have to spend it on, you have to ask if we can afford it,” Magill said.

PlanCC

     Magill told the audience he believed the City should be focused on reconstruction and maintenance of streets, public safety, wastewater, and water supply.  He emphasized the importance of getting the fundamentals right and putting needs before wants.  This led Magill to address PlanCC 2035 (now 2036).  Magill said, “Your city government shouldn’t have to be the ones to create the social environment for success.  We shouldn’t be the ones to pay for free swimming lessons or for free internet service across the city.  We see a lot of those proposed policies in PlanCC 2035.  I have some serious doubts whether that plan moves forward.”  Magill added that he put a plan together based on the existing comprehensive plan and sent it to City staff in December 2015.  “It takes the good from our existing plan – which actually includes public safety – and includes parts from the proposed PlanCC 2035 to create a real-world plan that keeps us focused on our needs.”

      Magill talked about the new harbor bridge and what an amazing feat it was to bring together the Port of Corpus Christi, the City of Corpus Christi, Nueces County, TxDot, and a number of local organizations and finally settle upon the building of a billion-dollar bridge.  He praised the efforts of Representative Todd Hunter who was “a champion for the bridge.”  Magill said that the new bridge should be looked at as an essential part of economic development for the area and that construction should begin as soon as 2017.

 

     The councilman then shifted to the topic of zero-based budgeting.  “You’re going to see – for our generation – the largest push for a zero-based budget in our city government ever.  It’s a challenge to City staff, but City Manager Ron Olson accepted the challenge.”  Magill said that some of his colleagues on council believe he may have challenged staff too much.  “They have concerns.  I understand that, but at the same time, these are your tax dollars.”

      Magill explained that zero-based budgeting will require City departments to justify spending tax dollars by aligning the spending with the mission.  “Everyone has to budget where their dollars go.  You do it.  My wife and I do it.  Shouldn’t we expect that of our City government?”  He sees it as an opportunity for the department heads to shine.  “If they embrace it and do well,” Magill said he would fight for their funding and for them to be successful.  Magill FBBA

     Magill then turned to the topic of Flour Bluff and spoke about his desire to get Laguna Shores Road on the 2018 bond.  “Every time I’m in Flour Bluff, I drive down Laguna Shores to remind me of the need.”  He went on to commend James Skrobarczyk, who was in the audience, for serving on the residential street committee and praised the ad hoc committee for accomplishing so much in a short period of time.

     He explained that they had uncovered some wasteful practices and inefficiencies in the Street Preventative and Maintenance Plan (SPMP).  He offered an example. “Kingsville spends about $2.50 per square foot on overlays while Corpus Christi spends $8.00 per square foot for the same work.”  When asked how that could be, Magill said, “Part of it is inefficiencies of government; part of that is multiple inspection layers; part of that is – frankly – writing contracts that allow contractors to make ‘obscene amounts of profit.’ ” He told the FBBA that he would love to speak to them again in June or July to fill them in on the recommendations from the street committee and how the City will move toward zero-based budgeting.

     When asked if Council member Colleen McIntyre’s proposal last year to raise property taxes by 8 cents to pay for residential street construction is the only form of funding available, Magill said, “The Caller-Times reported that 8 cents of ad valorem property taxes per year would raise $20 million, when in actuality, it would raise $13.6 million.”  After texting Ron Olson that his numbers were wrong, Olson came back a couple of days later and agreed Magill was correct in his calculations.

IMG_4005   “When they’re talking about throwing more taxpayer money at an inefficient system, how much of that money is going to be wasted?  I took an unpopular stance on council, and I said, ‘No, I can’t support a property tax increase without a plan.’ “

     Magill said that oftentimes a government entity will ask for a lot of money first then develop a plan around it second.  “Then they do the work and go on the defense and tell you how good it was. We’ve got to change that process and ask everyone to be open to a change in that kind of thinking.  The missing component is being able to put a plan together, share that with the community – which we’ll do in June or July – and ask how much of this plan would you like to invest in?”

     “Multiple funding sources is the key.  From re-purposing sales tax, we can pay the debt service off on Whataburger Field, and that gives you between $2 and $2.5 million a year.  That’s sales tax, which is mostly a tax that is appropriate for infrastructure.  In good times, you do more; in bad times, you do less.  Then, you look at cutting from within the budget.  We tried a 1% cut last year; that didn’t work.  We held the line on increasing materials and operations costs, but effectively we didn’t save much money.  That’s why we’re going the zero-based route.”

    Magill explained that savings within the budget will go to two things:  One is streets and the other is City employee raises.  “Think about the people who are going to do the work to find those inefficiencies within their own department budgets.  If we’re going to challenge them harder, we have to somehow align goals.  If you tell a department head that he/she needs to save money in the department and that part of the money saved will go into giving that department a raise, then people’s goals are starting to align.  Efficiency is part of good, quality government.”

     “Another funding source is potentially the RTA.  They could be a funding partner, and I think they’re open to that now.  The key here is to go to multiple funding sources with property taxes being the last in line.  If we had raised property taxes last year at 8 cents, your only guarantee is that your property taxes will go up.  If we had passed Destination Bayfront, that would have also added to the cost for the taxpayer.  If we’re going to focus on needs, let’s do it the right way.  The residential street committee is culling the bad from the current program and keeping the good to find out the most efficient way to tackle residential streets.”

     Precinct 4 County Commissioner Brent Chesney and ad hoc street committee chairman Andy Taubman have the same thought as Magill about the RTA redirecting more funds to the streets.  New RTA chairman, Curtis Rock, has not officially weighed in on this possibility.

     Magill answered questions from the audience on the topics of the failed Citizens’ Collection Center (Solid Waste Transfer Station).  He cited the main reasons for the failure as:

  • the $4.65 million price tag, which would have come in the form of a 20-year debt,
  • a raise in solid waste rates, and
  • a petition against the facility with 700 signatures from residents who live near the proposed site on Flour Bluff Drive.

He also discussed the positive aspects of privatization of City services and used the municipal golf courses as an example of how privatization has improved the quality of the golf courses while saving the City money.  Magill FBBA 2

     FBBA member, Michael Morgan, encouraged fellow members to stay in contact with Chad Magill.  “He is very accessible and very approachable.  He’ll tell you the facts, and he won’t rose-color anything.  If you have concerns or want to learn something, of course we have our District 4 representative, but Chad also represents us as an at-large council member.  I just want to thank him publicly for the job he’s doing for us out here.”

 

 

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Flour Bluff Town Hall Meeting Has Big Turnout

Flour Bluff, Front Page
Hogan and Skrobarczyk
Dan Hogan and James Skrobarczyk

Flour Bluff residents, Dan Hogan and James Skrobarczyk, organized the Flour Bluff Town Hall Meeting held on January 12, 2016, at the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Innovation Center located at the corner of First National Drive and South Padre Island Drive.  A group of about 125 people showed up to hear from several community leaders.

Justice of the Peace Thelma Rodriguez started the meeting by fielding questions about the duties of her office and how she works with school officials to do what is best for the students.

State Representative Todd Hunter followed her with a presentation on the local implications of state legislation for windstorm insurance.  Hunter said that James Skrobarczyk accompanied him to Austin and stood with him as they battled the Department of Insurance.  “After 12 years, we got the bill passed.  Finally, Nueces County is going to be treated like human beings,” Hunter said.  He told the audience that insurance companies are already creating policies as they begin to compete for business in the coastal areas.  “They’re high, but they’re coming down.  You are going to see a rate reduction, but there will be a 12- to 14-month transition period.”

Todd Hunter Town Hall Meeting
Rep. Todd Hunter

Hunter also addressed the possibility of cruise lines in Corpus Christi.  He said that the problem is that Brownsville wants it, too.  “We’re going to bring travel tourism here.  We’re going to set up a local group – a resource group from my area – to back us up when we start having these State hearings,” Hunter added.  He encouraged interested parties to contact his office if they want to be part of that group.

Hunter ended his part of the meeting with information on the expansion of Hwy 361 and the safety issues related to the roadway leading from Port Aransas to Flour Bluff.

 

 

Sheriff Jim Kaelin, who has served 9 years as sheriff, said that nothing is as important to this community as a safe, sanitary, secure jail.  “People need to understand that inmates in the jail have been accused of crimes.  Any one of us could wind up there.  Penitentiary inmates have been convicted of crimes.”  Currently, 900 of the 1068 beds are filled.  Kaelin said that increasing capacity has been slow, but the bed count has grown by 50 since he took over.  He is currently working on adding 144 beds by opening two areas in the annex.  The construction plans have been approved and that renovation could get the county through the next 10 or 15 years without added expense to the taxpayers.

Sheriff Jim Kaelin
Sheriff Jim Kaelin

An audience member asked the sheriff to talk about the inmate commissary.  “Our ratio of officers to inmates is 1:48.”  Kaelin said that in order to get chronically non-compliant inmates to follow rules, certain privileges are offered:  use of pay phones, weekend visitation by family members, television in the day room, co-mingling with other inmates, and commissary privileges.  The inmates use their own money to purchase items at the “jail store.”  The 42 cents made from each dollar goes into an inmate benefit fund that pays for shoes, uniforms, mattresses, bedding, and cleaning supplies.  $400-$500 thousand per year goes into the account.  Currently the balance is around $800,000.  “This saves the taxpayer from footing the bill for these items,” Kaelin said.

Kaelin finished with offering advice to the attendees on using cell phones to take pictures of suspicious cars, people, and activities to help monitor what is happening in their neighborhoods.  Skrobarczyk added that the Next Door website is another way to connect with neighbors and look our for each other.

Cdr Todd Green
Cdr. Todd Green

  

Cdr. Todd Green with CCPD, addressed concerns raised by audience members on several topics, including stray dogs, ways to protect their own property, knowing their neighbors, and calling the police.  Green responded to questions and concerns about ongoing problems in the Turtle Cove neighborhood.  He encouraged all to call the police every time something occurred, which one man said they had already been doing.  Another officer suggested that citizens take advantage of the CCPD social media websites and form Neighborhood Watch groups.

Captain David McCarty
Captain David McCarty

Captain David McCarty introduced himself and said that he took over the Bravo District on January 11, 2016, and wanted everyone to be able to put a face with a name.  He said he looked forward to working with and getting to know the residents of Flour Bluff.

Andy Taubman, Chairman for the Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee for Corpus Christi, addressed the group on what the committee is finding as they research the SPMP (Street Preventative Maintenance Program) and the standard practices.  “The phase the City is in right now is truly reactive.  There’s not a lot of planning, record keeping, or accountability in the system.  The committee is trying to get the City to emerge from this reactive behavior to a proactive behavior,” said Taubman.  They are trying to convince the City to repair the streets in a neighborhood rather than addressing pot holes only as they are reported by residents.

Andy Taubman Speaker
Andy Taubman

Other problems include master plans that have not been digitized and have missing elements, such as a missing sewer in the plans for Flour Bluff Drive.  One man spoke of his street that has 47 houses and not a single fire hydrant, which is a problem with the master plan according to Taubman.  To report problems, Taubman suggested that residents use the City website  so that a work order can be made.  Questions were raised about various streets, including Caribbean and Purdue.  James Skrobarczyk, who also serves on the committee, said, “There’s a lot issues where Flour Bluff has just been left behind.”

Greg Smith, longtime resident of Flour Bluff and member of ISAC (Island Strategic Action Committee), said, “Several communities are putting together an Area Development Plan, which falls under the Comprehensive Development Plan.  It would be a good idea if Flour Bluff got a group together and met and NOT be left behind.  That would allow the people of Flour Bluff to come up with their own plan instead of the people from Massachusetts coming up with a plan.”

The final minutes of the meeting included Melanie Hambrick, President of the Flour Bluff Business Association, who spoke about the Homeless Commission and the concerns surrounding the new ordinance to ban panhandling downtown.  She said the concern of many residents and businesses is that enforcement of the new regulation could actually bring more homeless to Flour Bluff.

Melanie Hambrick

A representative from Brent Chesney’s office (Precinct 4 County Commissioner) was open for questions from the audience.  After several comments about people fishing from Mud Bridge on Yorktown in Flour Bluff, she offered to talk to them after the meeting.  She also volunteered to help create the Flour Bluff area development committee through Chesney’s office.

Chesney rep

Since many questions were left unanswered, Dan Hogan suggested later in the meeting that another gathering be held in February just to address concerns of crime with Chief Markle and to cover other city issues with the Council members Magill and McIntyre who were unable to attend.

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Flour Bluff Schools: A Notable History

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page

The Beginning: 1892

The Flour Bluff Independent School District was created by the convergence of three very divergent entities: oil and gas, ranching, and the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Through the use of student labor, frugality, and a visionary superintendent, it became a unique campus catering to a community with strong bonds.

The first school was opened in 1892 in the community of Brighton, later to become Flour Bluff. Precariously located next to the Laguna Madre, it served twenty-five students for a six-month term. In 1900, Miss Florence Savoy instructed twelve students for a total of four months. In 1916, the school board voted to replace the Brighton school; however, before it was completed, the hurricane of 1916 destroyed the building. Utilizing student labor once again, the school was rebuilt slightly inland where the Flour Bluff Early Childhood Center now sits.

1916building
1916 Flour Bluff School Building

Influence of Ranching

The schools that cropped up were scattered throughout the Flour Bluff region to accommodate the ranching families located in the area. 1920 saw the opening of Flour Bluff No. 2 at the north end of present-day Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. A third school, Flour Bluff No. 3, opened in 1926 and served the Flour Bluff students for two years. It was located at the Hannah Roscher home near Oso Creek, one mile north of King Ranch. Thirteen students attended at this location. In 1928 both Flour Bluff No. 2 and No. 3 were dissolved, and all students attended what became known as Flour Bluff No. 1, located once again at the 1916 site on Waldron Road. In 1932, the school board purchased a car to transport the students to Flour Bluff No. 1. Soon another industry would change the community’s idea of public education.

1938schoolbus
School “Bus” for Flour Bluff in 1930s

Role of Oil and Gas

In the 1930’s, oil and gas exploration came to the Flour Bluff area. In the midst of economic uncertainty throughout the United States, workers were drilling in Flour Bluff, and they were bringing their families. In 1937, a new brick building was constructed with the economic backing of Humble Oil. It was built adjacent to the Flour Bluff No. 1 at the Waldron Road and Purdue Street intersection. Although the community was increasingly becoming an oil and gas economy, the district was still very much a ranching area, and a fence had to be constructed around the school to prevent the intrusion of roaming cattle from the area ranches. World-wide events would soon reach the small community of Flour Bluff with yet another influence on education.

1939schoolbuilding
Flour Bluff School 1939

World War II Brings the Navy

World War II brought the Navy to Flour Bluff, and with it came progress and innovation. In 1941, a new nineteen-room junior and senior high school was built next to the 1937 building. The high school required 18.5 accredited units, which was 2.5 more than what was required for college entrance at that time. The “Laboratory of Industry” was created as a vocational center for boys. It was the product of Principal A.L. Smith at the request of the federal government to train men to work at the Naval Station Training station plant. Families in the northern area of Flour Bluff would be moved out to make way for training station. Throughout the early 1940’s, NAS Corpus Christi made a tremendous impact on Flour Bluff. However, when World War II ended, the school saw a reduction of students from NAS and developed a new need to keep the schools motivated and financially independent.

Flour Bluff Junior High
Flour Bluff Junior High (old high school)

Ernest J. Wranosky’s Vision

The residents of Flour Bluff voted to become an independent school in April 1948. Superintendent Ernest J. Wranosky expanded the boundaries of the district to 56 square miles of land surface and 100 square miles of water surface. Every year, the district committed to a construction project which utilized government surplus along with local and student labor. One such project consisted of dismantling a hangar at Fort Point at Point Bolivar, Galveston, Texas, by using district equipment acquired from the Texas Surplus Property Agency and manual labor provided by the Flour Bluff students. The surplus hangar was trucked and then floated to Flour Bluff where it became the new gymnasium for the school district. When asked how many seats the new gym could accommodate, Wranosky commented, “I hope none. We are building this for students to use, not sit.” This building, which was later appropriately named Wranosky Gymnasium, is located on Waldron Road and continues to serve students of all grade levels.

FB 1948
1948

Flour Bluff’s purpose of all instruction and activities can be summed up with Wranosky’s philosophy which was to “advance and equalize, as far as possible, the opportunities of all students regardless of their mental abilities and social economic status.” This meant lots of student participation, which even included supervising and managing activities of the school. The philosophy also included an appreciation of all creeds and institutions and a desire for students to earn status in society, industry, politics, and professions “through fair and honest dealings, hard work and persistence.” Patriotism was ever present in this philosophy as Wranosky wanted students to acquire “a knowledge of and an appreciation for the great size and value of this great country, its resources, its surface features, and the relative opportunities of its sections.” The ideas also included an appreciation for the Creator, new fields in science, industry, and social progress. Not until 1963 would that social progress come to Flour Bluff ISD with the end of segregation. Black elementary students living in the Flour Bluff district had been previously bused to Booker T. Washington Elementary in the Corpus Christi Independent School District. The changing climate concerning segregation coupled with encouragement from the U.S. Department of Navy moved Flour Bluff ISD toward desegregation.

Ernest J Wranosky
Ernest J Wranosky 1973

The twenty-nine years of leadership of Superintendent Wranosky saw changes in curriculum to set expectations above the state mandate. It also included a wide range of additional curricular studies, including auto mechanics, building trades, cosmetology, and hospitality. Students who successfully completed four years of cosmetology were taken by bus to Austin, Texas, for the State Board Exam in order to complete their educations with state licensing.

In cooperation with the Corpus Christi Museum, Flour Bluff ISD owned and operated a museum on campus. The museum was housed in one of the surplus properties and was operated by students who received their instruction from their teacher. The Corpus Christi Museum curator at that time offered his expertise, as well. Many of the specimen in the museum came from findings of the district’s oceanography class and from the annual field trip to the H.E .Butt Foundation Camp in Leakey,Texas.

Open-Air School and Outdoor Education

Beginning in 1956, the first year the camp was opened, Flour Bluff students in grades three through eight made the annual trek to the H.E. Butt Foundation where they studied real-world science, social studies, math, and language arts. They were also given responsibilities in cabin maintenance and kitchen duties. “If students are to learn responsibility, they must be given responsibility,” said Wranosky. Currently, the eighth-grade students are the only ones who still make this trip to the H.E.Butt Foundation camp as Flour Bluff continues to foster this community partnership with the H.E.B. Foundation.

HEB Camp

Effects of the Cold War on the School

Another important community partnership evolved with the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. The Navy’s involvement in the school district was a natural one since the children of base personnel attended Flour Bluff schools and made up a large part of the student body. This involvement influenced the school in many ways. For example, a curriculum was provided for military training, which included the “Laboratory of Industry,” and the push for the end to segregation created a whole new school environment. Even the day-to-day activities at the school were affected. The Cold War and the possibility of a hydrogen bomb attack had the Navy initiate an evacuation program for the entire district. Students and teachers practiced drills where they would load over 1300 students, teachers, and other personnel on to buses in eleven minutes. These buses then carried them fifty-one miles to the Knolle Dairy farm where everyone had an assigned duty. Some high school students erected a portable kitchen and an emergency hospital tent while others helped to organize and supervise younger children. During this time period, teachers were required to be in a state of readiness by keeping the gas tanks of their personal vehicles full at all times.

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Flour Bluff Building Trades Students Build Homes 1958

Pride of the Community

Flour Bluff ISD is indeed unique, a true product of its ever-changing community. Created out of necessity by a rural population, the district has experienced tremendous growth over the past 111 years. The influx of the oil and gas industry, the growth of ranching, the building of the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, and the determination of its citizens, students, teachers, and superintendents made it a model of efficiency, innovation, and collaboration that is the pride of the community today.

Flour Bluff
Google Map of Flour Bluff ISD today

Sources:
“100 Years of Educational Excellence,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 1.
Marston, Opal Roscher. “Tales of Early Flour Bluff Schools,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 3.
Warner, C. A. Texas Oil and Gas Since 1543. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company, 1939. p. 298, 300, and 307.
Rouse, Thelma Darby. “Brighton’s One-Room Schoolhouse,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 7.
Order Authorizing the Issuance of Bonds. Nueces County Commissioner’s Court Record. 1 July 1937:
Vol. Q, pp. 465-468.
“100 Years of Educational Excellence,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 6.Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 7, 1940.
Hearn, Roxie. “Flour Bluff History Unique and Colorful,” Flour Bluff Sun, July 1, 1976: p. 2.
Ball, Jeffrey. “School Door Opened in Flour Bluff a Century Ago,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, October 17, 1992: 2B.
Field Notes: Flour Bluff Independent School District, pp. 1-3.
Arnold, Dorothy. “Thirty Years in Retrospect 1946-1976,” The Sun, July 15, 1976: p. 6.
Flour Bluff Public Schools: System-wide Report of Evaluation Committee, May 1958, pp. 1-2.
Pearson, Spencer. “Segregation May Bring NAS School,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 4, 1963:B1.
“Vocational Training,” Emphasis on Education, March 1969: p. 3.
“New Concepts in Learning Are Now Being Demonstrated,” Focus on Education, March 4, 1968: p. 3.
“Open Air Classroom Program,” Emphasis on Education, March 1969: p. 4.
“The History of Flour Bluff Schools,” Focus on Education, March 4, 1968: p. 2.
“The History of Flour Bluff Schools,” p. 2.
Russell, Cliff. “Ready for H-Bomb Attack,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 22, 1958: B12.

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Karen has lived in Corpus Christi all of her life. She graduated from King HS and Corpus Christi State University and taught 8th-grade American history for 30 years at Flour Bluff ISD. She has been a member of the Nueces County Historical Commission since 2005 and currently serves as its vice-president. She wrote the Texas historical marker for Flour Bluff ISD, organized the Voices of South Texas-Old Bayview Cemetery Comes Alive, volunteers for Welder Wildlife Foundation, Nueces Delta Preserve, Flour Bluff ISD, and Corpus Christi ISD. She is also a member and past president of the Texas Outdoor Education Association.