Construction delays at FBISD's career and technical school costing millions as decision about reburial of human remains found at site is held up in court

Fort Bend ISD's $58 million career and technology center that is part of the district’s 2014 bond program is still scheduled to open on time in 2019 because construction is ongoing in areas unaffected by the discovery of historic remains on the property earlier this year, according to a release from the district.

However, cost increases associated with the delays and potential redesign are increasing each month as FBISD has already incurred about $5.5 million in costs for construction delays, archaeological observation, investigation, exhumation and historical analysis, according to the district.

According to legal documents, when the district filed a petition seeking court approval to exhume the bodies of the 95 individuals in May, the petition specifically stated the district was not seeking removal of any dedication of the land for cemetery purposes.

On Nov. 7, the district filed a new petition requesting court approval to remove the cemetery or abandoned cemetery designation legally attributed to the property and grave sites. The petition also requested court approval to move and reinter the bodies at the Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery.

If the court does not grant the removal of the cemetery or historic cemetery designation from the site and does not allow for reburial at the Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery, the school would need to be redesigned to fill different areas of the property, according to a release from the district. The costs to construct the redesigned center would add about $18 million in costs to building the school, putting the project about $25 million over budget, district officials said.

“The district and the city of Sugar Land reached an agreement to bury the remains in a city-owned cemetery in October,” FBISD board President Jason Burdine said in a statement. “The only hold-up now is that we need approval from the court. Further delay will leave the remains without a final resting place and will add millions of dollars of un-budgeted costs to the project. Our district has a responsibility to our students, taxpayers, and the citizens who voted in support of this project to avoid the continuing delay and economic harm being caused to the taxpayers."

FBISD officials filed a petition to the court of appeals following a Dec. 18 ruling from Fort Bend County's 434th District Court Judge James Shoemake keeping Master in Chancery Michael Elliott—a Richmond attorney—on the case regarding the reburial of human remains discovered at Fort Bend ISD’s James Reese Career and Technical Center construction site.

Elliott was appointed master in chancery, or an assistant in the court who does not serve to advocate for either side, Nov. 21 following a Nov. 19 hearing regarding the reburial.

On Nov. 30, FBISD filed an objection to the appointment of a master in chancery for the case. The district also filed a supplemental petition Dec. 17 requesting an expedited order for its petition made on Nov. 7, citing financial and timing issues for the school’s opening, according to the court documents.

Other matters, including when the next hearing will be, will be determined by Shoemake at a later date.

“They could release an opinion as early as today, or they could take their time about it," Elliott said. "I expect that it will not take long. Whatever they do, they’ll do it probably fairly expeditiously. Not necessarily hinging on that, Judge Shoemake said that he would make a ruling on the other issues in the next few days.”
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


Here are the latest coronavirus updates for Fort Bend County. (Courtesy Fort Bend County)
Fort Bend County confirms 49 coronavirus cases May 29, highest single-day total since early May

Missouri City now has more than 300 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Texas Medical Center continued to see week-over-week decreases in the total number of active COVID-19 hospitalizations but also saw a significant increase in patient deaths, the medical center reported May 29. (Community Impact staff)
Texas Medical Center sees another week-over-week decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Texas Medical Center continued to see week-over-week decreases in the total number of active COVID-19 hospitalizations but also saw a significant increase in patient deaths, the medical center reported May 29.

The Willie's Grill & Icehouse restaurant in Copperfield is temporarily closed after reopening in mid-May. (Courtesy Willie's Grill & Icehouse Copperfield)
Study predicts coronavirus spike and other top Houston-area stories

Read some of the most popular Houston-area content on Community Impact Newspaper’s website from this week.

The syrup drums being repurposed into rain barrels were donated from Coca-Cola. (Courtesy Galveston Bay Foundation)
Galveston Bay Foundation to host virtual, drive-thru rain barrel workshop

The Kemah-based nature conservation nonprofit is hosting a rain barrel workshop this weekend for Houstonians thirsting for a way to help conserve the community’s water supply.

To help its economy recover from COVID-19, Sugar Land’s economic development department plans to implement a marketing campaign in mid-June referred to as #AllInForSLTX. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Sugar Land to launch #AllInForSLTX campaign to stimulate economy in response to COVID-19

About 92% of businesses surveyed in Sugar Land experienced a decline in business due to COVID-19.

Fort Bend County Judge KP hosted a discussion on Facebook Live with officials from the Kinder Institute and Fort Bend County Health and Human Services about how the results of the COVID-19 Registry will be used. (Courtesy Fort Bend County)
Fort Bend County officials to use COVID-19 Registry to guide coronavirus response

Here is how you can join the COVID-19 Registry and shape Fort Bend County's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is set to resume Oct. 3 with safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy Texas Renaissance Festival)
Texas Renaissance Festival announces tentative modifications for 2020 season

In a May 28 statement, General Manager Joseph Bailey said new safety measures are in the works to comply with governmental recommendations, and an operating plan is expected to be reviewed with officials in June.

Missouri City City Council met for a special meeting May 26. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
With latest action, Missouri City City Council votes down community survey in search for city manager

The results of the survey would have helped council identify issues and priorities to consider when selecting the next city manager.

Health officials in Fort Bend County confirmed 17 new coronavirus cases May 28. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Sugar Land, Missouri City each see 5 new coronavirus cases May 28

There were 17 new coronavirus cases reported in Fort Bend County on May 28, bringing the county total to 1,783 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Outdoor venues in all Texas counties will be permitted to operate at up to 25% capacity starting May 31. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Spectators to be welcomed back to Texas outdoor sporting events May 31 at 25% of venue capacity

Venue owners must operate under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing.

Students enrolled in the University of Houston College of Nursing can take classes at the Sugar Land campus. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: UH College of Nursing dean reflects on how coronavirus has affected education, profession

Kathryn Tart, dean of the University of Houston’s College of Nursing, spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about how the novel coronavirus is changing the way the university is educating nursing students.

Houston Methodist researchers conducted a 25-patient trial in March and April to examine the safety of convalescent plasma transfusions as a possible treatment for COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Methodist)
Greater Houston-area health systems examine plasma transfusion as possible COVID-19 treatment

The experimental therapy involves the transfer of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to those who are currently symptomatic.