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The Tyler Independent School District Board of Trustees declined an offer from Smith County to purchase its old Ag Farm.

During the board’s regularly scheduled workshop on Thursday, the board voted to sell the 10-acre property, on Farm-to-Market Road 3271, in two parcels to other bidders for a lower price because Smith County did not submit its bid during the bidding process period, which ended Sept. 12.

Smith County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Wilson attended the workshop to assist the board with any questions.

Board member the Rev. Fritz Hager Jr. said the decision was a matter of keeping with public trust that the board has worked hard to cultivate.

“Part of that is the integrity of our purchasing system and processes.” Hager said while the Smith County bid of $140,000 was higher, the county had not submitted the offer in time. Agendas for the Commissioners Court show the county voted to approve the offer on Oct. 1. Smith County had wanted to use the property as a future site for a new Road and Bridge Facility.

“I think we’re facing a challenge here of what’s more important; the importance of our integrity of our purchasing process of a few more dollars,” Hager said.

The board voted to approve the sale of 3.41 acres of the property to Southern Utilities for $56,833.33 and the remaining 6.687 acres to Dennis H. Walker for $70,000 for a total of $126,833.33.

“Someone once told me that you’re only as good as your word,” Board President Wade Washmon said. “I think our policies and processes are our word here.”

Board member Andy Bergfeld was not present for the meeting. The rest of the board voted unanimously to approve the contracts with Southern Utilities and Walker.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said the county respects Tyler ISD’s decision and appreciated the district considering the offer.

“This public process is the way governments should work, and this underscores the county’s ongoing commitment to transparent and above-board dealings in all matters,” Moran said in a prepared statement. “Ultimately, the TISD Board of Trustees decided not to accept the county’s offer. Nevertheless, we wish the awarded buyers the best in their uses of the property, and appreciate TISD’s consideration of our offer.”

We will now turn our attention to other potential sites for our Road and Bridge facility needs.”

Erin Mansfield contributed to this report.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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