By Professor “LMC” Lisa Marie Coppoletta, columnist
EDITORIAL NOTE: The City of San Marcos has reached out with a statement.
Many residents at both the municipal and county levels of governance have been highly concerned that the City of San Marcos has proposed to convert the Dunbar Home Economics Building into a public restroom.
An Open Records Request was filed on June 7, 2021 Open Records Requests reference number W008748-060721
The City of San Marcos sent our Open Records Request on June 21, 2021, to the Attorney General, and below is the City of San Marcos’ rationale for not providing a full release of records.
We have yet to receive a response from the City of San Marcos.
The Hays County Historical Commission met on June 24, 2021, and fourteen public comments were made in support of preserving both the Dunbar Home Economics Building and Naomi Cephas House.
“The buildings have cultural and historical value beyond this narrative and are reminders of a community that has suffered loss due to out-migration, economic factors, and currently gentrification,” said a representative from the Dunbar Heritage Association. “The Dunbar Home Economics Building has special significance to the Miller family and members of DHA because of the efforts of our founder, the late Mr. Harvey Miller, and the first director of Dunbar Park, to transform the site from the colored school to a recreation center and park.”
“As we all know, communities of color seem to suffer the most when it comes to preservation of their histories. One of my favorite things about living in San Marcos is the deep sense of community. I want to instill that in my children and one of the best ways to do that is to being able to show them tangible evidence of San Marcos’ rich history. Preserving these two buildings can ensure that my children and the rest of San Marcos doesn’t forget the history of Dunbar,” said Jennifer Katz
“The preservation and restoration of these resources is crucial to the preservation of Black history, Black culture, and the entire Dunbar community. The Dunbar Historic District has eroded so much over time, displacing people whose families had lived there for generations and literally covering up cultural treasures. The neglect this area has suffered needs to end,” said Robin Blackburn, a third-generation resident of San Marcos.
“The Home Economics building is the only remaining element of the school previously designated for preservation. It is highly representative of the national initiative to improve the quality of life for individuals and families through education related to safe efficient, and informed management of the home and family,” said Dr. Ann DuPont.
“I strongly support the preservation of the Naomi Chephas House at 218 MLK in the Dunbar Historic District and the restoration of the African American Home Economics Building on Dunbar. These structures represent part of the diversity that created San Marcos and they should be preserved and utilized as a living part of our collective history,” said Amy Meeks.
The Resolution by The Hays County Historical Commission in support of the preservation of the Dunbar Home Economics Building as a locally designated landmark by the City of San Marcos passed 19-0.
The African American Heritage Committee of the Hays County Historical Commission also passed this same resolution on June 22 with a unanimous vote.
On July 01, 2021 City of San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission passed Recommendation Resolution 2021-04RR-HPC regarding the Dunbar Home Economics Building:
Commissioner Perkins made a motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Arlinghaus, to approve 2021-04RR-HPC recommending the City Council support the restoration and preservation of the Dunbar School Building, also known as the Dunbar Home Economic Building.
The amendments were as follows:
- Inclusion of the “whereas” language included in the Hays County Historical Commission’s Resolution in support of the preservation of the Dunbar Home Economics Building.
- Inclusion of language that the City of San Marcos seek out the service of a qualified and professional Historic Preservation Architect to prepare a Historic Structures Report for this building.
That report should include a set of measured drawings of the building (“as-built” drawings), an assessment of its structural needs (a condition report and needs assessment), recommendations for its preservation and restoration, and possible future uses.
The motion was carried unanimously by the HPC. Commissioner Perkins, Commissioner Holder, Commissioner Arlinghaus, Commissioner Paniagua, and Commissioner Rogers voted yes.
Next Thursday, August 5, 2021, 5:45 PM Historic Preservation Commission will discuss the Dunbar Home Economics Building:
The Historic Preservation Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 05, 2021, at 5:45 p.m.
On July 13, 2021, a resolution was passed by the Hays County Commissioners Court in support of the preservation of the Dunbar Home Economics Building.
On Tuesday, August 03, 2021, the San Marcos City Council will return to the Chambers for a “Regular Meeting.”
The City Council will discuss the Dunbar Home Economics Building, the agenda item reads as follows;
On the Non-Consent agenda, item 30 is to authorize $38,115,000 of Combination Tax and Revenue Certificates of Obligation.
While the Dunbar Home Economics Building is not listed in the caption, it is addressed in the packet.
Below is the caption to agenda item 30.
On page 1377 referencing agenda item 30 is C739 of the 1745 page City Council agenda packet.
This is cause for concern since the City Manager’s Office emailed us on June 7, 2021, stating that there are no plans to turn the Dunbar Home Economics Building into a public restroom.
Thank you for reaching out with your concern. There is no project planned to turn the African-American Home Economics Building into a restroom. The description in the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) document is “Stabilize historic Dunbar education building to ensure public safety. Further research on possible grants, group fundraising, and/or County participation for further funding sources. Future facility use is undetermined at this time.”
The project has approved funding in the amount of $25,000 included in the current year’s (FY21) debt sale for initial assessment. Future funding is identified in future years (FY22-FY24). The following link takes you to a webpage with the current CIP for 2021-2030 and the proposed plan under consideration for 2022-2031: http://sanmarcostx.gov/366/10-Year-Capital-Improvements-Plan.
At last week’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting, there was discussion about this topic initiated by a citizen who heard we were turning the school building into restrooms. They spoke during the citizen comment period. There was also a resolution recommendation for that building on the agenda where the subject came up again, but staff was not given a chance to speak on the subject.
Thank you again for reaching out,
HaydenHayden Migl, Assistant to the City Manager | City Manager's Office
The City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 03, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. To review the full agenda, click here. You can email city council at CouncilMembers@SanMarcosTX.gov or submit a public comment for Tuesday’s meeting at CitizenComment@SanMarcosTX.gov.