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Ellis County Judge cancels tour of old Super Collider

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Sheila Hatfield
The Ellis County Press
MAYPEARL - Citizens who arrived for a free tour of the old Superconducting Super Collider facility Monday said they were very disappointed - but not surprised when the tour was abruptly canceled, according to Taxpayers Alliance for Good Government Chairman Marshal Evans.

'Those dirty dogs,' said Chatfield resident George Schulke. 'I had a flat tire trying to get here.'

Melissa Hanley said, 'I was very interested to see the facility to see what was actually there.

'The county said there are Styrofoam cups being stored there - if that is so, the facillity is not being used wisely and I am not sure that is all it is being used for.'

While potential tourers gathered, several unidentified vehicles pulled up and entered the facilities, Evans said.

He said the man who takes care of the facilities also arrived and replied he was there for the tour, called someone for clarification, and then accompanied the vehicles into the facility.

'I was thoroughly disappointed to drive all the way over here to see that it was canceled vertually at the last minute - we would have gladly tagged along with the tour that is going on right now,' said Judy Isom.

'We got permission to do the tour from Judge Cornelius,' said Evans. 'But the judge's assistant (Delton Ake) called late Thursday and said the judge was canceling the tour.'

Ake told Evans it was being canceled because they didn't have the time, and only a few people had signed up at the county for the tour, so they determined there was a lack of interest.

Evans said a memorandum, sent to him last month with permission for the tour stated, 'No one will be admitted to any building except those signed up for a tour,' but he had a subsequent verbal agreement with Cornelius to send him an updated number of people on the Friday before the tour, and that regular citizens wouldn't have to get on the list.

'I tried to tell the uninformed assistant that I had a couple hundred people who want to see it, but he wouldn't listen to me nor check with the judge about our agreement,' said Evans.

Judge Cornelius said he had his assistant call Evans because things are pretty hectic around his office during this budget time and only two or three people signed up for the tour.

'We sent a memo to people who had expressed an interest, that the tour could be canceled at any time,' said Cornelius.

Cornelius said he remembered talking to Evans after issuing the memorandum, but wasn't sure if they talked about when the list would be submitted.

'Safety is the thing I'm concerned about most,' said Cornelius.

TAGG pressed Cornelius for permission to tour the SSC for several months, according to Evans.

'I sent letters to the commissioners and the judge,' said Evans.

'(Commissioner) Ron Brown interceded for us, talked to the judge and finally the judge came around.'

The SSC facility, located three miles west of Interstate Highway 35 on FM 1446, is currently on the market to be sold.

TAGG members, although they oppose the sale of the SSC, said the purpose of the tour was to help promote the facility and try to get media exposure to get the best possible deal on the property for the taxpayers.

'We think it should be used as a jail, but if it has to be sold, we want to get top dollar for it,' said Evans.

The SSC facility was given to Ellis County in 1992, after Congress failed to renew federal funds for the high-energy physics research.

TAGG members and other citizens have appeared before the commissioners on numerous occasions pleading for what they call a proper marketing of a 'world-class facility.'

The property, now know as the Ellis County Industrial Complex, consists of eight buildings totaling 213,662 square feet under roof, a nearby private prestige residence and about 150 acres of land.

Evans said the TAGG group thinks the property is worth at least $30 to $40 million, but commissioners gave Cornelius authority to sell the buildings for as little as $5 million.

The buildings have limited water and sewage potential right now, because the SSC research did not require more, said Evans.

'I think that less than $1 million investment for sewage could be worth $40 million to the taxpayers.'

Evans said TAGG's biggest concern is the cost of the new jail, being built in downtown Waxahachie, was supposed to be included in the budgeted amount of $18 million for it and new city offices, but now more money is needed to build the offices.

'Do we really want these people managing and selling this (SSC) property?' asked Evans.

For now, TAGG members say they will be satisfied if the SSC tour takes place. Evans said the tour has been tentatively rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8.

'I agreed with Marshal to have it on a Saturday (for the convience of people wanting to take the tour) and we will cooperate and do what we can,' said Cornelius. 'It is a good idea - we are going to do it up even bigger.'

He said he thought it would be very educational and literature would be made up to promote the tour.

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