The sought-after administration building for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley won’t be coming to Hidalgo County — or Cameron County.
UT System officials announced Friday they were indefinitely postponing a decision on where to build the administrative headquarters. Instead, the money that would’ve been spent on the construction of that building will go toward new infrastructure at existing campuses. UT-RGV President Guy Bailey made the decision, the university system said Friday afternoon in a news release.
“I can’t in good conscience endorse building an administrative building when I know we have pressing needs for students and faculty,” Bailey said in the release.
Rather than working out of a central headquarters, Bailey and his administrative team will apparently conduct business while roving up and down the Valley.
“Also, my presence on all of our campuses in Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen, McAllen and Rio Grande City, as opposed to an administrative office, is important. We will never have this moment again — the beginning of this ambitious endeavor — and I want to spend this time where it matters most. I want to be at the heart of UTRGV cq and if that means traveling throughout the Valley, that’s what I will do.”
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the space at the existing administrative offices in Edinburg and Brownsville should suffice. He also said he expected Bailey to spend much of his time on the road.
“Maybe we ought to get him a Winnebago,” he quipped.
The Monitor was unable to reach Bailey for follow-up questions.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, implied in a statement that the funding for the administration headquarters would go toward new UT-Brownsville buildings, to help UT-RGV reach its goal of becoming a “first-tier” institution.
He noted that goal was still far off.
“I think it's appropriate to address those larger needs before deciding where a single headquarters building should be placed,” he said. “In Cameron County, as a result of the University of Texas at Brownsville's separation from Texas Southmost College, more than 3,000 students are taking classes in leased space.”
The decision may keep more administrators operating out of the current UT-Pan American campus in Edinburg, said state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, whose district includes the UTPA campus.
“It's probably going to result in the majority of the administration functions being performed at the Edinburg campus, which is obviously in the heart of my district,” he said. “So it doesn't necessarily bother me.”
Canales did, however, take issue with UT System’s requesting proposals for the building. The system received 25 proposals from cities, organizations and private companies, the release said.
“I do think it's a little misleading that they would have made all those people go through the rigor of putting in bids and creating programs and getting all these municipalities in essence in competition for no reason whatsoever,” Canales said. “They kind of pitted every city in the Valley and Hidalgo (County) against Cameron (County) for no reason.”
But leaders denied political infighting in any way scuttled the plans for the building.
“I think that tension’s always been there,” Hinojosa said.
Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos said he was too unfamiliar with the situation to comment. But his counterpart in Hidalgo County, Ramon Garcia, expressed support.
“It makes a lot of sense; we can't be against that,” Garcia said.
The postponement was not a final decision to not build an administrative headquarters, the release said.
“A central administrative building may one day be needed, but other needs must take precedence right now,” Bailey said in the release.
The release did not specify a timeline for reconsidering an administration headquarters.
State Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, said he understood the move was only a temporary hold. He, like Hinojosa and Canales, added the announcement did not bother him.
“That doesn’t give me heartburn at this point,” he said.
Based on conversations with Bailey and UT System officials, Guerra said he was “very certain” McAllen, which aggressively pursued the administration headquarters, would have a “significant role” in the new university.
“There will be something here, I feel very confident,” he said.
But if McAllen officials know what the UT System plans are for the city, they’re not saying.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what they do,” said Michelle Leftwich, an assistant McAllen city manager.