City of Crockett, Serenity Place agree to deal for State School building

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - The Crockett State School facility will finally have a new tenant.

According to Crockett Mayor Robert Meadows, on Friday, the city council and Serenity Place agreed to a five-year deal in principal for a lease purchase agreement of the facility that was abandoned in 2012 by the state.

It is the second time the facility has had a proposed tenant in the last four years.

For the majority of the last four years, the facility that sits across from Crockett High School has been empty.

"Serenity Place deals with children in CPS care," said Houston County Judge Erin Ford. "These kids are waiting to be placed in foster care or put back with their family. In Houston County. We have 40 CPS youth in foster care from Houston County outside of the county."

In 2012, after more than 60 years, the Crockett State School closed its doors, displacing more than 280 workers and 111 delinquent youth.
The school was one of three closed by the Texas Youth Commission at the time of the closure, former Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt said. Without the school, the county lost close to $40 million dollars and more than 500 jobs would be impacted in some way by the decision.

In 2014, the City of Crockett and Houston County partnered with Cornerstone Programs to transform the old Crockett State School to a new juvenile treatment facility. However, the facility never got off the ground after state senators blocked the move. Ford said Serenity Place is a different type of plan the city is working on.

Last month, the city looked at the possibility of turning over the property to the Land Management Office in Austin.

"They house CPS youth as opposed to Cornerstone who housed juvenile detainees," Ford said. "It doesn't conflict with the Texas state plan. It will be a good day if and when the agreement is signed."

Chris Brown runs Serenity Place and said he is excited with what Crockett has to offer for the facility.

"This is going to be a quick move," Brown said. "We want to be up and running by the beginning of June. If we get this worked out, we will be moving 48 children and 13 staff to the area."

Brown said the non-profit is also looking to hire from the county. Brown's goal is to have between 120 and 150 workers. The jobs would be everything from case workers and teaching staff all the way down to lawn care.

Financial figures show a significant line of money flowing into the city.

"If they were to generate 100 jobs here locally, they would generate annually 2 to 3 million dollars in wages," said Crockett Economic Development Director Flint Brent. "It will also have a trickle down effect to other businesses."

The deal will have to be approved by the General Land Office in Austin.

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