An upcoming bond election in Amarillo has put the future of one longtime community fixture in question.

Just before the start of early voting, new information began circulating regarding the $89.2 million Amarillo College debt proposition on the May 4 ballot. Artist renderings from the college’s master bond plan, previously unseen, appear to propose transforming the facility that currently houses the Amarillo Senior Citizens Center into a downtown “innovation hub”—immediately raising concerns from voters about the fate of Amarillo’s sole senior center. While Amarillo College owns the property used by the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association, the organization rents most of the north end of the downtown campus.

Following a recent board meeting, Amarillo College released a statement saying while the college does intend to “continue to partner” with ASCA if the bond passes, “some space currently utilized by ASCA at the Downtown Campus would have to be repurposed to accommodate an Innovation Hub.” Initial reports from those close to the conversations have estimated ASCA could lose up to 85 percent of its current space.

One of the biggest concerns raised by seniors has been the potential loss of ASCA’s cafeteria due to the creation of the innovation hub. Judy Jackman, an ASCA committee member, told Amarillo College regents this week that the cafeteria is a major concern for her when looking at the bond.

“For many of our seniors, that’s the only balanced meal they get,” Jackman said. “So, there is concern about what happens to them.”

The master plan, which was used to craft the bond proposal, shows artist renderings of the innovation hub but does not specify the size and scope of the project. Amarillo College has stated, however, that with the passage of the bond, the school would still look for ways to provide meal service to seniors, as well as scheduling time for ASCA to use of part of the facility.

However, Jackman says the school’s board of regents should still be mindful of the concerns of senior citizens in the Amarillo area as the bond election moves forward.

“You can see how many people are concerned about how this will impact us,” Jackman said at AC’s most recent board meeting, referencing the standing-room-only crowd assembled.

In addition to possible changes for ASCA, the bond election will carry a noticeable tax increase for Amarillo taxpayers, if passed. Residents in the Amarillo Junior College district can expect to pay about 14 percent more in district property taxes if the bond passes, regents said. The district currently owes $72.8 million in outstanding debt principal and interest, according to the Texas Bond Review Board.

Early voting will continue through April 30, with Election Day slated for May 4 on the bond election.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.