New London refinery - the schools
A new business is opening soon in New London here in east Texas.
And it’s a business that will transform the town.
It’s a refinery.
And to the folks in New London, and particularly the West Rusk School district, it means economic salvation.
The pump jacks creak as they remove black gold from the old East Texas oil field near New London.
To be brutally honest, there isn’t much to New London as you drive in.
It is dominated by a monument to the terrible explosion in 1937, when natural gas that had seeped into the school ignited killing almost 300 children and teachers.
That tragedy led to new safety standards for the use of natural gas, and the town rebuilt.
But when the oil boom ended, the town dwindled.
If you were uncharitable, you could call it a wide spot in the road.
Ironically, at one time, the West Rusk School District was one of the richest in the state. But since the oil boom ended, they have fallen on hard times.
But soon, what comes out of the ground here, will be refined, right over there.
The old Gregg County refinery, built in 1935, has been closed for some time.
Well now, it will be dismantled, upgraded, and rebuilt in a 160 acre site just a mile and a quarter from New London.
That means jobs…both short term during building and long term when the plant is up and running.
And, that means property taxes and revenue for the West Rusk School District…
“it’s going to afford us some opportunities that most schools never get.” Said Tommy Alexander, the Superintendent of the West Rusk School District. “A lot of poverty around. Average home is under 30-35 thousand dollars. 80% or more of our students are on free or reduced lunches. It’s hard, it’s hard to comprehend what some of the options are going to be down the road. it’s time something good happened for them.”
Tommy Alexander told us that the refinery folks said that had the facility been up and running, their current school expansion could have been paid for in 3 years without a bond issue.