Touring Texoma: Brick by Brick

Come election day on November 7, Bellevue ISD residents will have decisions to make that could determine whether their school consolidates with another district.

Superintendent Dean Gilstrap said after production began last year at the Triangle Brick plant, between Henrietta and Bellevue, district property values went from around $70,000,000 to about $135,000,000. 

So, he said Bellevue was pushed into the top limit of what the state calls a chapter 41 wealthy school district after realizing more than $760,000 more tax revenue from the brick plant.

Because of the new revenue the state will send Bellevue less than $100,000.

At the same time, Gilstrap said Bellevue will have to send the state nearly $200,000 of its tax revenue.

It's because of this change he said the district can purchase what's called weighted average daily attendance from the state, enough to lower property wealth to where it needs to be according to the state.

Bellevue can also purchase weighted average daily attendance from another poorer school district.

Both of these options will need taxpayer approval on November 7. 

Gilstrap/Bellevue Superintendent: "Hopefully they will approve both propositions.  Otherwise, the state will come in and they will determine how they're going to lower the wealth.  They could do that by consolidating the district with another district, or they could do that by de-annexing property and giving it to another district."

If taxpayers vote "for" propositions "1" or "2", Gilstrap said that will allow the school district, not the state, to decide how they want to try to reduce their property wealth.

Despite these complications due to the maze of state education funding rules, Gilstrap  believes the opening  of Triangle Brick will continue to be a hugely beneficial thing for the Bellevue ISD and all residents of Clay County.

Michael Qualls is principal at Bellevue, and also teaches precalculus, UIL mathematics & number sense.

Qualls and other teachers are elated over their updated technology, like a new whiteboard module they've been able to implement into their classrooms thanks to new tax revenue.

Qualls: "They can go here and they can actually save it. They can print it. They can give it to the kids.  Their notes are always there so a kid who might miss out on a day of notes doesn't miss out actually."

Qualls said they were able to buy whiteboard modules, iPads and laptops, a truck and two SUV's. 

Gilstrap said also because of extra tax revenue from Triangle Brick, they were able to do much needed maintenance work on their almost 100 year old auditorium.

Gilstrap: "We were able to do some things we would not have been able to do without that brick plant."  

Triangle Brick  was founded in 1959, and its state of the art plant in Clay County, between Henrietta and Bellevue off 287, went on-line about 17 months ago.
          
The reason it's in Clay County lies in the Earth, just west of the plant.

Rick Langford/ Henrietta Economic Development Director:  "You'll see the Earth changes colors. Some of it's sand.  Some of it's clay, and some of it's silt.  So, by pushing down through the strata, he's mixing it as he goes down." 

Langford said Triangle Brick is in Clay County because of just the right mixture of sand, silt and clay that's needed for brick making .

Langford:  "It goes up through the primary crusher, goes up the container and through the screen. Each one of those are different sized screens.  It goes through those in order to go through the plant.  If it's too big, it kicks back out the bottom and goes back up through the crusher." 

It's because those clay particles need to be even smaller still before the bricks are formed and then fired in the kiln.

A large impact grinder, along with more screens, accomplishes that and reduces the grains of clay to about the consistency of flour, which is how it's stored until it goes into what's called the pugmill and then the extrusion process.
            
Langford: "What we see here is the pugmill, and like 600 horsepower approximately, and it mixes the dirt with the water right out of the pugmill into the extruder, where a big screw pushes it through the dye, and it comes out on a conveyer in the shape of a long brick."

Langford said once the big, long brick comes out of the pugmill, rollers can come down and touch the brick and give it texture as it goes on to where the sawdust is added so it can have different colors as it makes its way through the firing process."

Langford: "Individual piano wires as the ribbon of brick is pushed through it, it cuts the brick into individual pieces, and this is where it's taking place right here."

Langford:  "The robots are called brick setters, and they're stacking the brick ready to go into the kiln to be heated." 

Once stacked on the kiln cars, the wet brick is dried in the green room before going into the kiln, which runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Langford:  "From here down the heat gradually begins to go up, and at some point it's 1,900 degrees in the kiln before it starts the process of cooling down."

The plant is capable of producing about 100 million brick a year that are never touched by human hands until they get to the job site.

Langford also said its 45 or so employees were all hired locally, with the exception of one engineer.

Langford:  "They will have some tax abatements involved, which will give them a break for the first few years as far as county taxes go.  In the long run, it will be a good investment for the county and hopefully for Triangle Brick." 

Trey Terry/Bellevue Jr.:  "I got new laptops in our virtual lab, and it's high speed, high tech, and it's about time we get this because we're in the age of technology and it's just been a great thing for Bellevue ISD."
 
For Bellevue students, K-12 like Terry, the high- tech brick factory has led to high- tech additions in the classroom, making a very good investment even the first year. 

Langford said the plant should have enough clay to last at least 50 years, which could make for a very long- term investment for others in clay county as well. 

Because the brick plant uses water in its operations, Langford said that very large mining hole will one day be used for storing water.

Then, once they move clay mining elsewhere, he said that could also move operations into the Henrietta school district.
 


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