Proposition 4 - Battleship Texas

The historic World War One era Battleship Texas is one of a number of state properties that would benefit from passage of Proposition 4 on next month's election ballot. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains.

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Proposition 4 would authorize the state to sell up to a billion dollars in bonds to pay for repairs and improvements for a number of state agencies, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.ξ State parks officials say the money is needed because a number of state parks are in desperate need of repair, including the Battleship Texas at the San Jacinto Battleground. Barry Ward of the Battleship Texas Foundation says the old dreadnought is in terrible condition.

"The aft end of the ship has less than a 16th of an inch of steel left on her.ξ That's you know you're talking about aluminum can thickness. If you went down there and gave it a good whack with your hand you could almost put your hand right through it."

Ward says the only realistic way to save the Texas is to build a permanent dry dock around it to get it out of the water, and do a lot of repairs and rehabilitation to preserve it for future generations.ξ

"With the money available in this bond issue, about 25 million dollars, we can put this ship on display like no other battleship in the world.ξ It will be an engineering breakthrough. It will become, potentially, a net revenue generator, and will save the state of Texas, quite literally, hundreds of millions of dollars over the projected life span of the ship in maintenance costs."

Ward says it just makes good financial sense to spend a little money now so the state won't have to come up with a lot of money in the future.ξ

"The ship is designed so that it needs to be taken out of the water every decade. That's the way it was built, that's the way it was designed. That cycle cost $15 million dollars in 1989 dollars, and we only repaired a third of the ship. So imagine how much that would cost now, and imagine how much money we're saving by saying 'OK , every ten years we don't have to spend that kind of money. It's just done once now."

Facilities and construction projects in a total of 11 state agencies would benefit from Proposition 4, and that's one of the arguments that have been raised against it. Opponents say some projects are necessary and worthwhile, but this amendment lumps together too many diverse projects that should be evaluated individually and offered to voters in separate packages. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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