Robstown Independent School District moved closer toward building two new schools last week, after the school board agreed to sell the bonds to build the schools and approved a contractor for the projects.

On Thursday, the board voted 4-2 to approve the sale of the $15.5 million bonds approved by voters to build new Lotspeich and San Pedro Elementary Schools. The 32-year bonds were sold on the market at a rate of 5.724 percent, which will bring an estimated increase of 11.64 cents to the district's interest and sinking fund tax rate. Board president Rosendo Espinoza and board members Victor Orona, Eva Orona and Jerry Gonzalez voted in favor of the sale of the bonds, while board members Robert Tapia and Richard Gonzalez voted against the sale.

During Tuesday's meeting, the board also approved the naming of Ewing Construction as the contractor for the construction of the two new elementary schools.

At $17.5 million, Ewing Construction was the lowest of three bidders for the project. Raymond Gignac, the district's architect, is currently negotiating with the company and working to "value engineer" the project to find savings, officials said. If no agreement can be reached, the district will break off negotiations with Ewing Construction and enter negotiations with the second highest rated bidder. The contract cannot be approved at an amount higher than $15.5 million, officials said.

After a lengthy discussion, at the recommendation of board member Tapia the board voted 3-2 to remove a clause from the contract that would have required any dispute to be resolved through arbitration. By removing the clause, all disputes that arise between the district and the contractor will now be resolved through litigation, officials said.

Espinoza, board member Eva Orona and Tapia voted in favor of removing the clause, while board members Victor Orona and Jerry Gonzalez Jr. voted against the item.

In other business Tuesday, the board voted 4-1 to extend by one year the contract of John Womack and Company, the firm that performs the district's financial audit. Tapia was the only member to vote against the item.

During the public hearing portion of Tuesday's meeting, Marcos Alaniz addressed the board on behalf of his wife, Belinda Alaniz, a school employee. Alaniz told the board his wife had been called into Superintendent Roberto Garcia's office following a previous board meeting, and Garcia reprimanded her for speaking out about an issue during that meeting. Alaniz told the board Garcia should not have criticized his wife, and told Garcia he was out of touch with the district.

"If you knew half of the things that went on in this district, you would not be in disagreement with your administrators," Alaniz told Garcia.

Garcia and the board did not respond to Alaniz during Tuesday's meeting.