County begins planning new fire/rescue center
Federal funding of $750,000 expected to cover construction

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Aug. 27, 2004 -- Hopkins County Memorial Hospital directors met with members of Hopkins County's commissioners court Monday evening to begin planning for the proposed Hopkins County Fire and Rescue Center.

Funding for the emergency response facility will come from $750,000 in federal funds contained in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2004 approved early this year.

"Once the grant comes through on the facility, the hospital district will join in with us to add EMS to the facility," Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said. "This would require that we would work out some type of agreement for the hospital to cover the cost of occupying the building."

The fire and rescue center, to be located adjacent to Interstate 30, will improve the ability of the county's first responders to serve residents and enhance economic development by being better able to serve the needs of an 820-square mile area. The facility will be critical to the future development of mass transit projects for the transportation of people to and from jobs, to medical facilities and commercial centers, as well as improve vital transit services for the more than 31,000 residents of the county, according to Millsap.

HCMH Chief Executive Officer Michael McAndrew said hospital officials are anxious to have a location on the south side of the interstate and called the proposed fire and rescue facility ideal for emergency medical response.

"They can get out on League Street, they can get out on I-30 and, once the Highway 11 extension is completed, they will have even better access to State Highway 19," McAndrew said. "We think it will be a great location, and we will be able to house two ambulances there."

"Our role in this will be the part of a tenant," the hospital executive added. "They [county] are goingo build the building and we are going to live in part of it."

Precinct 3 Commissioner Don Patterson, who serves as liaison with county fire services, said having the county fire department and EMS located along the interstate would be a big advantage to the county.

"About 60 to 65 percent of the calls are on the south side of the county now," Patterson said. "It will be real accessible to go north, south, east or west, a big advantage to fire and ambulance, where they don't get hung up in traffic."

In Monday's meeting, county commissioners reassured hospital board members the project was still a go.

"The project is still on our front burner," the judge said. "We just wanted to make sure all the [hospital] board members were on line with us."

County officials say they hope to have the funds available in the very near future and can then proceed with planning. They hope to break ground as early as December.

Judge Millsap said he was hopeful the entire project could be paid for with grant money and without the county having to seek additional funding.

The next step for the county on the project will be to meet with representatives from the city of Sulphur Springs to discuss the acquisition of some additional land near the proposed facility.

"We need to buy two more acres from them," Millsap said. "This would be to make sure we have enough room for the facility because, also, there will be a TRAX bus facility right behind the fire and rescue center."

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