County, HCMH begin planning for new fire, EMS facility south of I-30
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

January 30, 2004 -- With the signing of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2004 last week, U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin announced that Hopkins County will receive $750,000 to construct an intermodal transfer facility to house a new Hopkins County Fire and Rescue Center and the TRAX transit program.

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap met Wednesday morning with Hopkins County Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Michael McAndrew and Precinct 3 County Commissioner Don Patterson to discuss the potential for a joint facility that would include housing for a southside ambulance station.

"Our first step is going to be to get all of our paperwork together," Millsap said. "We will sit down with the hospital and work out some details so we can work together to make this a dream finally come true."

The fire and rescue center, to be located adjacent to Interstate 30, would 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 Fire and Rescue Center is 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.

Having grant money available to fund the new fire and rescue center will mean a big savings for the county, the equivalent of about 7.5 cents on the tax rolls.

Hospital officials have long been concerned with the time and distance involved in an emergency response to the city's south side as well as southern parts of the county, according to McAndrew.

"It's always a concern," McAndrew said. "We are excited now that we know this is going to become a reality."

Commissioner 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."

"The only way we could have done this would have been to have gone out on a bond issue," Millsap said. "This is just a dream come true for a lot of people in Hopkins County."

After determining the requirements of the grant, county commissioners will then work with the administration at Hopkins County Memorial Hospital to develop plans that would include an ambulance station in the complex.

"What we've agreed to at this point is that we want to do something together," McAndrew said. "We don't know exactly what it's going to look like or how it's going to take shape, but the county has invited us to participate so that we do have southside ambulance coverage, and that's our focus."

The proposal would also provide space for the TRAX transit program, which currently is housed in rental property without covered parking.

The funds became available Tuesday with passage of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2004, according to Sandlin who said funds would also be made available for a number of other communities in Northeast Texas. The facilities would include agriculture research, new buses, airport safety, cancer research, student retention programs, Interstate 30 and Interstate 69.

"In total, over $14.7 million will be distributed to benefit the citizens, businesses, schools and neighborhoods of the First Congressional District of Texas," Sandlin concluded.

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