Local healthcare, law enforcement and business affairs were discussed during the meeting of the Nolan County Forward Planning Committee held Wednesday at the Sweetwater Country Club.
The work on the Cardiac Rehab and Wellness Center continues at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital, which should be completed by the end of April. Hospital Administrator Donna Boatright was pleased to announce that they have already received $32,000 in donations, out of the $40,000 that will be matched through a grant by the Nolan County Foundation.
Renovations have taken place with the old medical offices, and the hospital has hired two new family practice doctors who will join the staff this summer. They are also looking at hiring an orthopedic surgeon.
The hospital board of directors are currently working on Phase 4 of the renovations, in which they will participate in a workshop this Thursday. Should the board move forward with the project, a bond election would be held in May, in which the project is expected to cost between $18 to $20 million.
Phase Four--which would include renovation of the OR, ICU and construction of a new OB department and some additional improvements--would bring about updates in some areas that haven't been made since the hospital's inception in 1976. Construction would start in late October or early November if the bond election passed.
Following a meeting with TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation), Sweetwater Police Chief Brian Frieda shared that extra funds have been obtained and will be used on a road striping project near West Broadway and FM 1544. In addition, the west side of the intersection will be illuminated.
Traffic has also seen an increase--anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 vehicles per day, with a higher volume of truck traffic.
Work is expected to begin in the next month on the construction of the new police station, as Ratcliff Constructors from Addison, Texas was selected to complete the project. They are working on lining up their subcontractors, and the project could be completed at the end of December or the first part of January 2015.
Local law enforcement saw a 20% increase in various crimes over the past year; the past couple of years have seen some increase in criminal activity. Three new employees have been added to the staff bringing the total to 13, but Frieda shared that they would like to bring that total to around 19.
The police department has also obtained four new Tahoes, as well as a new animal control vehicle. They are also looking at establishing a public and private wireless infrastructure to improve radio communication, which is typically implemented in larger cities, but will assist in developing a strong network.
And regarding the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce, board president Zollie Steakley praised the work of Executive Vice President Leah Andrews for her efforts made toward the public hearing held on the "gassing" of rattlesnakes, as well as her recent letter to the editor. As a result of the response from the public hearing, the commission opted to make some changes to the proposal.
In addition, the Chamber is already working on their fall banquet through sponsorships as well as promote the event in order to encourage attendance. The board also approved for Mike Hart to conduct a bowhunter seminar during the Sweetwater Jaycees' World's Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up.
Andrews was also at the meeting and expressed her appreciation of the community for their input and united front at the public hearing. She also shared that she has been speaking with State Representative Susan King, who attending the commission's meeting on the rattlesnake gassing. King has been in contact with members of the commission and will be sharing with Andrews any new information on the proposed measure.
Author's Note: This is the second article in a three-part series, recapping the updates given by the organizations represented at the recent meeting of the Nolan County Forward Planning Committee--from county-wide activity, community activity, and the overall economic development perspective.