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Kleberg County dedicates Sister Elizabeth Smith Clinic Building

Sister Elizabeth Smith not only believes in God, she lives a God-like life.

A number of years ago, she approached Judge Rudy Madrid and asked for his help. She believed the hungry should be fed, and after many discussions and a lot of work and help from a number of people, the soup kitchen and Weavers of Love was eventually built and founded.

A few years ago, about the beginning of the pandemic, Sister Elizabeth went back to Judge Madrid and told him about another idea she had. This one was for a wellness center or clinic, a place where the under served, under insured or elderly could go to get free medical care, counseling and other necessary services.

On Monday of this week, Jan. 10, her vision became a reality. It also

came with a surprise.

At 10 a.m. on Monday morning, a large contingent of Kleberg County and City of Kingsville elected officials and leading business people showed up at the corner of 12th and Lee Street.

They were there to do dedicate the new county wellness center that had taken well over a year to restore, and everyone was all smiles on a 50-degree January morning.

Judge Madrid, with Sister Elizabeth flanking him on his right, began the ceremony by welcoming everyone to the ribbon cutting.

"There are so many good things happening in Kleberg County, it is just great to see everything that is taking place," the Judge began. "Kleberg County is on the move!"

The Judge then went on to detail how Sister Elizabeth and he had hooked up on the Weavers of Love Project, and just how long ago it had been since she had approached about the idea of a wellness center.

"Sister Elizabeth said the wellness center might be possible through the help of the Coastal Bend Community Foundation," Judge Madrid said. "We talked to other agencies and entities, but man, when we got to this building did it ever need work. The roof was collapsing, the windows were all busted out, and the walls were crumbling," he said, before joking, "We should have torn it down and built a new building."

The Judge went on to praise a lot of people who had helped, especially Ray DeLaGarza, from the county.

"This is really Ray's building," the Judge smiled. "He did a lot of work on this."

After a dedication prayer by Father Bob from St. Gertrude the Great Church, the Judge was ready to snip the ribbon. But first, he had a surprise for Sister Elizabeth.

"I want to go to heaven," the Judge joked. "So I need Sister Elizabeth here to help lead the way.

"As the duly elected official here," he said looking at Sister Elizabeth, "I would like to dedicate this building to you, the Sister Elizabeth Smith Clinic."

The assembled crowd clapped and then Sister Elizabeth spoke, telling the crowd that "if you wanted something to get done, you went to Judge Madrid."

After a nice round of applause, the crowd was invited in to see the building. Upon entering, a poster hangs with the inscription "Dedicated to Sister Elizabeth for all her years of love and compassion."

Sister Elizabeth was gracious as always.

"Yes, I am surprised but I am so thrilled to see this day and to know we will be taking care of people who really need these services," Sister Elizabeth said.

Kleberg County gives COVID-19 update

After hearing a presentation on telephones and first responder equipment at Monday's regularly scheduled Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Rudy Madrid updated the court on the latest COVID-19 surge affecting the community.

"The county testing facility (on FM 1355) is up-and-running, and boy they are doing a really great job out there over the past week as the number of cases has started to rise," Judge Madrid said. "They are working and giving tests until as late as 10 at night, and they stayed open this weekend to give tests due to the huge demand and the need to protect public health."

Judge Madrid noted that the nation and the state of Texas has a shortage of tests kits, but Kleberg County got a huge number of tests in last week. In addition, the Judge notified the Court that he used Federal Cares Act Funds that had been set aside and ordered a couple of thousand additional tests from a private vendor so that Kleberg County could meet the testing demands brought on by the latest surge of the virus.

"All the schools are back in session today, and we'll be monitoring to see how well they are doing," Madrid said. "In addition, as of today no one has died in our county as a result of this, although I know Corpus has had a few deaths.

"From what I've been told, Spohn Hospital has had to admit some patients, but the majority were unvaccinated and the remainder had underlying conditions already. The hospital is telling me that if someone has flu like symptoms, they are to stay home unless they have a very strong reaction. If you go to the Emergency room, they are going to treat it like the common cold unless you have a serious condition,'' the Judge stated.

Prior to making those comments, the Court heard a presentation from First Net, a governmental mobile network built for First Responders.

Veronica Hare, who is charge of handling insurance for the county, introduced a couple of representatives from First Net to make a presentation to possibly be the county's mobile phone provider.

The representatives from First Net outlined the cost savings to the county, but emphasized the service features of the phone which would allow first responders to communicate with each other during an emergency or natural disaster without worry of a phone line being cut. After listening to the presentation, the court voted unanimously to engage with First Net and replace T-Mobile.

In other action before

-The county approved the purchase of three air conditioning units at the Kleberg County Jail at a cost of $27,166. Four Seasons was awarded the contract to install the new units, which will save the county more money in the long run do to greater efficiencies and a new thermostat system which will better regulate the temperature in the jail;

--The Judge informed the court he was going to postpone making a decision on purchasing materials for the new J.K. Northway Regional Training Facility until material costs come down. The project will then be rebid;

--The county is looking to revoke it's agreement with Martin Marietta because of the inferior quality of product being sold to the county.

The county attorney is looking into the matter in order to see how the county can legally get out of their agreement;

--The county also approved a resolution asking the Texas Department of Transportation to reduce the proposed speed limit on Highway 77 frontage roads--both northbound and southbound--from 55 to 45 miles per hour during construction and after (see related story on page.....)

City approves historic economic development grant

The Kingsville City Commission took an historic step towards improving economic development on Monday night, Jan. 10, when they unanimously approved a $500,000 Economic Development Grant Program designed to help local businesses grow and to bring new businesses into the community.

The proposed grant program and administrative manual had been in the works for a number of months, as City Manager Mark McLaughlin and City Economic Development administrator Manny Salazar worked on the details of the program. The two city officials, in conjunction with other city employees, developed an economic development administrative manual detailing how the grant program would work, and presented it to the council in December for approval. The program presented by the city manager and economic development office outlined a number of guidelines potential appli

cants would have to meet, and proposed a vetting committee comprised of experienced chamber of commerce members to look into the merits and qualifications of the applicants. The vetting committee was to be comprised of Mark McLaughlin, Manny Salazar, the city planner and other Chamber and business members from the community, which would be approved by the city council.

In December, however, a couple of council members had issues with the Chamber being involved and who was going to be appointed. After weeks of discussion, the council finally agreed to the vetting process and approved setting aside the $500,000 grant program designed to help local businesses expand or to help bring in outside businesses to the community.

"The Economic Development Grant will be a game changing resource for individuals who are looking to open or expand a business in our community," said Manny Salazar, President/CEO of the Kingsville Chamber of Commerce. "I am proud of our community for investing in economic development because creating jobs for our friends and neighbors is the only way to help our city grow. I hope that we see more programs and investment in the growth and development of Kingsville in the coming years."

Another item on the agenda brought out a number of people to speak on the subject of rezoning the property on the corner of South 6th Street and Escondido so a convenience store could be built there. The area had been zoned R-1, or residential, but the city zoning board had recommended to the council that the area be rezoned to C-1, or commercial, for the purpose of allowing a convenience store/deli to be built there.

A number of residents in the surrounding area spoke out against the rezoning, asserting that it would be dangerous to have kids walking to the store from Dick Kleberg Park and that the store was not needed as there are other convenience stores in the area.

An attorney for the couple who had requested the rezoning had a different story to tell. She pointed out to the council that over 80 people had signed a petition in favor of the rezoning, the store would also be a deli and gift shop, and that the property owners would be improving the lighting and overall look of the property.

When it came time to vote, the council voted 4-1 in favor of the rezoning, with councilman Hector Hinojosa voting against.

Another item on the agenda which drew a number of residents to the meeting was the proposal to ask the Texas Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on the north and south bound frontage roads while the I-69 construction is going on. Currently, TxDOT is planning to move the existing Highway 77 traffic onto to the frontage roads in the next few months with the speed limit set at 55 miles per hour. A number of area residents from the South Creek subdivision and the CM Nature's Own RV Park spoke out against the speed limits, citing safety concerns in trying to turn on or off the highway.

Mayor Sam Fugate was solidly in favor of the reduction, citing a history of serious accidents at the intersections on the existing Highway 77. The Mayor said there was a need to not only slow the traffic down, but also to increase enforcement of the speed limit. After some discussion amongst the council members, Mayor Fugate asked whether the city had the authority to reduce the speed limit without TxDOT's approval.

City Manager Mark McLaughlin replied in the affrmative, citing the TxDOT manual.

The city commission unanimously approved the resolution, and will take up the matter of the city reducing the speed limit to 45 miles per hour at its next meeting on Jan. 24.