Kleberg County has officially been awarded a $4.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, to support renovations of the J.K. Northway Exposition Center.

Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid made the announcement at this week’s Kleberg County Commissioners meeting on Monday and thanked Kleberg County employees, Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick, City of Kingsville officials and “all those who helped make this possible.” 

Madrid said in an interview in July that the EDA grant will fund renovations to the J.K. Northway as part of the Kleberg Regional Public Safety Training and Emergency Operations Command Center project.

The project will create a regional training facility for first responders in the area, and an emergency command center for any natural disasters in the future.

The facility will also be used for academic training for Texas A&M University-Kingsville, educational enhancement training for teachers in the local school districts and an upgraded site to host regional events in the area like the Kleberg-Kenedy County Junior Livestock Show.

“This is going to be a training facility, and a multi-complex coliseum by daytime,” Madrid said. “But it’s an emergency operation center by natural disaster.”

Madrid said the plans for the renovation include installing a helicopter pad for HALO Flight outside of the facility, expanding and adding a new parking lot and applying upgrades to the facility for concerts, events and conventions.

“It was crucial that something be done, not five years from now, not 10 years from now. But now it needs to happen right now,” Madrid said. 

The budget included the total project cost of $5,375,000, with the proposed award amount at 80 percent of the total project cost, which is $4.3 million from the EDA.

The remaining amount of money will be matched by Kleberg County and the City of Kingsville, which will not exceed $1.2 million.

“We appreciate the cooperation that the city has given us,” Madrid said. “We had to come up with the match money, and the city unanimously agreed to pay half of it. We sincerely appreciate their cooperation and their generosity in helping put money into the pot. And at the end of the day, they manage the facility, so it’ll be a huge team effort. I’m very eager to hit the ground running on it.”

“This investment from EDA will provide nine counties with a much-needed facility to prepare for and react to any future natural disasters,” Dist. 34 U.S. Representative Filemon Vela said in a statement about the award. “With the catastrophe that was Hurricane Harvey, these communities will benefit greatly by obtaining this command center.  This project will also attract future investments and facilitate economic growth in the region.”

“With the help of community, resilience, and sheer hard work, Texans have come a long way since Hurricane Harvey hit two years ago, but scars of its devastation still show throughout our state,” Senator John Cornyn said in a press release after receiving the news. “I’m thankful to the Trump Administration for providing this grant to Kleberg County to strengthen emergency preparedness in the area and boost economic growth.”

Madrid said the renovations are projected to be complete within 6-9 months.

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