$4.6M grant paves way for Rio Bravo health center at no cost to taxpayers

After receiving and accepting a federal grant focusing on health services, Webb County Precinct 1 is now in the process of moving forward to building a public health center north of Rio Bravo over the span of three years.

The $4.6 million grant was said to have been the highest amount awarded and is part of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Community Resiliency program.

According to Precinct Commissioner Jesse Gonzalez, this health center will benefit the thousands of residents in the precinct who relies on the county’s services including vaccines, checkups, dental services, testing and more. To provide these services, the county will collaborate and ask for feedback from Mercy Ministries and Gateway Health Clinic to build the foundation of what will be a centralized health service facility.

“We are going to have their feedback in meaningful it, because I want to make sure it is built to the specs of a public health facility, the way it is supposed to be built,” he said. “So we need exam rooms, we need the equipment like dental chairs and all that stuff that goes into the clinics.”


The facility is slated to be 9,600 square feet and will not only serve as an area to receive health services, but it will also be a general assembly site for public meetings. Additionally, it will serve as more space for the county’s Indigent Health Department and have a multipurpose room serving as an evacuation center in cases of emergency.

Gonzalez said these grants have to be precisely followed, thus the three-year deadline to complete the facility.

The Webb County Health Care Services Department was established to assist low-income county residents with obtaining financial coverage for their medical expenses, their website stated.

They added the county has a high rate of uninsured individuals. With a current projected population estimate of 274,794, approximately 31%, around 85,000 residents, do not have any type of public or private health insurance helping to cover costs associated with their health care needs.

As a medically undeserved region, Gonzalez said after taking office in 2017 through collaboration with the Army Corp of Engineers, he was able to deliver two weeks of free medical services in El Cenizo for surrounding communities. He said the demand for health services was so great that the Army Corp of Engineers would plan to return three years later. However, this was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant application was started in October prior to the pandemic quarantine, with the county being awarded the grant April 14, according to James Flores, the Director of Community Action Agency and Economic Development.

“Now we don’t have to depend on organizations to be able to come down to Webb County and provide these services,” Gonzalez said.

As a result of the recent TIRZ agreement between the City of Laredo, Webb County, Laredo College and Killam Development, the county received a four-acre tract of land as a donation. This tract is north of Rio Bravo on the US 83 frontage road. With the county already able to access the tract, the process began on Monday to start the concept, design and build for the next three years.

“Just because we have three years as a deadline doesn’t mean we are going to take the entire year to construct and operate. I am one to make sure that my projects and precinct are going smoothly and efficiently through the process of any type of grant or deadline,” Gonzalez said.

He added with Laredo College South’s Gateway Clinic, some residents see a travel time from 7-10 miles. Those without personal transportation spending on the public transit services can see that trip take an entire day.

The proposed center will be centralized to allow for shorter travel time, and Gonzalez said the county will offer better transportation services for the precinct. Regardless of distance, community centers throughout the precinct will have free public transportation provided from the centers to the public health facility.

To quell concerns, Gonzalez the grant would fund the construction of the health facility 100%, with zero cash match by the county. This means the new center will have no impact on taxpayers.

To compound the addition of a health facility, Gonzalez said Webb County funds will be used to build a fire station in southern Precinct 1 to provide fire and EMS services to the area. This will also be worked on in tandem to the health center, but the funding has already been procured.

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