Officials break ground on $1.3 million fire, EMS station

Weslaco city leaders and other local dignitaries break ground at the site of the future north side fire and EMS station Thursday morning. Shown are: Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. "Eddie" Guerra, second from right; Precinct 3 Weslaco Commissioner Jose "J.P." Rodriguez, third from right; Weslaco Mayor David Suarez, fifth from right; Fire Chief Antonio Lopez, far left; and District 5 Weslaco Commissioner Letty Lopez, third from left. Photo by Dina Arévalo | darevalo@mvtcnews.com

Weslaco city leaders and first responders from across Hidalgo County gathered together on the city’s north side Thursday to break ground on what will become a state-of-the-art fire and EMS station.

The $1.38 million future facility, located on Mile 11 North Road, just east of Farm-to-Market Road 88, is expected to open its doors in time for the city’s centennial.

“The first time the truck will be housed at this station, the city of Weslaco will be 100 years old,” Weslaco Fire Chief Antonio Lopez said before a sizable crowd of fellow firefighters, law enforcement officers and elected officials.

Reflecting on the fortuitous timing, he wondered if the city’s founders imagined Weslaco would expand as far as it has today. “I think that’s huge for us,” Lopez said. “And we need to take pride in that. And I know that is going to go into the history books.”

The 10,500-square-foot facility will sit on three acres of land — part of a total of 48 acres purchased by the city less than two years ago.

It will feature three 100-foot long “drive through” bays capable of holding the department’s fire engines, as well as two 65-foot bays for ambulances, Lopez said.

“We’re very excited and we’re glad it’s coming to fruition,” Weslaco Mayor David Suarez said in an interview after the ceremony.

“We’ve been working on this a couple of years as we looked at our CIP plan, our five-year plan, with the city manager and the commission,” he said, referring to the city’s capital improvement plan.

City Manager Mike Perez explained the city has been saving money over the last several years in order to fund the completion of projects identified in the capital improvement plan.

“We were able to bring it within our budget,” Perez said of the so-called north side fire station.

“City staff is doing a lot of the work, and then we hired a contractor to build the building,” he said.

Weslaco-based Tri-Gen Construction will build the facility. According to the company’s website, the general contractor firm has worked on a number of commercial and residential projects, including for Progreso ISD, Texas State Technical College and Stores at Palms Crossing.

Eli Alvarado, of Alvarado Architects and Associates, is the project architect.

City leaders said the dual fire/EMS station will allow first responders to better serve not just Weslaco residents, but Mid-Valley residents as a whole. The site was specifically chosen to expand the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, Mayor Suarez said.

“This is so vital, this is so important to this area. It’s going to increase those services,” said District 3 Weslaco Commissioner Jose “J.P.” Rodriguez, a former law enforcement officer.

Fellow Commissioner Letty Lopez, District 5, echoed those sentiments.

“Today, as I was driving over here, I was taking the scenic route and driving through a lot of rural area, fields, and just opened my eyes as to what this fire station is going to do our city of Weslaco, to the safety of our citizens, but also the development of our city, the continuing of Weslaco, which is a city on the grow,” Lopez said.

Rodriguez added that the facility will help city leaders fulfill their obligation to meet the city’s increasing public safety needs. “As the city grows — as there’s economic growth and there’s residential growth — we recognize that we also have to keep up with our public safety growth,” Rodriguez said.

The new station will also be in close proximity to a sheriff’s department sub-station. “I think that they’ll be able to work in conjunction on a lot of issues related to public safety in this area,” Rodriguez said.

But, it’s not just the fire station city leaders are excited about. Plans are in the works to create a multiuse park adjacent to the fire station. It will include baseball and soccer fields, an amphitheater, a splash pad, a walking trail and outdoor exercise stations, Mayor Suarez said.

“It’s real exciting, I think, for the community and for the fire department, and for the organization,” Perez said.