With grant from the hospital district, Marfa will have a new ambulance in 2023

MARFA — At the most recent Big Bend Regional Hospital District meeting on Thursday evening, Marfa City Manager Mandy Roane appeared before the board of directors to make an admittedly “big ask” — an additional $93,000 in grant money, on top of the $73,000 the district allocated in 2021, in order to secure a much-needed new ambulance for the city.

“It’s a dire situation,” said Roane. The city is currently utilizing a loaner while its ambulance is undergoing a remount. The repairs were expected to have been finished in the spring, but have dragged on for months due to supply chain issues.

Ultimately, the district granted $50,000 to the cause. With that new amount added onto the district’s previous $73,000 grant, plus $50,000 from Presidio County and $45,000 from the City of Marfa and and Texas J Regional Advisory Council (JRAC), the city was still short the $291,000 price tag of a new ambulance, Roane told The Sentinel — so the city budgeted to cover the difference, she said, adding she’ll be applying for grants to help alleviate the impact on the budget.

Roane told The Big Bend Sentinel on Tuesday that the order for the new ambulance has been placed, and is expected to arrive by mid-to-late 2023. The ambulance that is currently out of commission should be remounted and returned to the city within the next 30 days, she said. While the city is making do with one out of necessity, the goal is for EMS to have two operational ambulances available. 

The ongoing troubles with the city’s emergency services are intermingled with larger issues with Marfa’s troubled infrastructure, complicated by a limited budget. The city had budgeted for the ambulance, Roane explained to the board, but has since suffered some “big hits” to its bottom line, including a water storage tank that will cost $750,000 to replace. And while the city has explored other grant options, its options are limited — it doesn’t qualify for Community Development Block Grants through the State Department of Agriculture, for instance.

Grant money from the hospital district funding a new ambulance will allow the city to allocate funds for necessary infrastructure repairs.

“We have so many things failing right now,” Roane said. “The water storage, the towers, the streets … our infrastructure is failing, and we are not eligible for grants, and we are eligible for one of your grants, so we are asking for some continued help to help take care of the ambulance, so we can put those other funds towards things we cannot get grants for.”

The $50,000 sum was one of several “medical enhancement grants” awarded by the hospital district each year to entities looking to enhance health and medical care in the community. On Thursday, the district gave $10,200 for medical student housing at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Nursing; $15,000 for medical equipment at Alpine’s Sunshine House Senior Center; $10,000 to Terlingua Fire and EMS, to fund first responder training and supplies; $15,000 to the Marathon Health Clinic, for furniture and equipment; and $9,800 to the Alpine Public Library, to fund an online resource directory for social and medical services.

The library will carry out the necessary data collection and set up the database, said JD Newsom, the hospital district’s executive director. The funds from the district will go towards the licensing fee and other costs associated with getting the directory up and running.

“I think there’s a lot of programs for people, but people don’t know where to get help,” Newsom told The Sentinel. “With this resource directory, people can say, ‘I need help with housing. I need help with food. Where do I go to see a doctor?’ This is going to be a really great resource for the whole community — they’re going to help build that for us.”