City of Presidio to receive gift ambulance from Winkler County 

PRESIDIO — At last Wednesday’s meeting, the Presidio County Commissioners Court finalized the formal acceptance of a big gift — a new ambulance that will service the City of Presidio. Winkler County had a surplus ambulance and decided to gift the ambulance to Presidio County, which then identified the City of Presidio as the community with the highest need. 

After years of struggling to keep the city’s fleet up to date, the donation was welcome news. Even among the far-flung communities in the Big Bend, Presidio’s ambulances have quite a ways to travel — the typical run from within city limits is 88 miles in each direction. Those miles add up quickly, and the city’s EMS service frequently deals with breakdowns and other mishaps on the long road to Alpine. 

The quest for a new ambulance began in 2019, when former EMS Director Malynda Richardson started applying for grants to refresh the city’s beleaguered fleet. Years of bad bookkeeping on the city’s part bungled her efforts to secure outside funding, and it took a coordinated effort to seek immediate assistance from the Big Bend Regional Hospital District while also beginning the long, difficult process of addressing the city’s troubled financial history. 

The ambulance donation was coordinated by Precinct 4 Commissioner Buddy Knight, whose nephew is a county commissioner in oil-rich Winkler County. Winkler County has a surplus ambulance — a 2011 International with 40,000 miles on it. Ambulances typically get “retired” when the odometer hits 100,000, meaning that Presidio will still get plenty of use out of the new unit. 

Both Presidio City Administrator Pablo Rodriguez and Presidio Municipal Development District Executive Director Jeran Stephens attended the meeting to express their appreciation. As long-term locals, both understood the importance of having an ambulance fleet in good shape. “It’s a big deal to have ambulance service out here in the middle of nowhere,” Stephens said. 

The county had originally hoped not to assign the ambulance to a specific community and instead use it as a county-wide backup that either Marfa or Presidio could use. That idea was prompted, in part, by talks about developing a region-wide EMS service spurred by the death of former Alpine EMS Director Mike Scudder, whose passing left the city to depend on Terlingua EMS for service. 

The commissioners quickly realized that wasn’t an option — regulations are set by the Texas Department of Health, which stipulates how ambulances are stored, serviced and maintained. After weeks of discussion, the commissioners agreed that the ambulance would benefit the city of Presidio the most. “It’s hard for [Presidio] to keep up with the wear and tear because they just have such a long distance to go to get to the hospital,” said County Judge Cinderela Guevara. 

The donation means that the city will eventually have two functioning ambulance units. The City of Presidio ordered a new ambulance with help from the Big Bend Regional Hospital District back in the spring, which currently serves as the primary ambulance. The donated ambulance will allow the city to rotate ambulances in case of a breakdown or other emergency. 

Though a timeline for picking up the ambulance from Kermit has not yet been set, given the supply-chain setbacks across the automotive world, the process should be much quicker and smoother than ordering a brand-new ambulance. City Administrator Pablo Rodriguez was thrilled with the news. “It’ll make sure that the problems we’ve had with getting stranded will be lessened,” he said. “We’ll be able to provide better care for our citizens.” 

The new ambulance isn’t all the city of Presidio has to look forward to. Over the summer, the Big Bend Regional Hospital District announced that Presidio would split a $5.5 million dollar grant from the USDA with Terlingua. Presidio’s share of the funding will go to creating an after-hours clinic to serve patients evenings and weekends. “Presidio County has made really good progress and we just have to keep working at it,” said Guevara.