Gonzales County ESD 1 opens new central station in Gonzales


Wet weather could not dampen the spirits of those who came to celebrate the grand opening of the Gonzales County Emergency Services District No. 1 Central EMS and Rescue Station in Gonzales on Thursday, March 21.

A ribbon cutting and flag raising ceremony was held for the new facility at 1700 Water St. as well as an open house so the public could tour the building, which was completed earlier this month by contractor Weaver & Jacobs Constructors of Cuero at a cost of a little more than $4.73 million, with design done by Bill Berger of Rawley McCoy & Associates Architects of Victoria.

The new building creates plenty of space to house not only ESD administrative offices, but also a meeting, room, classroom, bedrooms for those on duty, training area, kitchen, restrooms, supply room, a staff lounge and plenty of ambulance bays and space for all search and rescue assets. It allows the organization to combine all of its functions that existed in the Qualls Street building and the 1724 Hickston location into one centralized site with immediate access to US 183 (Water Street) just down from the intersection with US 90-A (Sarah DeWitt Drive).

The facility also has a three-flagpole flag mall dedicated to the memory of the late Noel Kenneth “Buster” Lindemann, who served on the Gonzales Hospital District Board as well as the Gonzales EMS Board for many years before he passed away in November 2017.

The number 32, which hangs over the southernmost set of three garage bays, is a tribute to the Immortal 32, the men from Gonzales who snuck across enemy lines to answer the call for help from Lt. Col. William Travis and the Alamo defenders.

“May the spirit of the Immortal 32 forever inspire the men and women who serve the people of Gonzales County who are sick, injured, or suffering and may it be with compassion, integrity, and selflessness,” said Dr. Matt Pennington, lead pastor of First United Methodist Church of Gonzales, during his invocation.

“God, we thank you for this station and for the men and women who will fill it and work from it. We ask your blessing on them and on this community. May these EMS workers and rescue workers and all of their team who run in when others run out, as well as all of the other first responders who do the same, be blessed with your protection.”

Andrea Fischer, the communications director for state Sen. Lois Kolkorst, R-Brenham, presented EMS executive director Eddie Callender with a proclamation celebrating not only the new station, but the 50th anniversary of community emergency services in Gonzales since the creation of the Gonzales County Volunteer Ambulance Corps in March 1974 as well as the 35th anniversary of the Emergency Services District.

The resolution noted the addition of the new station “will allow employees and volunteers to better serve the community while offering the public opportunities to learn CPR, first aid and other emergency care skills” while recognizing that “for half a century, Gonzales County Emergency Services staff members and volunteers and others have worked tirelessly to help ensure the continued health, safety and well-being of area residents.”

ESD Board Chair Rene' De la Garza also recognized former ESD Commissioner Donald Rihn for his efforts to help save the EMS, which very nearly closed six years ago.

“Donald was so instrumental in getting us into safety and getting our books cleaned up,” De la Garza said. “We've come a long way from then. We were barely able to keep the doors open at one time, but because of the team that we have, we’ve been able to (build this building) and I am really proud of what we’ve done here for our community.”

Vice President Dr. Commie Hisey said he had heard some people question why Gonzales should have such a nice building, to which he asked, “Why not?”

“We have people that are this dedicated to what they do and they deserve a place to rest at night. They deserve this place for education,” Hisey said.

Hisey said the efforts of Callender and his leadership team — which includes Belinda Richter, Allen Linebrink, Michelle Molina, Jess Fullilove and Scott Evan — kept the EMS from closing its doors after an embezzlement scandal involving former administration.

“I want you all to just understand we were close to losing this and these people helped turn this around,’ Hisey said. “And we were able to save back money, get new ambulances and build this and not go to a bond issue or anything else. And it's been with God's guidance that we've done that. I just appreciate having this available for the health care of my family and friends here.”

Callender gave a special shout out to Dr. Robert Payne Williamson, who was present and spent nearly 45 years serving as medical director for the Gonzales EMS from March 1974 to December 2018.

“Most anybody who's ever worked as a volunteer or a paid person in EMS in Gonzales County since 1974 has worked under the license of Dr. Williamson,” Callender said.