By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
James Parkey, of the Houston-based consultant firm DP Consulting, spoke to the Port Isabel City Council Feb. 10 about the practicality of adding both a hotel and a hospital to the City. Both ideas have long been discussed but have never materialized, but a pair of upcoming feasibility studies may determine whether either of these ideas are worth future development.
Since the inception of the Port Isabel Event and Cultural Center, the suggestion of adding a hotel on the adjacent property has been brought up periodically to serve not only as an incentive for parties to host events there and be within walking distance of a place to stay, but as an additional source of revenue for the City. A feasibility study was conducted in a period of weakened economy in 2009, which determined that the conditions simply didn’t support its creation. After a failed attempt to acquire money from the state to conduct another study, a new one is expected to commence this year devised by DP Consulting. It would be at no cost or risk to the City and will determine if the City is ready for these additions.
The question was asked by Mayor Joe E. Vega during a presentation on the matter at a regular City Commission meeting was what would happen if the hotel was not able to sustain itself financially. Parkey made it clear that if the project moves forward, it would be the private investors taking the risk not the taxpayers.
“We’re ready to move ahead with [the feasibility study],” said Parkey. “If the feasibility study is questionable, then none of us will proceed with the project. If it is as positive as I think it will be then we will all sit down and collectively ask ourselves those questions. And at some point there is a leap of faith … I’m sure this is something you went through when you made the decision to remodel the Yacht Club. But in any case you’re not the one bearing the cost risk. It would be the investors of it,” he said.
The study would take approximately four to six weeks and if it was acceptable to all parties, DP Consulting would request the set up of a local government corporation working with the City’s Economic Development Corporation to issue revenue bonds to bill it. An important factor is whether there is an increase in utilization percentage to move forward with additional development.
It’s hoped the project would lead to additional jobs and encourage more services that the local convention center can provide, boosting financial gain in a multitude of ways.
As for the addition of a local hospital, that would likely be years farther down the road, but it would allow citizens and visitors with emergencies to stay in the area rather than traveling over a 30 minutes away to either Harlingen or Brownsville for care. This would potentially benefit the entire Laguna Madre region, a community which is home to several older citizens and sees dramatic fluctuations in population during the winters and springs.
Mayor Vega like the idea of a hospital being so close to the citizens he oversees. “I do agree that just by looking at the demographics in the area which we have South Padre Island, Long Island, Laguna Heights, Laguna Vista, Port Isabel, even Bayview, I think we have a total population of close to 20,000 people,” he said. “Now you bring in Spring Break and you have about 100,000 people in the area and then you have the Winter Texans that also increase the population… We do need a hospital here,” he said.
“What we would like to do is make a very similar proposal that we do a feasibility study on what the needs are collectively in these four or five communities,” said Parkey. “The image of what I think would work from my own community is an emergency care rehab (sic) center that also can do minor surgery and keep people overnight. You’re taking about twenty or thirty beds,” he said.
The City Council unanimously decided to move forward with the hotel feasibility study Feb. 24.
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