Cong. Hinojosa visits Tri-County Consortium

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

U.S. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa met with local community leaders in Alice Friday to discuss continuing plans to bring a nursing school to the city.

Hinojosa met with representatives of the Tri-County Consortium for Advanced Education, a locally organized group of elected officials and business leaders seeking to build a nursing school in Alice.

The consortium held a full-day meeting Friday at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Alice to evaluate the status of the efforts to bring a nursing school to Alice and to discuss goals to meet that objective.

The Tri-County Consortium is continuing the work done by a committee that was originally formed in 2005 to determine the feasibility of building a school in the area.

That committee disbanded earlier this year, and the consortium, made up of many of the same members, was formed in May.

The three counties included in the consortium are Jim Wells, Duval and Brooks, and the three county judges for those counties are among the members of the consortium.

On Friday, Hinojosa told the consortium it had missed out on several funding opportunities because there has been no clear entity to which federal funding could be allocated. He challenged the consortium to partner with an existing entity or create their own entity to receive future funds.

"It takes all of the entities you represent working together, so the right hand knows what the left is doing," Hinojosa said. "I'm here to help you get whatever you want, but you've got to help yourselves."

Local business owner James Bradford, who is the chairman of the consortium, said Friday a large setback to the plan to bring the nursing school to Alice came earlier this year, when Coastal Bend College effectively withdrew its support for the project and announced plans to develop its own advanced nursing program.

"We decided to partner with Coastal Bend (College), and that came apart," Bradford said. "When that came apart, we formed this new committee."

One option the new committee is investigating is the possibility of creating a multi institutional teaching center, which would be created in collaboration with a university, community colleges, school districts and local businesses, Bradford said.

Bradford acknowledged the process has taken longer than anticipated, but said the group is refocused and ready to move forward.

"Our goal is to provide education to our community locally, to train citizens and build community support for a unified plan that focuses on developing educational programs," Bradford said. "We have been working diligently to accomplish the mission."

Although he pointed out several setbacks the project has faced, Hinojosa also provided examples of similar projects that have succeeded, and encouraged the group to continue working.

"I commend you for getting to this point, because a lot of people would have given up," Hinojosa said. "I promise you that as long as I am your congressman, you will have my support."