“If you build it, they will come” seems to be Lumberton’s motto as of late. In addition to new commercial and residential construction, there are a few notable multi-million dollar projects popping up in the city.
Thanks to a FEMA Texas Safe Shelter Initiative grant received by Lumberton Independent School District and the city of Lumberton in 2011, Daniels Building & Construction is in the process of erecting an approximately $5.8 million FEMA-compliant dome on Highway 69 between Lumberton High School and Lumberton Intermediate School.
The disaster-resistant, steel-reinforced thin-shell concrete dome will be 25,447 square feet and will be able to withstand 200 mph winds, according to Fran Cole, project director and federal programs coordinator at Lumberton ISD.
“FEMA developed a $50 million project to build safe rooms in the counties that bordered the Texas Gulf Coast,” Cole said. “Because Lumberton does have an edge along the (Neches) river line, we were eligible for one of these safe rooms.”
Cole said the dome would be used for a command center for city and county officials during emergency situations or disasters such as a hurricane for not only Hardin County, but possibly for Jefferson and Orange counties, as well. It consists of two sections — a safe shelter and a fine arts facility, which can be utilized by the school district on an everyday basis for educational purposes.
According to ABC Domes, the company that developed the structure, the new Fine Arts Center, designed by Cutright & Allen Architects Inc. of La Grange, will be utilized as a 1,500-seat fine arts/ auditorium/convention center and will also function as a FEMA-compliant safe room with capacity for 1,133. The dome could also be rented out for weddings, banquets and other events, providing revenue for the city, Cole said.
Walk in the park
Residents of Lumberton will have a new place to play on Highway 421 — the Lumberton City Park. According to Lumberton City Manager Steve Clark, the 90-acre area was purchased by the city in 2008 for around $534,000. Including development and other costs, the city has around $1.6 million invested in the project.
The park is in the early stages of development, said Lumberton City Councilmember and Chamber of Commerce President Andy Kelley, with only a 1-mile road for cyclists and joggers, but future plans include hike and bike trails, nature observation stations, a wetlands area, sand volleyball courts, multipurpose playing fields, and even a disc golf course.
“There are tons and tons of people that show up for disc golf course tournaments,” Kelley said. “Not only does it give one more aspect at the park for good, wholesome entertainment, but another good aspect is, once we have that in, we could host a tournament out there, and that benefits the whole city. We fill up our hotels, our restaurants and our other merchants are benefiting from that.”
While there are extensive plans for the park’s future, Kelley said that it is always important to start with the basics.
“We got the road completed in April and have started construction of bathrooms,” he said. “We wanted to get a good bathroom for the people walking and jogging, located centrally for the playground and for the people that are using the picnic facilities.”
In addition to the playground equipment, which Kelley said would probably need to be expanded because there are so many people using it, the park also features seven covered picnic structures located next to the playground that allows family members an opportunity to relax while watching the children play. All structures contain barbecue grills as well, Kelley said.
The park was also the site of the annual Village Creek Festival last April, which prior to 2013 was held on the Lumberton Middle School grounds on Highway 96.
“It gives us so much more room for parking, so much more room for rides and for future growth,” Kelley said. “All in all, it was the best festival that we have ever had. The vendors were happy with it. I talked to several vendors who said that they’ve had the best year that they’ve ever had out there.”
The city is also planning to have an approximately 25-acre lake dug at the park, which Clark said would be dug at no cost to the city by a gentleman who has agreed to do the work in exchange for the dirt.
“Our anticipation is to build a pier out on it and stock it where kids can go out and fish with their parents and just relax and have a good time out there,” Kelley said.
Lack of healthcare facilities might be a reason some may deciding not to move to Lumberton or Hardin County, but soon this will no longer be a factor. Altus Health Care Management Services began construction on a new $10 million-plus 24/7 ER center in September 2012 and plans to have the two-story, 40,000-square-foot facility ready to receive patients by December 2013.
Initially, the hospital, located at 137 N. LHS Drive, will only have four beds for patients but will offer most of the same services offered at other hospitals, according to Kevin Herrington, regional executive vice president at Altus.
“Our initial focus is going to be ER care,” he said. “The community can feel well assured that when they come to this facility, they will be treated and stabilized just as they would at the ERs in Beaumont. We’ll have around 40 employees total, including board-certified physicians, ER trained staff, nurses, X-ray technicians, cardiovascular technicians, and laboratory technicians. Anything that happens at a hospital ER can be handled here.”
According to Herrington, Altus will be able to handle the most common emergency care situations including the occasional baby that decides he or she doesn’t want to wait through the 15-mile trip to Beaumont to be delivered.
“We don’t want people to come here (to deliver) unless it is an emergency,” he said. “But if they can’t make it to the hospital, they can come here. We’ll actually have an incubator here that can transport the baby to Baptist (Hospital).”
Herrington said that any patient whose situation requires a specialist or surgery would also be transferred to Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital in Beaumont.
Other features will include an 18-wheeler-powered generator that will be able to supply the whole building during power outages, a triage room, a pediatrics room, an ultrasound room, a kitchen, a nurses’ station, and there will be an additional 10,000 square feet available for expansion, according to Herrington.
“Our goal is to have very customer-focused service,” he said. “At other ERs, you will wait hours for care. Here, our model is more of a VIP atmosphere … very one-on-one care.”
The SETMA Clinic, which will be approximately 10,000 square feet of space rented by Southeast Texas Medical Associates in the same building as the Altus hospital, will be able to serve around 200 patients a day and will offer the same services as SETMA’s other locations in the Golden Triangle, according to Dr. James Holly, CEO of SETMA.
“We think it’s going to be the most exciting thing in healthcare in Hardin County ever,” Holly said. “We will have specialists there part time and can treat anything that any family physicians, nurse practitioners, or cardiologists can treat.”
Holly added that SETMA’s database is linked together so if, for instance, someone who is a regular patient at one of the other SETMA clinics needs to go to the doctor in Lumberton, their records would be available to physicians at the clinic.
Holly said it only made sense for SETMA to expand north to Hardin County.
“If you look at demographics, it’s a large draw,” Holly said. “Lumberton is a natural hub to the entire area. All areas in Hardin County have underserved people that have to drive long distances to receive care that they need.”
Holly said SETMA looks forward to serving the Lumberton and Hardin County communities.
“It’s a wonderful time to be in healthcare,” he said. “It’s a great place to live and work, and we are looking forward to it.”
SETMA plans to open the clinic to patients beginning in January 2014, Holly said.
Future so bright …
These projects are only a few of many projects planned for the future, according to Lumberton city officials and businesspeople. Clark said while he has heard some Lumberton residents complain that Lumberton, which now has a population of more than 13,000, is not the town it used to be, he is excited about the future. Kelley echoes his sentiment.
“The growth is continuing to come to Lumberton,” Kelley said. “As we see this growth continue, we’ll make the plans we need to make those growing pains as minimal as possible, and I just see continued growth and prosperity for everyone in the city of Lumberton.”