After a 29-year wait, a yearlong delay because of COVID-19 and a two-week delay because of rain, community members and local leaders were finally able to gather to celebrate the dedication of the emergency services training center at 1026 E. Main St. in Karnes City.
“This is a big day for local fire and emergency response personnel,” Karnes City Fire Chief Charlie Malik said at the June 2 ceremony. “A lot of hard work went into this and we’re proud of it. We appreciate all the support we’ve had and all the contributions that have been made to make this facility a reality.”
A land donation in 1992 by the Karnes City Chamber of Commerce provided the location for the center.
“The chamber gave us this property as a place to train, but we were never able to build it into what we wanted until recently,” Malik said. “It took a lot of money and other contributions to help us get the facility completed. Thanks to the chamber for getting the process started.”
Another key donation was made by the Karnes City United Methodist Church, which donated their old religious education building to be used as a training classroom for the center.
“We were able to get it remodeled and fixed up the way it is now, and a training classroom is definitely something that is needed and that donation was a big boost in getting this center finished,” Malik said.
The Karnes City Council and city staff also offered support for the project and never wavered, Malik said.
“We went to the city and told them what we wanted to do, that we wanted to make this property available to other local fire departments and emergency personnel so this could serve as a countywide emergency services training facility,” he said. “We needed help to get the job done, we needed water and sewer and dirt work to be done and they helped us with everything.
“Whatever we asked for, they didn’t bat an eye, they said ‘we’ll do it,’ and they never hesitated to come and help.”
Karnes City and Kenedy both made financial contributions which funded the three-story training tower, which is a centerpiece of the facility.
“They came up with the money to get that tower built, and the tower alone cost $365,000, which was very important,” Malik said. “ConocoPhillips funded what we needed to fund all the cement on the property, which was another big boost. And we also had an individual give us the money to build this great storage facility.
“We also had an oil company call and said they had old tanks which were no longer of use to them, but which are valuable to us, and that kept us from having to go out and buy those things for use in our training exercises. The community and local businesses really came together and we are so thankful for all of their contributions.”
Malik said as funds become available, additional training areas will be added, including for hazardous materials, aerial rescue and ag response.
“Right now, we have $687,000 invested in this facility and it’s all paid in full,” he said. “If someone were to come in and estimate the value of this facility it would probably be $3 million – we definitely got our money’s worth.”
Malik said being able to train emergency response personnel locally, and to work closely with other departments without having to travel outside the area will be a big benefit.
“We can all train and work together here, and that will help us keep the community safe and is such a huge investment,” he said.
Karnes City Mayor Leroy Skloss said he was thrilled to see the facility’s completion and credited Malik’s leadership.
“Chief, congratulations – great job, it was your leadership that got things done,” Skloss said. “We appreciate you and the fire department and all you do. I know this has been a long time coming, and you spent countless hours to make it happen. Without your leadership, we wouldn’t be celebrating this occasion today.
“I am also glad that you wanted to make this facility available for other departments to use, and we are very thankful for all the donations and support. We’re proud to have this training center right here in Karnes City.”
County Judge Wade Hedtke thanked all who worked together to build the facility and the donors and countless others who worked behind the scenes, and noted his connection to the building where classes will be taught.
“I went to Sunday school in that building and I know the Lord has had his hand on it and I pray he has his hand on each of the emergency response personnel here today and all who will benefit from this facility,” he said.
Karnes City Chamber of Commerce President Cheryl Moy also thanked everyone involved in making the center a reality.
“We appreciate everyone who had a hand in this facility being here today,” she said. “It will be used to watch over and bless our county, and we’re so thankful for that.”