Clarksville hospital (copy)

Construction has started once again on the long-delayed hospital in Clarksville, according to Dr. A.J. Hashmi, who has been pushing the project for years.

For years, Red River County has been without a hospital. In 2019, though, the county took a major step forward to restoring healthcare in the area.

In June, after five years of delays and setbacks, the closing documents were signed and construction work officially began.

The former Clarksville General Hospital, which cut 60 employees loose on its last day in 2014, was the county’s second largest employer, County Judge L.D. Wiliamson said, with the largest being Clarksville ISD.

“It was huge (when the hospital closed),” Clarksville Mayor Ann Rushing told The Paris News at the time. “They had over 100 employees there for the most part. And they were very good-paying jobs, it wasn’t like minimum wage. So when you take that many people out of a small town, and their ability to have enough money left over from their living expenses to spend, it really hurt.”

Rushing believes the new hospital, which, to her knowledge, will operate as a for-profit facility, will usher in a new age of economic stimulus for the city. The previous hospital was a nonprofit, Williamson said.

“I hope this is a catalyst for more things to come, but we’re very thankful to have a state-of-the-art hospital,” Rushing said. “This will create those needed jobs for economic development.”

Having a local hospital also means the city will be more likely to retain its two nursing homes, Clarksville Nursing Center and Focused Care at Clarksville, Williamson said.

“People don’t like to put their mothers and dads in places where they don’t have any hospital to take them to in case there’s an emergency,” he said.

Even after the papers were signed and the project was approved, construction experienced delays, as last-minute changes were necessitated for the building plans. Finally, in November, work began in earnest.

It is estimated that it will be 10 to 12 months before the work is completed and the hospital will be ready to open for business. The hiring process will likely begin six months into construction to allow time for training.

“It feels awesome to see work start,” said Dr. A.J.Hashmi, one of the primary investors of the project. “We had to go through all sorts of hoops to get to this point but I’m very happy to see work start.”

Roxton ISD consolidates with Chisum ISD

For more than a century, children attended school in Roxton. However, Roxton ISD shut its doors for good this year after merging with Chisum ISD.

The consolidation was years in the making, as a declining and revolving student population led to financial difficulties for the district.

The process involved agreement from both boards about how the consolidation will take place, meetings for public input on the agreements, a set time period to make any agreement adjustments and an election in both districts for registered voters.

The agreement states that through 2022, the Chisum ISD board will remain in place to see through their previously approved $26.94 million bond, which includes additions to the Chisum ISD campuses, such as a 600-seat fine arts building, a vocational/agriculture addition at the high school, more classrooms at both the junior high and elementary schools and a multi-purpose indoor facility and community center.

When it came time for the voters to take to the ballots and decide the future of the two school districts, they made their opinions heard loud and clear, with a significant majority supporting consolidation.

Roxton voters approved the measure, 115 for and 31 against and Chisum voters cast 104 ballots for and 21 against.

“Both communities have voted yes for kids,” Chisum Superintendent Tommy Chalaire said. “What that does is give us the opportunity to firm up our plans.”

The district’s closure tinged almost every aspect of its final year, from its final homecoming court to graduation and more.

“To all the other classes that did not get to graduate as Roxton Lions, you can still go out and do big things at your school. Just work hard, be friendly and have fun, because trust me, high school will be over before you know it,” valedictorian Kaylee Dillard said during graduation. “… May we all forever carry that Lion pride in our hearts.”

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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