LAREDO (Feb. 23, 2011) — The Laredo City Council on Feb. 22 approved the donation of 3.9 acres of land located at the Laredo International Airport to The University of Texas System Board of Regents. The land will be used for the public purpose of establishing and operating a Veterans Administration (VA) Outpatient Medical Clinic jointly with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which will use part of the building for educational purposes.
The tract of land, not being used currently for aeronautical purposes, is immediately north of the Health Science Center’s Regional Campus located at 1937 E. Bustamante St. The Board of Regents voted to accept the land at its meeting on Feb. 18.
“The City of Laredo is proud to be able to donate this land to the UT Health Science Center’s Regional Campus for the express purpose of providing much-needed medical care and services to our local veterans, who previously had to travel hours out of town to receive the treatment they deserve,” said Laredo Mayor Raul G. Salinas. “This project would not have been possible without the commitment of Congressman Henry Cuellar, who was instrumental in bringing all parties together to help find a solution to the challenge faced by Laredo veterans seeking medical care.”
Congressman Cuellar helped secure construction funding for the outpatient veterans clinic. He has maintained constant communication with the Veterans Administration, including the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System based in Harlingen, as well as the City of Laredo and the UT Health Science Center to ensure the expansion process moves forward.
“Our veterans bravely answered our country’s call of duty, and now it is our duty to help our veterans by providing top-of-the-line health care services,” Congressman Cuellar said. “During the initial stages of this project, I secured funding for construction of an additional 16,600-square-foot expansion to the local veterans clinic. Now I am pleased to see that the city of Laredo and the UT Health Science Center have taken this important step that will secure a generous location for construction. I look forward to continue working with our partners to ensure this clinic becomes a reality.”
The land donation clears the way for early discussions regarding construction of the building, which will be funded by the Veterans Administration with design input from the Health Science Center.
The building, which will be leased to UT System for 30 years, has been designated for health care or health care education.
A similar arrangement is in place at the Health Science Center’s Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Harlingen, where the VA leases space for an ambulatory clinic, and where Health Science Center medical residents and faculty members provide care.
“We are pleased to begin the planning process with the Veterans Administration on the new building,” said UT Health Science Center President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP. “In addition to the VA Outpatient Medical Clinic, the building will provide additional educational and research space for our campus. We have a great model to follow from our Regional Academic Health Center in the Valley.”
The building will be used to augment opportunities for health professional education, graduate medical education and clinical research. The VA portion of the building is expected to have about 16,800 square feet of usable space. There are also plans for a parking lot with space for about 120 cars.
The land being donated to the UT Board of Regents belongs to the Laredo International Airport; however, federal guidelines stipulate that the airport is prohibited from disposing of airport property without receiving fair market value compensation. In 2009, the city of Laredo, under the urging of Council Member Johnny Rendon, in whose district the airport lies, purchased the property, and under Section 272.001 (J) of the Texas Local Government Code, donated the land for the express purpose of helping to develop the veterans’ clinic.
“This was the first of many projects the Laredo City Council has been proud to champion to help take care of our local veterans, who deserve our best efforts to honor them in any way we can,” Rendon said.
Two previous donations of airport property by the Laredo City Council to the UT System in 2000 and 2002, also completed under Section 272.001(J), helped establish the UT Health Science Center’s Regional Campus. This particular legislation, authored by State Sen. Judith Zaffirini and then-State Rep. Henry Cuellar, enables political subdivisions to donate, exchange, convey, sell or lease land or an interest in real property to an institution of higher education to promote a public purpose related to higher education. It is the goal of the city of Laredo to develop as much airport property as possible for medical use.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving U.S. federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.