A 300-foot stretch of new road links Walzem Road with Gulf Shores

A 300-foot stretch of new road will link Walzem Road with Gulf Shores Boulevard in the Ventura neighborhood in Bexar County, in conjunction with construction of a new emergency services district fire station.

Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert joined county officials and ESD 11 board members July 26 in a combination ESD 11 fire station groundbreaking-street opening ceremony.

The $650,000 roadwork extending Gulf Shores from Elk Trail to Walzem not only opens the northern end of the Ventura subdivision onto Walzem but gives the ESD access to hundreds of homes in Ventura and the surrounding area. Two new three-story apartment complexes are being built on Walzem and across FM 78 from Ventura’s current entrance as well.

“It means we’re going to be able to significantly reduce our response time to this territory,” said ESD 11 Fire Chief Richard Wendt. “It’ll increase our availability to help other area agencies as well, putting us closer to areas such as Converse, Windcrest, etc.”

The three-bay station should be completed in 16-18 months with no delays in construction or for supplies, he said. The station will be staffed with eight firefighters on each shift.

“It allows us more room for expansion, as far as apparatus and personnel,” he said. ESD 11 station no. 1 on Binz-Engleman Road at Five Palms Drive, “is maxed out on bunk room, and here we’ll be able to provide more services,” he added.

A three-way traffic signal will be installed at the intersection to ease traffic for Ventura motorists turning onto Gulf Shores. Wendt said the station will have a system to pre-empt the lights and turn them red when an emergency call necessitates fire trucks pulling out onto Walzem.

A set of warning lights will be installed along Walzem several hundred feet from the station — near Gibbs-Sprawl Road to the west, and near Elm Trail Drive to the east — to alert oncoming traffic when fire apparatus are about to leave the fire-and-safety facility.

Calvert addressed those gathered July 26, calling the road opening and station construction “the beginning of something special” for the area.

He noted that the presence of ESD 11’s station no. 1 has helped lower homeowners’ insurance rates and served as a catalyst for additional service to residents in the northeast reaches of the county.

“Those of you from the northeastern part of the county know, for too long … often it seemed that our government forgot we were out here,” the commissioner said.

“We were doing our part — working hard, providing for our families and paying our taxes, trying to follow the rules,” he said. “You and I both know we were not getting our fair share of county investment in return.

“But that’s not true anymore,” he added.

The presence of ESD station no. 1 and the planned Walzem fire-and-safety facility are examples of the reward of growth and expansion in the area. ESD 11 followed the opening of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office substation on Loop 1604 at Schaefer Road. The county also threw its support behind the city of Converse in its effort to open a new senior center there.

“We’re building a new $250 million hospital in Selma,” he said. “On Randolph Boulevard, University Health System, the Bexar County Hospital District and PAM (Post Acute Medical) Specialty built a long-term care hospital in the Royal Ridge area off Judson Road.”

Calvert mentioned a new $10.5 million park planned at the old Woodlake Golf Course off FM 78, and further investment in the Fields Of Dover subdivision.

“ESD 11 has helped bring the voices of the people for greater emergency services. This would not have happened without some consolidation and selfless leadership,” he said, adding, “this would not have happened without the community saying it wanted to invest in itself.”

jflinn@express-news.net

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