New hospital, full impact of Alcoa closing and ‘look to the west’
The year which ends Thursday night was one of some pretty spectacular happenings in the Rockdale area, both good and bad.

Alcoa’s Rockdale Operations completed its shutdown, two beautiful new school buildings opened, Luminant’s Sandow 5 Power Plant was finished and Rockdale had the hottest overall summer in the more than 80 years weather records have been kept here.

What’s going to happen in the next 12 months?

There are some interesting things on the horizon.

In 2010 look for Blackhawk Health Care’s plans to construct a new Richards Memorial Hospital to take wing.

Currently Blackhawk is in the midst of a legal process designed to allow the company to purchase the hospital and its land from the Rockdale Hospital District.

Once that happens the process of cost estimates, architectural plans, financing and, eventually, construction can begin.

A new hospital will be a huge positive for the community. Health care has become a major player in Rockdale’s economy, more crucial than ever with the Alcoa shutdown.

That’s an astounding statement when you consider that a handful of years ago this town was on the verge of losing its hospital.

Well, what about Alcoa? Anything new likely for 2010?

One factor for sure is looming out there. Most of the 1,100 Alcoans who were laid off in 2008 and 2009 will see their supplemental unemployment benefit (SUB) pay run out during the late spring and early summer of 2010.

That’s the point at which the full impact of Alcoa’s shutdown could start to show up in areas like unemployment rates and even school enrollments.

All we can do is wait.

Rockdale residents might want to heed Horace Greeley’s 19th Century admonition to “look west” in 2010. The Austin metro area continues to creep up on the western fringes of Milam County.

Next time you drive west out of Taylor on US 79, it’s instructive to look up and note you can now see Taylor and Hutto water towers at the same time.

Hutto is the new Round Rock. Taylor is the new Hutto. And Rockdale? It will be interesting to see what’s there when we look westward on Dec. 31, 2010.—M.B.

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