News

Ups and downs mark first 10 years of 2000s

Despite setbacks, locals open hearts and homes to those in need
By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor
Who could have guessed in the decade’s first year the entities in

Tom Drake (L) gives a tour of Rockdale Operations to Alcoa company officials and Wall Street investment specialists in November 2004. At that point, Alcoa executives said the local smelter was doing well and was ripe for more investment. The facility’s closing was announced less than four years later. Tom Drake (L) gives a tour of Rockdale Operations to Alcoa company officials and Wall Street investment specialists in November 2004. At that point, Alcoa executives said the local smelter was doing well and was ripe for more investment. The facility’s closing was announced less than four years later. Rockdale’s two biggest continuing news stories would switch places by its end.

In January, 2000, Alcoa’s Rockdale Operations officials had just announced they had locked up a much-needed lignite fuel source. Reserves in Bastrop and Lee counties would fuel Sandow generating facilities, and the Alcoa smelter, for the next 30 years.

Ten years later Alcoa’s Rockdale smelter is closed.

In Januar y, 2000, R ichards Memorial Hospital officials did not know if their facility would be open another 10 weeks, let alone 10 years. Financial problems, including government reimbursement for Medicare patients, had plagued RMH for 10 years.

Firemen peer over the roof of Ballard Carpets Etc., adjacent to Arledge Antiques, which were destroyed on December 9, 2002. Firemen peer over the roof of Ballard Carpets Etc., adjacent to Arledge Antiques, which were destroyed on December 9, 2002. Rockdale residents were given a stark choice, create a hospital district, with property taxing authority, or close forever.

Ten years later the Rockdale health care community is thriving under the auspices of Blackhawk Healthcare, an Austin-based owner/ operator of rural hospitals.

Rockdale is now on the verge of getting a new hospital.

Ups and downs

That’s the way this tumultuous decade has gone, the unexpected followed by the unanticipated.

By the very nature of news, much of it has been bad.

Rockdale has grieved over 9/11 terrorism and a landmark downtown fire, been shocked when a woman near a neighboring town was mauled to death by a pack of viscious dogs.

A bird’s eye view of early construction on the Sandow 5 power plant, Luminant’s $300-million investment in the area. A bird’s eye view of early construction on the Sandow 5 power plant, Luminant’s $300-million investment in the area. But area residents have opened their hearts, and pocket books, when Gulf Coast neighbors f led their homes, and Hurricane Rita, in 2006.

It’s estimated 1,500 of them spent the night in Rockdale.

Rockdale residents have taken pride in new school buildings, and seen a new economic base take hold with the completion of the Sandow 5 power plant.

The decade has certainly seen its ups and downs. A few of the major ones begin on page 4A.


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2010-01-07 digital edition



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