Less than 24 hours after KPRC 2 Investigates reported high priced salaries for a multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded medical facility at NRG Park that sits empty, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo described the original $60 million contract as: “The best deal we could possibly get for Harris County.”
“It was pretty much the last medical shelter we could have access to. There weren’t any others, it was: take it or leave it," Hidalgo told KPRC 2 on April 7.
Hidalgo admits that the county cut the deal out of desperation. The 250-bed makeshift facility will cost taxpayers $17 million, which was quoted at $60 million.
County Commissioner Jack Cagle, who voted for the costly project, said NRG Park was the only avenue explored.
“At the time that we voted on this in commissioners court, there were no other alternatives presented,” he said.
County officials, including the health department and NRG representatives, met Wednesday morning to discuss the future of the temporary healthcare facility at NRG Park. To date, the facility has not been utilized.
“It’s time that we do everything we can to begin the process of unwinding and cutting the cost on this hospital," said Cagle.
Cagle said he has informed Commissioners Court that he will bring an agenda item next Tuesday to discuss the termination of the contract. Harris County signed a partnership with Deer Park-based company, Garner, to run the hospital, which is earmarked to serve as an overflow if the system became overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
KPRC 2 Investigates found several highly compensated positions listed by Garner at the facility, including two public information officers at $2,012 a day. While the county’s contract states: “contact with the news media, citizens of Harris County, or governmental agencies shall be the responsibility of the county.”
Cagle said he is uncertain what kind of oversight was done before the execution of the contract.
“We are paying way too much money, to way too many people for a job that doesn’t need to be done,” he said.
Judge Lina Hidalgo said she is thankful the county didn’t need to use the facility for this first round of coronavirus cases.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t need additional capacity,” she said. "We are exploring right now whether we need to continue with that facility or if there is an alternative for the capacity.”