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DeNeal: Community effort results in progress for Eldorado

updated: 6/11/2021 5:12 PM

Plenty of people were on hand Monday when the city of Eldorado, Ferrell Hospital and elected representatives gathered for the announcement that Benton Street will be expanded around the hospital.

It's a story that probably won't have a lot of impact on communities outside of Eldorado. The project will widen the portion of Benton Street from First Street to Organ Street. At the state or national level, it may not be a blip on the news radar.

But it's a project critically important to the safety and improvement of the community. Benton Street has always been fairly narrow near the hospital. When the main entrance was moved to the Benton Street side of the hospital as part of the hospital's gigantic renovation project, it meant many more people would be walking across the road. The expansion will also mean new ADA-compliant sidewalks will be poured along the widened road and new curbs and gutters, along with a new storm drainage system, will be installed.

It could be any small town in the country, where a community hospital surrounded by narrow streets has limited safe and convenient access to that hospital.

For that reason and for the love of the Eldorado community, local elected officials worked diligently to ensure that the project would happen.

In remarks state Sen. Dale Fowler made at the public announcement of the project, he credited Eldorado Mayor Rocky James for making sure the project didn't get put on a back burner.

James, Fowler said, called him at least once daily to stress the importance of improved public safety near the hospital. Fowler, himself an Eldorado native, knew this was a project that needed to happen. In addition, Ferrell Hospital CEO Alisa Coleman and members of the hospital's board of trustees also pushed for the project at every opportunity.

Many of the same people made the same effort when Ferrell Hospital first announced it would ask for approval to undergo the renovation project. They traveled as a group to Springfield to make their case for the project, and at first, they were turned down.

This group of people, whether they be city officials, state representatives and senators, hospital administrators and board members or outspoken members of the community didn't back down then and got approval for the renovation.

And, they didn't back down now when it came time to ensure the Benton Street expansion would happen.

Sometimes it's hard to have faith in public works projects, especially when you come from a small rural community.

However, the folks involved in both the hospital renovation and the Benton Street expansion truly deserve praise for their efforts.

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