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General Interest

County approves Healthcare Funding District

Hidalgo-County-SealThe Hidalgo County Commissioners Court Tuesday approved formation of a county Healthcare Funding District. The district will provide a mechanism for hospitals in Hidalgo County to receive federal matching funds to reimburse them for indigent healthcare services. Through the district, local hospitals will have access to Medicaid reimbursements not previously utilized here.

According to Hidalgo County Director of Health and Human Services Eddie Olivarez, the new Healthcare Funding District could provide access to up to $310 million in funding for indigent health care. This figure includes a local contribution and federal matching funds. The district will collect a fee from hospitals in Hidalgo County up to six percent of the hospitals’ aggregate net revenues. Once these fees are collected, they will be administered by the Hidalgo County Healthcare Fund District managers (Hidalgo County Commissioners). Through a federal funding match of approximately $1.50 for every $1, the county will then receive additional funds that will be distributed among Hidalgo County hospitals as reimbursements for indigent care. The legislation that authorizes this funding mechanism expires in two years, however.

OWLS (Objective Watchers of the Legal System) Virginia Townsend told commissioners to keep in mind that after the two years expires, the burden would shift to county taxpayers to pay an additional tax to replace the indigent care fee that is to be borne by the hospitals now.

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Bull Riders compete at Arena tonight

20130712 PBR JB-Mauney-FAR 8586 featureHIDALGO—This is the most dangerous sport in the country, Reece Arnold, general manager for Wolf Creek Cattle Company, said of professional bull riding. Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR) is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013, and will bring their professional bull riding competition to the State Farm Arena on July 12-13.

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STC proposes bond election, tax increase

20130710 Buenes-Tardes-Luncheon REED Myers 0004Bursting at its seams with over 31,000 students, South Texas College recently announced they will be asking Hidalgo and Starr County voters to approve $159 million in construction bonds plus a three-cent increase in maintenance and operation (M&O) taxes. The bond money would be used for the construction and equipping of college facilities. The property tax increase would help pay for the maintenance, staffing and operation costs of the college, including new buildings.

The proposed construction bonds would increase the tax rate by one-half cent, making the total proposed increase 3 ½ cents. The current tax rate for STC is 15 cents. With the proposed increase, the new tax rate would be 18 ½ cents per $100 valuation.

To accommodate current student enrollment growth rates and educational needs, the college wants to build four new buildings at the Pecan Campus; expand the Nursing and Allied Health and Technology campuses in McAllen; construct Health Professions and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classrooms and expansions at the Mid Valley Campus in Weslaco; construct a Health Professions and Science Center, expand technical workforce training facilities, construct a new library and expand the current one for a Cultural Arts Center and expand two other buildings at the Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City; establish a Regional Center for Public Safety to provide training for law enforcement in Pharr; and develop STEM labs and entry level workforce training programs at the STC teaching site at La Joya ISD.

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HCRMA to issue $60 million in bonds for county loop projects

Hidalgo-County-SealRepresentatives of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA) were in Hidalgo County Commissioners Court again on Tuesday, July 9, to obtain approval of an agreement that will allow the RMA to levy bonds for the planned development of the Hidalgo County Loop. The agreement approved by county commissioners Tuesday, pledges the county’s $10 vehicle registration fee to be used to retire the RMA bonds.

HCRMA Executive Director Pilar Rodriguez later explained that the RMA plans to issue $60 million in bonds. The debt would be issued over a 30-year payback period. Commissioners were told, based on the 2013 Capital Improvement Plan figures, from $90 to $100 million of debt could be issued over the next few years. While the details of the bond issuance are not finalized, Rodriguez hopes to fund the bonds by the fourth quarter of this year.

The money would first be used to retire a $12 million debt from a line of credit with First National Bank. The bond proceeds will primarily be used for project development costs and construction of SH 365, which will connect the Anzalduas Bridge with the Pharr Bridge. Bond monies will also be allocated for the International Bridge Trade Corridor (IBTC) and a reserve fund for the RMA.

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County road widening project approved; Alton to benefit

Hidalgo-County-SealALTON — Recently, the Texas Transportation Commission approved $16.8 million in funding for the widening of FM 681 and FM 2221 near the City of Alton.

Texas Department of Transportation Pharr District Engineer Mario R. Jorge explained the project might take two-to-three years to complete.

The anticipated start date is September, and the construction work will run for nearly three miles of roadway on FM 681/FM 2221 between Conway Avenue and La Homa Road.

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Fireworks safety tips for Independence Day

When using fireworks this Independence Day, Dr. Brad Scott, associate professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston recommends a number of safety tips.

Since many fireworks injuries occur in children, early education is the key. To keep the celebration safe:

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One-man show features autistic artist Anthony Rivera

20130628 Anthony-Rivera-featureLimitations and boundaries are most often created by belief and perception. The works of autistic artist Anthony Rivera defy those self-limiting definitions.

A room full of his works, testament to how self-limiting barriers can be brought down, will be presented in a one-man show hosted by the Upper Valley Art League. The opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 13, from 7 to 9 p.m., and his works will be on display through Aug. 7 in the UVAL gallery.

A very special part of the evening’s program will feature a demonstration with Rivera creating a new piece that night.

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Matchmaker Gets Federal Prison for Marriage Fraud

doj logoMCALLEN—United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced on June 21, an Edinburg woman had been sentenced to two years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa handed Sandy Botello Ramirez, 77, a sentence of 24 months in federal prison and further ordered she serve two years of supervised release following completion of that prison term.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, when sentencing Botello, the court noted she was a matchmaker of marriages that did not exist and that through those sham marriages, she committed a huge fraud on the U.S.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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