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Hidalgo-County-SealHidalgo and Willacy counties could qualify for millions of dollars paid by British Petroleum to help the Gulf Coast recover from an oil spill the 2010.

Tuesday, the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court listened to a presentation by Hugo Berlanga on how the county could qualify for a portion of the British Petroleum Restoration Fund. Berlanga said if hired to do the job, his firm would pursue funding for Hidalgo and Willacy Counties from monies in the Restore Act, estimated to produce between $3.526 billion and $11.8 billion in restoration funds across the Gulf Coast states. Texas’s share of the funds would have two streams. One is an infrastructure component (set at no more than seven percent of the money) and the other is an environmental component.

Berlanga said criminal settlements of $2.8 billion already allocated eight percent of the money, or $224 million, to Texas. All of this money will go into the environmental component. The Natural Resource Damages Act is estimated to be $5 billion and will be dedicated to environmental components.

Berlanga said 16 counties in Texas are part of the Coastal Zone Management Area. This includes all of Willacy County and 40 percent of Hidalgo County. Combined there is a population of 722,000 people, which makes the two counties eligible for 10.3 percent of the funding from the Texas Restore Act. Texas’s share of the money will range from $247 million to $826 million.

If there is no appeal, Gov. Rick Perry will decide the Texas allocation pattern by Sept. 1, 2014. It would be his job to make sure that all of the funds are not allocated to northeast Texas.

Berlanga said the money would be enough to finance the Rado Drain Project, for which the county has been seeking federal funding, and possibly enough to do the Delta Lake Watershed Project as well. Both projects would qualify because they would result in better use of the water available to the Valley.

Berlanga’s firm would charge $5,000 a month plus an administration fee of one and a half percent of the money received for administering the grant when received.

No action was taken on the presentation so the court would have time to study the benefits.

In other action, the court looked at a revised floor plan for the administration building currently being remodeled. The current seating capacity in the chamber is 60 chairs. Alex Palacios presented two additional options. One would seat about 100 people, and the other would seat about 170 people. Commissioners liked the floor plan that seated about 170 but said the area for executive sessions for the Court needed to be wider and suggested seating be cut to 150 chairs in order to give the executive session are another five feet in width.

Paul Villarreal, tax assessor/collector for Hidalgo County, presented the certified tax roll for 2013. The gross value of the county is $32,546,940,801. The taxable value is $27,911,368,187. Based on the current tax rate, the total levy after exemptions would be $163,168,241.

L&G Engineering was appointed to provide professional engineering services for the Shary Road Project.

Jim Barnes of Precinct No. 3 was appointed member of the Hidalgo County Commuter Rail District.

Ray Prewett was honored for 30 years of outstanding service to the Rio Grande Valley agriculture. Prewett was named “Man of the Year in Texas Agriculture" by the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association.

Drainage District

Under the Hidalgo County Drainage District meeting, a contract with IPR South Central through the Houston-Galveston Buy Board for repairs to existing drains in the amount of $4 million was approved. Trenchless Pipeline Rehabilitation Services, uses the product to line pipes in older drains and stop the seepage of sand through the pipe joints that often causes them to collapse.

Engineer Fred Kurth said the new process would make existing pipes last for many more years instead of having to be replaced. The product would be used on pipes in the Rado Drain Re-Route and Rehabilitation Project. It has the potential to save a number of existing pipes, resulting in substantial savings to the county on pipe replacement.

The money will be taken from the bond money set aside for contingencies.

Villarreal also presented the certified tax roll for the Hidalgo County Drainage District. The gross taxable value of the district was $31,018,077,276. After exemptions the total taxable value stood at $27,122,349,160. The total levy amounted to $25,985,271.

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