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The Hidalgo County Drainage District questioned where the $100 million from the 2006 bond issue was spent during a meeting on Tuesday, prior to the commissioners court meeting.
Commissioners were told there was $4 million left in the budget.
Once again, county leaders discussed problems at the Peñitas Pumphouse and why it was not repaired during the 2006 bond issue. Godfrey Garza, director of the drainage district, said the wall of the levee at Peñitas needed to be raised to the level of the other levee walls. He added many people think there is a hole in it.
“That’s not true,” Garza said. “The walls were never raised when the levee walls were raised. The International Water Boundary Commission had taken on that project but did not have money to do the necessary work. Garza previously expressed fear that in a hurricane situation, the lower walls at Peñitas could cause flooding along the levee through south Mission including Cimarron, McAllen, and portions of Pharr and into San Juan if the issue is not addressed. There is a four-to-five foot difference in the level of the walls.
Efforts had been made to get Commissioner Edward Drusina, with the International Water and Boundary Commission, to come back and fix the area around the Peñitas Pumphouse. However, he refused to amend the contract, saying the case was closed. If a storm was coming, the IWBC could place a reinforcement wall behind the Pumphouse within a few hours prior to the storm hitting the area.
Garza contends the best solution is to raise the level of the levee walls and the Peñitas Pumphouse, so the area does not flood. He said it would take 60 to 90 days to do the job and would cost the county between $300,000 and $400,000 to complete.
Since the repairs were part of the 2006 bond election, there was a question of why the project was not done in the first place and why it was turned over to IBWC instead.
County Judge Ramon Garcia questioned how the border wall got to be part of the 2006 drainage issue and why Hidalgo County was required to pay for any part of the wall (levees) other than the $10 million that was part of the 2006 bond election projects. The border wall was a federal project, not a county project. He questioned Garza as to whether the drainage district could get any of the money ($68 million) back.
Garza told the commission when FEMA decided the levee needed to be built up as part of the border wall, the former county judge turned over $68,088,867 from the 2006 bond election to the federal government to use for levee repairs and construction of the border wall. Of that amount, $10 million had been specified for levee repairs and the rest was for projects outlined in the bond election. An additional $1.9 million from the district’s general fund was also given to the government that matched the money with at $164 million grant to build the levee higher.
According to Garza, there were several projects rolled into the 2006 bond issue. The Raymondville Drain, an ongoing project, received money for economic and environmental studies along with land acquisition, which included property at the Edinburg Airport, US 281 property and a connection at North Main Drain. The budgeted figure for the Raymondville Drain was $37 million. A total of $24,733,673 was given to the Levee Project, leaving an unencumbered balance of $507,481.
The Mission Inlet Bypass was budgeted at $1.2 million. Of that, $558,033 was transferred to the levee project, leaving an unencumbered balance was 195,941.
The Monte Cristo Outfall was budgeted at $9,868,518. A total of $8,076,480 was transferred the federal levee project leaving an unencumbered balance was $46,927.
La Villa Drainage was budgeted at $9,578,860. Transfers to the federal levee project amounted to $8,256,930. No unencumbered funds were left.
A total of $12,110,408 was earmarked for the Peñitas Drain Basin. Of that $10,467,597 was transferred out, leaving $2,261.
The Jackson Drain was budgeted at $2,375,000. Of that $1,948,774 was transferred out, leaving $81,507.
Another $4,911,000 was allocated to the Weslaco Outfall. Of that $4,538,965 was transferred out, leaving no funds.
Under laterals the Alamo drain was figured at $3,703,113 but $1.583,865 was transferred out leaving $169,801. The Goodwin Drain was budgeted at $2,379,986. Of that, $2,332,097 was transferred out leaving no funds. The Linda Vista Lateral was budgeted at $1,301,714 but $1,230,368 was transferred out leaving no funds.
The Pharr-McAllen Drain was budgeted at $3.5 million. Of that, $2,416,512 was transferred out leaving only $143,507.
Detention ponds were budgeted at $3 million. Of that, $2,831,842 was transferred out, leaving a balance of $168,585.
With the money transferred out of other projects ($68,088,867) coupled with the $10 million originally set for levee repairs, the total spent on levees was $77,492,168 leaving only $500,368.
Also under consideration in the Tuesday meeting was the 1.5 percent fee paid to Garza’s firm Integ. Garza works with the county as a consultant but has his own firm has been discussed in previous meetings. Although he did not receive the full amount he would have received had all the projects been done, Garza and Integ were paid $570,013 from the 2006 bond election funds.
Garcia questioned whether Garza’s fee was based on the entire project, including the design work done by architects and engineers or only on the work where he actually supervised construction. He also said Garza said he was owed $88,000 for work on the projects for which he had not yet been paid and wanted to know the formula Garza used to calculate the money owed him.
Moving to the 2012 bond election, Garza told the court to date there were 22 professional agreements, five construction contracts with three more pending, and 51work authorizations on the projects so far. To date, $36 million was committed to projects, $1.7 million had been paid out and there was a balance of $18 million. Two projects had not yet been awarded.
After the report, the court and Garza went into executive session to further discuss pending matters.
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The 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.