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Commissioners consider capital improvement requests

Hidalgo-County-SealHidalgo County budget officers received about $342 million in requests for capital improvements within the county, Sergio Cruz, finance director, told commissioners court at its Tuesday meeting.

Cruz broke the number of requests down, saying the costs for requests for building projects amounted to about $281 million while equipment was figured at nearly $18 million. Road construction and repairs was the next largest request at just under $37 million, and infrastructure needs were figured at $822,300. Technology was figured at more than $5 million.

Cruz told the court the recent refinancing of bonds freed about $21 million to address these needs. There also was a contingency fund equal to about $3 million for capital projects.

The project members of the court were most concerned with was the need to reroof of the jail and do other repairs to the building. The cost of repairs was figured at $6 million but could run higher as inmates would be displaced and the kitchen would be temporarily shut down for repairs.

After discussion, the court decided to use the money to take care of jailhouse repairs and then divide the money left (estimated at about $18 million) between the county judge and the four commissioners so each could decide which of the $342 million worth of capital improvements requested were most needed in his area of concern.

In other business, the court approved a supplemental agreement with Chanin Engineering for the adult detention center. The court nominated three firms from the county’s pool of construction management service providers to be considered for the reroofing project, which will be overseen by Chanin Engineering.

Under emergency management, Oscar Montoya asked the court to authorize an application for the 2015 State Homeland Security Grant for Law Enforcement Terrorist Prevention Activities. The purpose of the grant is to provide emergency radio equipment for smaller cities that are unable to afford the costly equipment. It would include cities like Peñitas and La Joya to assure that in case of emergency situations, all police departments on the border would have compatible equipment and could stay in touch.

The court also was told an additional supplemental Operation Stonegarden Grant would be given to Texas Parks and Wildlife in the amount of $292,089 to enforce border security in parks along the border.

And an approval of an order creating a Solid Waste Disposal Program and an assessment of $25 for 90-days usage of dumpsites by people in rural Hidalgo County is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Under the elections administration, Yvonne Ramon told the court Hidalgo County would be piloting the Alliance Advocacy Program (ACT). It is a program that will place voting machines in high schools to encourage students who are 18 or older to exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections.

The program will be piloted in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, the McAllen Independent School District, the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District and the IDEA Schools.

Alex Palacios, construction manager for the renovation of the county administration building, gave his monthly report, and said walls on the first and second floors were taking shape. The final plumbing repairs are being done and electrical breakers are being installed. The new target date for completion is mid-February. There is a $1.5 million balance in the construction fund, which covers all costs if there are no unforeseen circumstances. Because the building was built over 30 years ago, there is always the possibility of a new problem arising, Palacios said.

A memorandum of understanding between Hidalgo County, the City of Edinburg, the City of McAllen, the City of Mission, the City of Pharr and the University of Texas System for the Medical School was approved. This agreement funds an additional $5 million for 10 years with McAllen giving $2 million, Hidalgo County and Edinburg providing $1 million and Mission and Pharr providing $500,000.

County leaders expressed concern over when to send a notice of nonrenewal to the current delinquent tax collector, the firm of Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins & Mott LLP in association with the Law Offices of John David Franz. The law requires the letter be sent at least 30 days prior to the end of the year. If no notice is sent, it is automatically assumed the contract will be continued.

Because the county plans to seek another law firm for the service, Purchasing Agent Marty Salazar said the notice needed to be sent early so the county would be free to publish a request for proposals and qualifications in order to hire a new firm.

Previous to this, firm tax collections were done by the Linebarger firm, which has offices all over the state. A representative of that firm was at the meeting but did not speak.

Meanwhile, members of the OWLS (Objective Watchers of the Legal System) came to the meeting armed with information on the recent arrest of one of the partners of the Linebarger Law firm in Dallas. DeMetris Sampson was recently indicted in Dallas in relation to a bribery case against one of the Dallas commissioners, John Wilson Price, who is facing federal charges of enriching himself through bribes and influence peddling. Sampson was one of several people representing different firms who were indicted.

OWLS told the Progress Times another partner at Linebarger who formerly worked in the Rio Grande Valley, Juan Pena, had been indicted in San Antonio and had served time on bribery charges. The OWLS wanted to ensure the court was aware of these situations should members of the Linebarger firm apply for the position.

Also Tuesday, Hidalgo County Multimedia Coordinator Jaclyn Treviño was honored for her award-winning video “Working for You,” which was given the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers Award of Excellence.

Aurora Gonzalez Cavazos, of La Joya, was honored for celebrating her 102 birthday. Cavazos was 2 years old when World War I began and 8 years old when women were given the right to vote. She was 42 years old when the civil rights movement began in 1954. She graduated from Nellie Schunior High School in La Joya in 1931. Her wedding to Blas Cavazos was the first in the area to be held at night because the family ordered a generator to run the new electric lights.

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