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20120329-Hidalgo-County-Annual-Report-012PHARR — Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia said the county’s drainage is one of the key initiatives in his administration at last week’s State of the County where elected officials discussed the progress and goals of the region.

“A good drainage system is badly needed,” he told the audience of elected officials, including city and school officials.

Drainage is one of the three infrastructure improvements needed here, he said. The others are transportation improvements and the renovation of the historic courthouse building.

The county’s drainage advisory committee is nearing the completion of its improvement plan. The committee serves as a link between stakeholders and residents – a mix of elected officials and community and business leaders – in the development and planning of the plan, officials said.

Garcia said there is approximately $29 billion worth of property in the county that must be protected from flooding in the event of a hurricane.

In total, the county has about $340 million worth of drainage improvement needs.

“It’s time to do it,” Garcia said. “We cannot just keep kicking the proverbial can, we must get involved.”

While discussing the ongoing efforts of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority to develop transportation systems that are less congested, Garcia also presented a case for the renovations of the Hidalgo County Courthouse.

“It’s not an adequate building,” the judge said, calling major repairs a “win-win” for the county.

The county needs to create nearly 361,000 square feet of space to accommodate the county’s growth and needs. Currently, the county has 101,000 square feet of space, which is scattered in different buildings.

To address current and future growth, architects have proposed construction of an eight-story building in the draft at a cost of approximately $53 million.

Garcia said the use of a tax increment financing zone could be one method of funding. With the City of Edinburg, the county hopes to develop a zone several blocks around the courthouse square to help pay off the debt of the construction. He said the county doesn’t want to impose the burden of the payment on taxpayers.

“We need to start thinking about future generations,” by making infrastructure changes, Garcia said.

The judge also discussed the county’s fund balance, which is currently about $35 million. Previously, before Garcia took office in his first tenure as judge, the fund balance was approximately $700,000.

Commissioners of each county also spoke at the event held at the Pharr Convention Center. Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe Flores did not attend, but his administrator Dr. Mona Parras spoke about the convenience of the precinct’s multi-purpose facility and street lighting established in local colonias.

Sheriff Lupe Treviño said the crime rate here has decreased in 2011. Violent crime decreased by 22 percent, property crime decreased by eight percent and the over-all crime rate index was also reduced by eight percent. This is the second lowest crime rate period in about 15 years, he explained.

“Our duties are to go beyond law enforcement work,” Treviño said. “We strive to keep our citizens aware of current crime trends and educate them how not to become victims.”

That awareness includes the Awareness, Prevention and Enforcement (APE) Project, Domestic Abuse Intervention Specialist Program, as well as women’s self-defense and gun classes and a citizen’s academy.

The sheriff also recognized two deputies who were involved in the area’s first reported incident of spill over violence from Mexico.

Deputy Hugo Rodriguez was shot three times when he and Deputy Manuel Morales interrupted a kidnapping attempt in a home invasion on Oct. 30. Both men fatally shot the assailant.

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