Palmview leaders have big dreams for the future of the city that include creating a loop around the city, installing a sewer system and improving the quality of life with a new park and LED lighting on the highway.
These improvements, City Manager Ramon Segovia believes, will bring new businesses and economic development to the community. The Palmview Chamber of Commerce hosted a legislative luncheon Wednesday to discuss issues affecting the area. Among the speakers were Segovia, Mayor Jerry Perez, State Rep. Sergio Muñoz, County Judge Ramon Garcia and Julio Cerda, executive director of Agua Special Utility District.
“They want to come in,” Segovia said. “The downside has been the sewer, but once we get it, I don’t see anything stopping us at this point. They know about us. They’re coming. We talked to multiple ones that said, ‘Hey, Palmview’s in the top five of where we want to go.’”
The sewer project has been talked about for at least 18 years, Mayor Perez said, adding that he’s been aware of the need since moving to the city in 1976.
Cerda said it’s the biggest project in the works for Agua SUD. The district currently is finalizing the routes with the city of Mission and the Hidalgo County Drainage District, and Muñoz emphasized that the district must draw down the money from the Texas Water Development Board by Aug. 15.
Segovia said the first Palmview residents to get sewer will be those in the city proper, from old 83 to Farm-to-Market 495 and between Moorefield and Abram. Commercial properties will have to pay to be connected, he said.
Agua SUD expects to go out for bids on the sewer project in September.
To improve traffic flow, Perez said Palmview leaders are working to turn FM 495 into a four-lane road, like it is through Mission. The city plans to extend the four lanes from La Homa to Abram Road in the first phase of the project, and then down Abram Road to old 83 in the second phase.
Perez said he also wants to see La Homa extended down to old 83, creating a loop around Palmview.
Other projects the mayor highlighted included extending the LED-lighting on U.S. 83 west past Abram Road and buying a ladder truck for the fire department at nearly a $500,000 price tag.
The city also is partnering with La Joya Independent School District to construct a handicap-accessible park next to Cesar Chavez Middle School using Urban County funds. It also will include a learning center with Internet access. He estimated the cost of the project at $550,000, and the construction is scheduled to start in September.
When asked by a community member whether its possible the state will construct its planned law enforcement intelligence center in Palmview, State Rep. Muñoz said it’s unlikely.
“I’m sure it’s going to be very limited in terms of where we can find the 200 acres at a minimum,” he said.
Meanwhile, County Judge Ramon Garcia, said Hidalgo continues to work on drainage in the area. It took out a $100 million bond issue in 2006 and $84 million in 2012 and is working on 23 projects.
Garcia estimated another two bond issues before the county is finished working on drainage.
He also said it’s only a matter of time before the controversial healthcare district finds its way back on the ballot. State Rep. Bobby Guerra sponsored a bill approved by the state Legislature lowering the cap on a proposed Hidalgo County healthcare district from 75 cents to 25 cents per $100 property valuation. Garcia said the tax rate would start off at 8 cents.
“It’ll be on the ballot probably no sooner than November of next year, but it’s coming,” he said. “The Legislature voted a bill into place that’s already been signed by the governor that if 50 registered voters petition the county commissioners court that the health district be placed on the ballot, then the court has no choice. There’s no discretion. Hopefully, it won’t be any sooner than November 2016.”
Garcia also emphasized the need for a new courthouse. The current building was constructed in 1954 for a population of about 170,000 people. It had three courts and a fourth for expansion. Now, Hidalgo County has 24 different judges, and four of them are operating out of temporary buildings.
The Hidalgo County courthouse is 110,000 square feet, and Garcia said a needs assessment showed the county needed 310,000 square feet. Plus, he said, it would take a minimum of $30 million to renovate the current courthouse.
“And even then you’re going to have a fixed up 61-year-old building that is still inadequate because it doesn’t have space,” he said.
In the last legislative session, a bill was approved authorizing the county to charge an additional filing fee in court cases to help pay for a new building. Garcia estimated the fee would raise between $1 million and $1.5 million annually. The city of Edinburg also has agreed to cover about 20 percent of the cost.
“We want to do it now while the interest rates are at a very historical low,” Garcia said. “Hopefully, by this time next year, if not sooner, we’ll be out there letting project out for bid.”