Granted, any list of the top 10 news stories in Mission is subjective and open to argument but being relatively new to the RGV and having perused every Progress Times issue in the past year the author offers the following as the top stories of 2016.
After two years of planning and renovations the Center for Education and Entrepreneurship opened its doors last August.
Once a K-Mart store, the converted 55,000-square foot complex is a collaboration of the city, its Economic Development Corporation and private investors. Located at 801 Bryan Road, the center officially opened its doors in October after a soft opening in August. It’s intended to function as a work force development center and a resource for local entrepreneurs to network, obtain high tech training and help their businesses grow. It houses a computer lab with 50 computers, five conference rooms, 23 office lease spaces, a sound and video production room, and an area set aside for a small manufacturing facility. Among the entities housed in the CEED building are Sylvan Learning, Schreiner University, Teach for America and various startups that have come out of the Mission EDC Ruby Red Ventures Program.
#9 Work on Expressway 83 overpass continues
Work on the U.S. 83 Overpass at Inspiration Road continued to constrict and disrupt traffic in the area. The demolition of the old bridge at Inspiration Road closed traffic on Business 83 during work hours. But roadwork was completed on the eastbound portion of the project from Business 83 to Los Ebanos Road.
#8 Mission City Council approves funding for new event center
In May the city council approved a resolution to authorize $25 million for the city’s new event center. The council also approved the acquisition of about 10 acres of land from the John H. Shary subdivision for the center’s location. The new facility is to be located on a 10-acre site just east of Shary Road and north of Victoria Avenue, behind the present H-E-B store.
#7 Mission moves forward on Madero Bridge
The city council approved a joint resolution with the cities of McAllen and Hidalgo to take the first step in the long journey to construct the international bridge at Madero. The resolution authorized the Anzalduas Bridge Board to hire an engineering firm to perform the studies necessary for development of the bridge. Upon completion of the studies, Mission, McAllen and Hidalgo will enter into a Madero Bridge Agreement. The bridge is needed to help reduce the backup of commercial traffic at the Pharr International Bridge that currently can extend for several days.
Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas said it is a good deal for Mission because McAllen and Hidalgo would pay for the bridge, while Mission would get none of the financial risk and would be able to open up another 6,000 acres in the western part of the city for development.
The idea is for the Madero Bridge to be for commercial traffic and the Anzalduas Bridge would be for passenger vehicle traffic. More or less, the Madero Bridge will fall between Conway and Inspiration Road and the city is looking to Inspiration to funnel the heavy trucks.
The next project is widening of Inspiration between Expressway 83, all the way to 3 Mile Line, said Mission City Manager Martin Garza Jr. The city has six years to start construction and Garza said it’s going to take the full time to get everything into place.
#6 Butterfly sculptures begin appearing around the city
In homage to the National Butterfly Center and the city’s popularity with migrating butterflies a large butterfly statue was installed in front of city hall in April. It was the first of 20 butterfly statues sponsored by the city, businesses and clubs. The city has since installed numerous statues throughout the city mostly at major intersections and cross walks across the city.
#5 Mission extends city manager’s contract, gives him a pay raise
In April Mission City Manager Martin Garza Jr. received a hefty pay raise and a six-year extension to his employment contract.
The city manager’s new contract increased Garza’s salary from $186,500 per year to $225,000. Mayor Salinas, who negotiated the contract, explained the reason for the sizeable pay raise was to keep neighboring cities from taking Garza away from Mission. The city has lost five employees hired away by other local cities, he added – some to McAllen and one to Edinburg.
“Martin has been doing an excellent job for the city,” Salinas said. “Going ahead and getting a six-year contract is the best thing we can do.”
4# Mission bans smoking in public buildings
Following a nationwide trend, in June the city council voted to ban smoking in public places and places of employment throughout the city, including not only city and school buildings, but also businesses such as restaurants and retailers.
#3 Mission adds eight more police officers and increases patrols
Thanks to a $1.2 million grant the Mission Police Department was able to add eight new police officers to its staff, purchase 34 new bulletproof vests, and increase police patrols throughout the city.
On Oct. 10 the city council approved acceptance of the FY 2016 COPS Hiring Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant funded 75 percent of the eight new officers’ salaries at a value of $1 million over the three-year grant period. The city is responsible for a 25 percent match that amounts to $358,069. Those funds will come from the federal drug forfeiture funds the police department receives. The city is required to maintain the positions for one additional year once the grant expires at 100 percent expense to the city.
#2 Special health care district tax defeated
In November Mission voters joined Hidalgo County residents in defeating Proposition 1, a referendum to create a special health care taxing district. Mayor Salinas opposed the tax at several public forums on the referendum. The measure called for an initial a tax rate increase of 8 cents per $100 valuation on homes and properties in Hidalgo County, which would raise about $24 million annually to take care of indigent health care, including reimbursements to local hospitals that incur much of these costs.
#1 Violent storms cause extensive damage to three area communities
In June volunteers, businesses and agencies worked together to provide temporary housing and food for up to 1,000 residents of three area neighborhoods whose property was damaged by a catastrophic windstorm.
The unusual wind shear caused by the storm, some argued was a tornado, destroyed or damaged most of the trees and power poles in the Madero, Granjeno and Chimney Park communities south of Mission causing damage to most of the homes, ranging from shattered windows to rooftops blown away.
The American Red Cross provided assistance in setting up a temporary shelter for storm victims who had to evacuate their homes.