This article originally appeared in the Friday Aug. 2, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
The North American Development Bank will pay about $6.2 million to provide Palmview residents with sewer connections.
Carlos Acevedo, a project manager with the bank, met with the utility board at the Isla Grand Beach Resort on July 26 to discuss the Palmview sewer project. Acevedo said the government-owned bank, which funds infrastructure projects on the U.S.-Mexico border, will pay for the construction of residential sewer connections and the removal of septic tanks.
Construction on the Palmview sewer project started in 2017. The $42.2 million price tag, though, didn’t include sewer connections for individual customers.
Developers typically pay for utility connections when they build subdivisions. Homeowners in Palmview, however, never had access to sewer service.
Without the grant, residents would be stuck paying $2,500 to $3,000 apiece.
To qualify for funding, the utility district surveyed Palmview residents. The survey revealed that Palmview had a median household income significantly below the Texas average.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students conducted the survey, said District Engineer Emigdio “Milo” Salinas. They also asked homeowners to sign right-of-entry permits, which will allow contractors to access private property.
“They go house-to-house,” Salinas said. “And part of it is talking to them. Explaining the project. Explaining what we’re trying to do. Some of the residents are hesitant because ‘Well, you’re going to mess up my lawn’ and ‘I have concrete here’ and this-and-that.”
Students discussed the project with more than 1,100 homeowners who signed right-of-entry permits, Salinas said, adding that he personally visited property owners with reservations about the sewer project.
Commercial customers must pay for sewer connections themselves. Along with residential customers, they’ll receive monthly bills after contractors install the sewer connections.
The bank committed $8 million for the Palmview sewer project in May 2014, but problems — including a lawsuit filed by the city of Mission, which didn’t want the utility district to build a sewer plant within city limits — forced the utility district to delay construction.
Mission eventually struck a deal with the utility district, which submitted a new application for funding.
The design work is 60% complete, Salinas said, and should be ready by September. After reviewing documentation submitted by the utility district, the bank will provide a final sign-off.
“My expectation is to start the bidding process by November,” Acevedo said. “And then the construction by January.”