La Joya discussing new funding opportunities

When officials with the Pharr-based R. Gutierrez Engineering Corporation met with councilmembers of the city of La Joya, the firm presented city officials with a 20-minute presentation on the services they could offer the city.

The firm offers drainage, land surveying and transportation services as well as grant writing and development to cities, among other services, RGEC owner Humberto Garza said. The firm has serviced the cities of Mercedes and La Feria and has collaborated with state, local and federal agencies on different projects, according to the presentation held during a city council workshop Friday, Jan. 31.

“We know in the past, La Joya has been under the microscope for many reasons, and I want to help with that by helping you find money,” Garza told the board. “I’ve been here before offering my services but I’m back because there’s a new energy and spirit in La Joya.” 

At the end of the presentation, La Joya Mayor Isidro Casanova had just one question for the firm: “How much?”

“I sent a contract out here and the fee for that is the same I am charging the city of La Feria, $7,500 a month,” Garza replied. “That’s a retainer that handles everything I presented.”

Casanova, alongside council members Roger Hernandez and Laura Mendiola Macias, balked at the amount.

“Can you find us $7,500 per month?” asked Macias after Garza explained the retainer wouldn’t cover work outside the contract such as engineering fees.  “This is an investment, but it’s also a risk…we don’t have those funds right now. Our goal is to have this money-but I still cannot shake the fact that that’s a big risk.”

Garza assured the council members that as part of the retainer, his firm would try to help the city find cost effective ways to run the city and its projects to help them save money.

“What I can guarantee is I will get you funds for your projects,” Garza said. “I’m helping you find ways to find money that way the $7,500 is not a burden for you. What’s the return on that? Look at the cities I’ve been involved in, we’ve had new parks, public works buildings and a hospital coming there soon. I feel optimistic I will be doing the same thing there.”

Mayor Casanova however brought up the financial issues the city is facing, such as a recent fine from the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality over irregularities at the city’s water treatment plant and the budget for the current fiscal year that was approved last fall-before he, Hernandez and Macias were elected to the city council.

“It’s just not budgeted right now,” Casanova said. “We need to have the monies allocated before we jump in. I know you guys are doing something important but with all the issues we’re having we have to be careful with the way we spend the money and take small steps before taking big ones.”

The council members discussed the possibility of having a relationship with RGEC in a grant-by-grant basis so the firm can help the city go after grants and give a fee to the firm, which council members said they felt comfortable with.

“It’s certainly not the optimal momentum you’ll want but it’s one that will get you where you want to be or, based on what you said, you need to be,” Garza said. “I made an analysis of all the money I could go after this year and it totals $1.375M. We’re not going to get those on a grant by grant basis, we’ll probably get a quarter of that but let me be a component in what you want to do.”

This article originally appeared in the Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 issue of the Progress Times.

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