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Mission will be seeking an extension on a Presidential Permit that was first issued in 1978.
This week, the Mission city council met for the first time over a Zoom video conference, where they approved several items and a couple of resolutions. They also approved a contract with Rigo Villarreal to act as a consultant on the Madero/Reynosa International Bridge Project.
As a consultant, Villarreal will represent the city for the extending of the Presidential Permit and coordinate meetings with the Department of State, Customs and Border Protection, General Services Administration, Coast Guard, Corps of Engineers, Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, International Boundary and Water Commission, Railroad Commission, members of U.S. Congress, work closely with liaisons in Mission, McAllen and Hidalgo and coordinate activities in Washington, D.C.
The permit is set to expire in June 2021, and council has been back and forth on the feasibility of the bridge project and how much it will cost. Earlier this year, they entered into an interlocal agreement with the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA), where they laid out responsibilities.
The agreement includes that Mission’s duties are the advanced project development work (funding), work authorizations, feasibility analysis, the extension of the permit, the facilitation of studies, right-of-way-records and the environmental process as well as a United States sponsor overseeing Mexican permitting efforts.
The HCRMA would act as the “performance manager,” supervising the services for the advance project development work, contract management and an audit of the services to be provided to Mission.
Before anything happens, however, the council wanted to ensure the permit would be extended, as the project will take time and financial maneuvering. Prior to the agreement, Villarreal acted as a consultant through the Anzalduas Bridge Board.
The city of Mission paid Villarreal $5,000 per month for these services, and was reimbursed $2,500 monthly from the Anzalduas Bridge Board. Villarreal resigned from the board earlier this year, and submitted a new bid to continue acting as a consultant on the project for Mission.
Villarreal, brother of Everado “Ever” Villarreal, ended up being the only applicant. He originally requested $7,500 per month for his services.
The council considered hiring him and evaluating the need for a consultant in this regard every three months. This week, they approved a contract that would pay Villarreal $6,000 per month, but according to Mayor Armando O’caña, the contract will not start until May 1, June 1 or July 1 depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the information in the agenda packet, Villarreal will be paid $6,000 per month for his services over a six-month period, as well as reimbursement for “all travel expenses when applicable while conducting duties.” His bid includes details on how he will get the permit extended.
Mayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza made a motion to approve the contract as discussed, and the motion was seconded by council member Ruben Plata. Council member Beto Vela and Mayor O’caña also voted in favor of the contract. Council member Jessica Oretga-Ochoa was the only vote against the approval.
Until the extension is confirmed, the HCRMA will not be spending money on the Madero Bridge Project, as noted following the approval of their interlocal agreement.
During the council meeting, they also extended the city’s emergency order enacted in response to the coronavirus by approving Resolution #1655. O’caña stated that the city was following protocol set by Hidalgo County officials, and Emergency Director James Cardoza explained what the amended order entailed.
“The subsequent measures are due to the public health emergency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cardoza said. “On April 7 an order was issued by County Judge Richard Cortez – the amendment includes a 24-hour curfew for all people under the age of 17, the use of facial coverings, the existing shelter-at-home mandate and a new curfew for everyone ages 18 and over between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.”
Ortega-Ochoa wanted to ensure that the Mission Police Department was following the new curfew set by the county. They originally stated that the curfew for non-essential workers in the Rio Grande Valley was from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., but the new declaration states that the curfew starts at 11 p.m.
Ortega-Ochoa asked if over the last weekend, the PD had not issued citations to people who were out between 10 and 11 p.m. City Attorney Gus Martinez said they had been instructed to follow the new curfew prior to this weekend, and that he would take care of any improper citations issued.
“I don’t believe there were any issues since the 7th of April,” Martinez said. “If there were any citations given for curfew at 10 p.m. this past week, we’ll have them dismissed.”
Currently, the emergency order is extended through April 30, 2020. City leaders stated that it would be reflected in Mission protocol, and council would be called again if that order needs to be changed or extended again.