PHARR – Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez visited with the hundreds of people in attendance before he was scheduled to deliver not only his but the city's first state of the city address at the Boggus Events Center.
For the last 18 months since Hernandez was elected to lead a city in debt he has been busy leading the way, as Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia said in his introduction “as a man on a mission.”
The state of the city centralized on four themes which included Educate, Innovate, Create and Elevate.
Hernandez spoke of the progressive improvements of the professionalism and transparency of the City of Pharr to give back to the taxpayer.
“When making positive changes that effect the entire community we must first look inward to improve what we do in business,” he said. “In Pharr we had transformed the workplace into an efficient, professional, city-driven and transparent government.”
These changes were done by the Pharr Professionalism Respect Integrity Discipline Ethical (PRIDE) leadership program.
The leaders of the city are held to the same standards that are expected of those working for the City of Pharr which include things like mandatory drug tests for city council members as an example.
Being held to such a standard is something UTRGV has called PRIDE progressive and unique to this area.
The city has also implemented a health and wellness program for all employees which includes a cross-check program for not only them but their dependents. There is also a telemedicine at the city that is at no cost to the employee and their families. The police officers and firefighters have a fitness requirement.
The changes that have been implemented over the mayor's term have resulted in the city's general fund shifting from a negative $1.6 million to a positive $3.8 million.
“Our goal is to maximize the taxpayer funds and improve the quality of life for residents,” Hernandez said. “With this in mind in 2016 we gave Pharr residents the biggest tax reduction in 20 years.”
City leaders identified excess funds in utility accounts and responsibly returned the money back to the taxpayer.
Nine new parks will be built and two will have upgrades constructed in the coming months as part of a partnership between the city and PSJA school district.
Hub Fest price was cut in half but the quality of entertainment was kept to the usual high standard.
The city continues to secure funding for the International Border Trade Corridor (IBTC) which will have the ability to connect all ports of entry. The IBTC will be able to move cargo trucks out of the region and to their final destination across the United States.
“With the phenomenal growth our area is experiencing,” the Mayor said. “This project along with the need for the expansion of the I-69 interchange will help to alleviate transportation bottle necks, make our roads safer and increase our economic trade engine that not only is the driving force locally but also for our country as well.”
Hernandez also said negotiations are in the final stages between the city and Homeland Security that will help boost international trade. Also known as the 559 Program the partnership will increase efficiency with international trade, it will double inspection dock capacity, it will double the amount of exit lanes, it will add two entrance lanes to decrease wait time and it will develop a fast lane for certified and low risk trade to and from Mexico.
A new initiative Hernandez launched at the state of the city address was making sure the event did not use any taxpayer dollars. The city used sponsorships for the event and with the money left over Hernandez donated $5,000 each to ARISE and the local American Legion.
To honor his predecessor Mayor Leo “Polo” Palacios Hernandez created a service award in his name and made him the first recipient.
The award will be bestowed annually at each state of the city address upon an individual who carries the torch of service and pride for the Pharr community.
Hernandez proudly boasted the state of the city of Pharr is financially strong, healthy and well positioned as a regional leader in the Rio Grande Valley. The city will continue to be involved in projects that benefit the entire region, state and the entire nation.
“We recognize that we cannot do it alone,” the Mayor told the crowd. “We remain committed to regional collaborations with our business partners, educational partners, international partners and each of you to keep Pharr moving forward in a positive direction and working for the betterment of the entire region.”