Hidalgo County is looking at a new initiative that proposes to use $494,000 to provide grants to deserving entrepreneurs and business owners from communities with populations no greater than 20,000 residents.

"This new project will allow the county to spur economic development in smaller communities that may not have the same resources as their larger neighbors," said County Judge Ramon Garcia. "The cities of Mission and McAllen already have similar grant programs and we plan to use their programs as a model."

The county has the opportunity to access unclaimed funds from the state Comptroller's office. The money is from unclaimed Electric Cooperative reimbursement checks to businesses and are restricted for use in economic development projects.

Commissioners Court members all said they like the idea of the new project, when the item was presented for information and discussion.

A committee comprised of professionals in the financial, education, and business sectors, as well as past grant recipients from the McAllen and Mission programs, will evaluate grant proposals and award funds based on merit, Garcia said, adding that Commissioners Court wants to take politics out of the process.

"We believe the growth and success of our communities is key to the growth and success of Hidalgo County," Garcia said. "This new program will help promote economic prosperity in our smaller communities."

The county also plans to partner with the Small Business Development Center at UTRGV to provide assistance in preparing grant proposals for qualified applicants.

Once details are worked out, Judge's Office staff will bring it back to Commissioners Court for approval.

Longtime Edcouch-Elsa basketball coach honored for 1,000th career win

Coach Robert Capello has achieved statewide and national recognition during his long and distinguished career as a high school basketball coach, the longtime coach of the Edcouch-Elsa High School reached a milestone on January 6, when his Yellow Jackets beat Brownsville Pace 88-83, handing Coach Capello his 1,000th career win.

Capello was honored at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting for his exemplary record of athletic achievement and the positive influence he has had on generations of student athletes.

“This achievement and milestone didn’t come from just one person, but from thousands of people involved, including students and administration over the years,” said Capello.

According to the National Federation of High School record books, Coach Capello is the fourth high school coach in Texas to reach 1,000 wins. He is now among the top 15 winningest high school coaches and the only Hispanic in the nation to achieve that record.

Capello began coaching at Mission High School in 1965 after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from Texas College of Arts and Industries. He also holds graduate degrees from Sam Houston State University and Sul Ross State University.

Capello has spent over 50 years coaching high school sports and his accomplishments are measured not only in the sports arena, but also by teaching countless young athletes the value of teamwork, dedication and of giving back to their communities.

“Thank you for all the students you’ve inspired," said Commissioner David Fuentes. “Not only do you have a long roster of wins, but you are also winning in life for all your success and personal accomplishments in reaching the hearts and minds of generations of students.”

Hidalgo County opposes the creation of a 15th Court of Appeals by breaking up the current court

The 13th Court of Appeals has served 20 counties in the southern and eastern parts of Texas since it was created in 1963. It is the only all appellate court in the country to be comprised of all Hispanic justices, said Chief Justice Rogelio Valdez. 

Now, House Bill 474 is seeking to break up the 13th Court of Appeals from five justices to three and create a new 15th Court of Appeals, separating predominately Latino counties from those that are predominately Anglo at a cost of approximately $400,000 annually to fund a new court.

"We (the members of the 13th Court of Appeals) feel that it's not right and that it adversely affects our area," said Valdez. "I respectfully, urge you to vote your opposition to the creation of a new appellate court by splitting the 20-county district encompassing the 13th Court of Appeals into two separate appellate court districts."

Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to House Bill 474, stating: "House Bill 474 would adversely affect the citizens of Hidalgo County because it has a racially discriminatory effect and unconstitutionally dilutes minority votes."

"House Bill 474 provides no additional funding for the creation of an additional court and would thus be inefficient and costly for the citizens of Hidalgo County and the State of Texas."

Love where you live; don't dump trash along roads and waterways

Rey Salazar, Director of Strategic Planning Division for the Budget Department, presented the court with a resolution in support of the county’s illegal dumping education and prevention program. Last year the county was awarded a Regional Solid Waste Grant by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, through funding from the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, to assist efforts in the prevention of illegal dumping through education and law enforcement.

The grant, totaling more than $16,000, was used to purchase surveillance cameras and equipment to stop and prevent illegal dumping. The cameras will be placed in designated hot spots throughout the county to record illegal dumping in action allowing the Budget office to develop a database that will assist in the evaluation and statistical analysis of illegal dumping in Hidalgo County. The surveillance cameras may also assist in providing intelligence and evidentiary material that may lead to citations, fines and potential arrests for offenders.

The dangers of illegal dumping include attracting and providing ideal breeding grounds for rodents and insects; the exposure of children and adults to sharp objects, medical wastes, fire, toxic chemicals and possible hazardous wastes; and contributes to flooding hazards by blocking drainage.

The Department of Budget Management, in collaboration with the Public Affairs Division and County Constables' offices, are working to inform the public of these dangers and hazards through an educational campaign targeting television, print, social media and by posting visible signage at dump sites.

As part of the education component of the grant, the Public Affairs Division produced a 30 second Public Service Announcement that is currently airing in English and Spanish on local television and radio stations across Hidalgo County. The PSA was also uploaded to the county’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages, where it has received more than 10,000 views in the past two weeks.

Hidalgo County residents are encouraged to report illegal dumping by calling 956-205-7000.

Blood drive dates set: Donations help save lives

County Employees can help save lives year-round by donating blood during Hidalgo County Employee Blood Drives.

United Blood Services will hold Blood Drives on Thursday, February 23rd and Thursday, June 22 at the County Courthouse located at 100 N. Closner Blvd. Blood Drives will also be hosted on site at the Administration Building on 2802 S. Business 281 on Thursday July 6 and Thursday November 9.