With only a handful of days left to vote early and with election day looming, county leaders are urging voters to pass a $190 million-bond that will finance 37 infrastructure projects to help alleviate drainage problems within the Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1.
The drainage district, which encompasses roughly 90 percent of the county are at work. But as Raul E. Sesin has said, if the bond does not pass, his department will be limited on what they can do and it will take much longer to complete the projects.
“We will continue to do our work,” he said. “We will continue to do our drainage by maintenance projects, we are creating capacity but at the same time our leadership is actively pursing funding, always and we don't stop.”
Hidalgo County Precinct No. 1 Commissioner David Fuentes along with Precinct No. 2 Commissioner Eddie Cantu highlighted the importance of passing the bond.
The commissioners know asking to raise taxes is not always popular with voters. In this bond's case there be a three cent increase per $100 valuation. The county will outsource all the engineering and construction of the projects. By doing so, the county aims to make a quick, direct impact and the only way that is feasible is by outsourcing the work.
If the bond is successful on the November ballot, the project would begin in January where existing right-of-way is secured.
Any project that would require purchasing a property would require a survey and appraisal process and the acquisition of land is going to take some time.
What the commissioners also want to stress is that in the past, monies from other bonds have been diverted to other projects outside of the bond projects listed. Fuentes said the only commitment the commissioner's court can make is trying to get all the projects off the ground.
“We are fully committed to improving the drainage in this area,” he said. “We cannot try to change anything that has happened in the past, all we can do is assure our constituents that you have our full commitment to get these projects worked on as soon as possible.”
The rains experienced in June were catastrophic. In Fuentes' precinct alone there are over 60 projects that need to be done but the severe weather also led to quality of life issues.
As part of a post storm assessment, each precinct began with exploring the problems and short comings existing in the drainage system. But Fuentes said that was not the only thing county leaders relied on, instead they looked at historical reports.
In the past the water development board conducted studies that showed where flooding occurred whenever it rained, not just a significant storms like in June. Due to the reports, county leaders are tempted to say infrastructure can handle 10 and 15-year storms, but the reality and truth is some neighborhoods and colonias that were built many decades ago do not have the appropriate infrastructure, connectivity and outfalls that are necessary in order for water to continue to move in a positive flow.
“When we are talking about positive flow, we're talking about an outfall into an existing drain system where water continues to flow out into the Laguna Madre,” Fuentes said.
In the post storm assessment the historical places of flooding were flooding again at catastrophic levels where three and four feet of water was rising inside people's homes and businesses.
The bond was put on the ballot for 2018 because the county needs something to make an immediate impact.
“We can't afford to wait, we can't afford to go until May and potentially not start projects until after the next hurricane season,” Fuentes said. “One of the things that was obvious to us, was we needed to take action and we needed to take action now.”
The indirect impact for the bond will be five times the direct impact for the projects. If a neighborhood that has 200-home impact due to flooding, an indirect impact of 1,000 homes will occur.
In their proposal the county has predicted 69,000 structures would be impacted in Hidalgo County with the bond, helping protect more than $5.5 billion in assessed property values.
Cantu added that as an elected official, the last thing he wanted to do was raise taxes but in this case the commissioners court as whole, which serve as the board of directors for the drainage district, decided to take action that would help people not have to go through, what they went through in June with the floods.
The commissioners were on the ground and in the water when the June rains were happening, they were able to see the impact on the community.
The money will go to the projects. Cantu said it would be impossible to have the bond passed and not live up to their word on helping with floods.
“How am I going to look at those people in the eye and say we're not going to do your project even though you are under water, even though you had water in your homes and we're going to do something else,” he said. “Just the fact we have a commitment to our people that voted us to be in this office, there is no way we are moving this money away from the areas that were tremendously impacted.”
Plenty of information including a list of all 37 projects broken down by cost can be found on the drainage district’s website www.hcdd1.org. There is also a break down of previous bond expenditures.
As a voter visit the website and make an informed decision.