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When we’re talking about trust, I mean, this is a big, big deal for us. We want them to believe and know that we’re working very hard to try to put infrastructure that’s going to be necessary and keep us resilient, but also be mindful of how it’s not going to increase the tax rate.
Hidalgo County voters on Saturday accepted a $195 million bond that will go toward funding 26 drainage improvement projects throughout Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1.
The debt issuance will come at no added tax burden to county residents, according to Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes.
The Hidalgo County Elections Department reported 8,874 people, or 66.25%, voted for the measure, with 4,520, or 33.75%, voting against.
All election results remain unofficial until canvassed by the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court.
The bond represents the second major tranche county officials have requested voters to approve for drainage infrastructure projects in the wake of several severe storms from 2015 onward.
Voters approved the first in November 2018, just five months after a historic summer storm wreaked havoc not just across Hidalgo County, but Cameron and Willacy counties, as well.
The $190 million from that bond approval went on to fund 37 different projects, some of which remain ongoing today.
Many of those projects are located in Fuentes’ Precinct 1, which encompasses the Mid-Valley from Donna to Mercedes, and north to Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa and Monte Alto.
Fuentes thinks it’s the success of those projects which may have led to this year’s proposal for an additional $195 million.
“I’m happy to see that the community can see what we can see in that the first round of drainage projects, I think, has done a pretty good job of working the way that it’s supposed to,” Fuentes said.
The resounding response in favor of the bond at the ballot box illustrates how much trust the community has developed in the drainage projects, he said.
“When we’re talking about trust, I mean, this is a big, big deal for us,” Fuentes said. “We want them to believe and know that we’re working very hard to try to put infrastructure that’s going to be necessary and keep us resilient, but also be mindful of how it’s not going to increase the tax rate.”
The commissioner estimated that funding could start flowing to the new projects within six months, if the timeline for the last drainage bond is any indication.
The drainage district itself might help speed things along by infusing money from its general fund while awaiting the sale of the bonds, Fuentes said.
“What we did last time was we advanced some money out of our general fund to get these projects moving, and then just kind of paid ourselves back once the bond monies became available,” he said.
Another factor that should help expedite things is that right-of-way easements already exist for many of the new projects — something that wasn’t the case before.
“In the 2018 bond election, we had to go buy a lot of right-of-way. As a matter of fact, we’re still buying properties,” Fuentes said.
Unlike the 2018 bond, whose projects largely impacted drainage within specific municipalities, much of the $195 million from the 2023 bond will go toward funding infrastructure projects with a regional impact.
Much of the money will go toward multi-phased expansions of the Main Drain system, the Delta Reclamation Project north of La Villa, and connections to the Raymondville Drain system, which serves as a collection point for stormwater runoff from as far west as Starr County before flowing to outfalls at the Laguna Madre in Willacy County.
“I’m really happy that they (voters) are trusting us to continue in that mission of trying to protect life and property,” Fuentes said.
Find the complete, unofficial election results of races across the Rio Grande Valley here.