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Residents of Southmost and the surrounding area in Brownsville soon will be able to pay their taxes close by rather than having to drive downtown.
Construction of Cameron County’s newest tax office, at 3000 Southmost Blvd., is roughly 65 percent complete and should be up and running by the end of December of early January, according to county Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre Jr.
The $2.8 million project broke ground last October on 1.3 acres where the old Southmost water tower was located until being demolished in 2018.
“We’re within budget, and it should be completed by the end of December,” Yzaguirre said. “We’re planning a grand opening probably the first or second week of the new year.”
He said the new facility will undergo a trial run to make sure all the computers and “millions of wires” are properly connected.
Residents will be able to pay current and delinquent taxes at the new location, plus take care of business such as title transfers, motor vehicle registration renewals, TABC license renewals for liquor, wine and beer, and collection of vehicle inventory tax from dealerships.
The Southmost office will feature work-station kiosks with computers and copiers that will serve as satellites for the county clerk and district clerk offices.
Residents will be able to obtain marriage licenses and divorce decrees from the location’s deputized employees and also get deed records, court record information and other information, eliminating the need for a trip to the main tax office or the county courthouse, where it’s “always busy” and parking is in short supply, Yzaguirre said.
When complete, the Southmost location will be the county’s 11th tax office.
The new 3,597-square-foot facility will feature five teller windows, three drive-through lanes and a seating capacity of 52. The land was donated by the Brownsville Independent School District. Otherwise, the new location would not have been built, Yzaguirre said.
Yzaguirre said he brought the idea of a new Southmost tax office at that location to Precinct 1 Commissioner Sofia Benavides, who agreed with the idea, and the rest of the county commissioners court back in February 2019.
“Their answer was if you can get the property donated then we’ll give you the money,” he said. “It took me three years to get the property donated. Lots of red tape.”
Yzaguirre said former District 1 Commissioner Nurith Galonsky was also instrumental in bringing the deal about.
“She spearheaded that transfer of property,” he said. “This was a combined project — city county and school working together.”
Yzaguirre said that early his office asked the project’s general contractor and subcontractors that they purchase all the necessary materials and supplies up front rather than waiting until work had commenced in order to avoid delays.
“They were told you’ve got the contract. We’re going to build this building. It’s a sure thing. Order the supplies now. That’s the reason it’s on schedule,” he said.
Benavides said the new office is a major upgrade from the one-person Southmost tax office that operated at the police station next door from 1995 until its closure as a result of the pandemic and emphasized that the project is happening only because multiple parties worked together.
“We worked with the city of Brownsville, with PUB and with BISD to let us have the property so we could put up this tax office,” she said, adding that the new facility is “really starting to take shape.”