Weslaco seeks 3-cent tax hike for drainage

The Weslaco City Commission this month unanimously approved an ordinance calling for a bond election to be held in May.

Weslaco voters will decide whether or not they will allow the city to borrow $10 million to complete a portion of eight proposed drainage projects estimated to cost $89.7 million over 20 years. If voters approve the bond, the city’s property tax rate would increase by 3 cents to 69 cents per $100 property valuation.

The city commission, however, has not yet decided which projects will be completed first. The mayor and commissioners could decide on a list of priorities following the bond election.

Halff Associates, the engineering firm contracted by the city to conduct a post-flood assessment, worked in conjunction with the drainage committee to identify the eight projects’ 19 phases. The plan includes adding regional detention facilities to hold and release rainwater.

The Weslaco City Commission in September approved issuing certificates of obligation to borrow $4 million for immediate drainage improvements. About $381,000 of the $4 million was used to hire Halff Associates for the drainage study and post-flood assessment.

The short-term projects alone — which include adding flap gates to drainage pipes to control the flow of water and alleviate flooding — are estimated to cost $9.9 million.

“You can only do so much with $10 million,” Mayor David Suarez said during the special meeting held Feb. 13.

In June 2018, widespread flooding throughout Hidalgo and Cameron counties affected about 25 percent of homes and businesses in Weslaco.

“Our homes were destroyed, and we were angry,” the drainage committee’s Chairman Randy Hall told the commission at the meeting this month. “We decided to … focus our energy and be part of a solution, and we believe that you have done the same to attempt to resolve these problems with the flooding.”

The Weslaco City Commission unanimously rejected adding a fee to its water bill to pay for additional drainage projects included in the drainage plan.

Election Day is May 4.