Weslaco, Donna canvass elections, Mercedes schedules runoff

Miles Bullion, with engineering firm Halff Asscoiates, talks about the methods his firm used to create drainage improvement models during a bond election informational session in Weslaco in April. Photo by Dina Arévalo | darevalo@mvtcnews.com

WESLACO — The Weslaco City Commission canvassed the results of Saturday’s $10 million bond election and officially set the date for a special election to fill the unexpired term of former District 4 Commissioner Gerardo “Jerry” Tafolla last Tuesday.

Despite low voter turnout — just 464 votes were cast in the election — city officials will now be able to move forward on a series of drainage improvement projects.

District 5 Commissioner Letty Lopez spoke of the low voter turnout after the meeting adjourned.

“Yes, I am a little disappointed that it was a low voter turnout, but it’s still the majority that did go vote that voted for it,” she said. “And we (need) to be accountable to them and, again, just start with the projects.”

The bond, which passed with just over 59% of voters casting their ballots in favor of the measure, will increase property taxes by approximately 3 cents per $100 valuation, city officials said.

Before the city can begin any of the projects identified in the bond, however, the city will need to have its credit rating re-evaluated.

“We’ll start working on our 5-year plan. One of the things we have to do is get our city re-rated,” Weslaco City Manager Mike Perez said after the meeting. “We’re AA-, so we’re going to work on getting the documents ready for getting a rating and selling bonds so we can get the money.”

Perez said he expects the process to be finalized sometime this summer and that the city can begin issuing bonds “in either July or August, at the latest.”

The city manager added that plans are in the works to make the Citizens Drainage Task Force a more permanent fixture. “We’re going to be asking the commission to make the drainage ad hoc committee a standing committee and we’ll be working with them on how to schedule things and how fast we can get it done,” Perez said.

City staff will still have plenty of drainage improvement work to do between now and the issuance of the bonds. Perez said work on a regional detention facility (RDF) on South Farm-to-Market Road 88 will begin within the next couple of weeks.

Another RDF is slated for construction along Westgate Drive.

Those projects will be funded via $4 million in certificates of obligation the commission approved last fall.

In other action, the commission set things in motion for this summer’s special election to replace now-former District 4 Commissioner Jerry Tafolla.

After tentatively deciding on a July 16 election date during an April 23 meeting, the commission formally approved that date when they unanimously ordered an election last Tuesday evening.

With that order, the candidate filing period is now open and will remain open through the end of business Wednesday.

Early voting will be held from Monday, July 1 through Friday, July 12, with the exception of July 4, when the polls will be closed for Independence Day. Election Day will be Tuesday, July 16.

Meanwhile, the cities of Donna and Mercedes also held regular meetings last week. Neither city took the opportunity to canvass their respective elections on what was the first day a governing body can do so, according to an elections calendar provided by the Texas Secretary of State.

Donna was expected to canvass the results of its failed charter amendment election during a special meeting Tuesday.

Propositions A and B would have lengthened the terms of the mayor, commissioners and municipal judge from three years to four. Prop C would have resulted in the deletion of nine portions of the charter that officials say are superseded by state law, or are unconstitutional.

Mercedes was expected to canvass its election Monday. There, Leonel Benavidez emerged as the winner of a four-way race for Place 2.

At Place 4 — which also drew four candidates — no one candidate won more than 50% of the vote. As a result, incumbent Rubén “Chano” Guajardo now faces a runoff against former Commissioner Jose Gomez.

Guajardo garnered 37.87% of the vote to Gomez’s 33.46%.

Though the commission was expected to formally call for the runoff election at Monday’s meeting, an elections calendar had already been posted online by late last week.

Early voting in the runoff will be held Tuesday, May 28 through Tuesday, June 4, with the exception of Sunday, June 2, when the polls will be closed. Election Day is Saturday, June 8.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, Tuesday, June 4, and Election Day. They will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1. Throughout the rest of early voting, polls will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Mercedes residents may cast their ballots at the Mercedes Civic Center, 520 E. Second St.