Weslaco canvasses bond votes, sets special election

City of Weslaco engineer Ben Worsham, left, and local resident Berverly Madden look at a map detailing the proposed drainage improvement project areas during a bond election informational session recently in Weslaco. (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 on 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 Tuesday evening.

With that order, the candidate filing period is now open and will remain open through the end of business on Wednesday, May 15.

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 Tuesday. 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.

According to the election calendar, the last day a municipality can canvass the results of the May 4 election is next Wednesday.

Donna officials are awaiting the arrival of overseas ballots and are expecting to meet early next week to canvass the results of their charter election.

All three sets of proposed changes to the charter failed, according to the unofficial early voting and Election Day results provided by the Hidalgo County Elections Department.

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.

In Mercedes, officials will hold a special meeting next Monday to canvass the results of their municipal election.

Leonel Benavidez earned more than 53% of the votes in a Place 2 race that drew a total of four candidates. Once Monday’s canvass is official, Benavidez will be sworn into office.

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%.

After the Mercedes commission canvasses the May 4 election tallies, they are expected to decide on the details of the Place 4 runoff election, according to an agenda posted to the city’s website Tuesday.

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