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General Interest General Interest

Lone Star UAS Center conducts drone test flights over South Texas ranchland

20140627 Area-DroneCORPUS CHRISTI–Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center is conducting a series of flight missions this week, the first since becoming fully operational as a federally-designated test site.

Researchers conducted missions Wednesday and scheduled additional flights Thursday with the University’s RS-16 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated the center as one of only six test sites in December, and approved it as operational on Friday, June 20.

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The eyes of Texas are upon the border

20140623 AREA Immigration-influx 2039Two different messages were heard this week as the number of undocumented minors and families flooding the Rio Grande Valley received state and nationwide attention.

“What we’re trying to avoid is a perception that the criminal element is prevalent in our area or the situation is at a crisis,” said Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia at a news conference Monday morning. “It’s not, and that’s the message we’re trying to communicate. “

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry said at a news conference Monday afternoon, “There are babies that have been transported all across Mexico. I’m telling you in July and August if the message does not get out into those countries in Central America, you’re going to see a Trail of Tears again from Central America to Texas.”

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Operation Interdependence seeks volunteers for Packing Party

20140627 OI-Packing-Party-PicMcALLEN – Operation Interdependence (OI)-RGV is a community based project led by a committee that raises contributions to make and send care packages for our active US troops overseas. OI-RGV has been accepting donations of general care items and letters of support for the annual send-off to our soldiers.

OI-RGV is inviting the community to join them on Thursday, July 10, from 5-9 p.m. at the Salvation Army located at 1600 N. 23rd St., McAllen, for the "Packing Party" where these care packages will be put together. This will be a fun and family-oriented event that will give everyone an opportunity to give back to our deserving military troops.

“It's a great way to teach our children and youth our appreciation for the military's sacrifice and dedication to our country. We ask if everyone could please bring a box of quart size freezer bags to the event. Refreshments will also be provided,” said IBC Bank-McAllen Senior Vice President and OI-RGV Committee Chair Dora Brown.

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County clerk offers marriage license certificate options

Hidalgo-County-SealEDINBURG – The County Clerk’s office is now offering Hidalgo County couples an option when applying for a marriage license.

County Clerk Arturo Guajardo Jr. said couples can select from two styles of the marriage license certificates, which come in burgundy or blue, to commemorate their special day.

The County Clerk’s office began researching and organizing the transition into the two styles after the New Year and debuted the new options at the end of May. Guajardo and his staff issue about 5,000 licenses each year.

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ERO pegs courthouse cost at $157 million

20140425 Courthouse featureIf the county doesn’t act quickly, the cost of a new courthouse could escalate, architects told the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court when discussing the schematics approved Tuesday.

Eli Ochoa, of ERO Architects, estimated the project construction cost for the courthouse at $127,705,007. In addition there are project soft costs (such as furniture and security equipment not included in construction costs) that would add an additional $29,372,152 to the cost of the building for a total of $157,077,159.

But Ochoa told the court the county must “speed to market” to keep costs down before anticipated inflation from rising fuel and materials costs. Ochoa estimated that at four percent inflation, the cost of the building could rise to $176,690,250 by 2017 when it is completed. Based on a six percent inflation cost, the building would cost an estimated $187,081,210.

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RGV seeing more border activity

20140121 Area Homeland-Security 0775Peñitas saw 35 drug seizures from December through February, according to Police Chief Roel Bermea. In April, that number increased 97 and May saw 171 seizures.

“I really don’t know what’s going on,” Bermea said. “We do what we have to do. I guess Border Patrol has seen an increase themselves.”

Before an aerostat, a helium-filled balloon with infrared cameras meant to deter illegal activity in the area, went up last year, Bermea said the city had been averaging between 60 and 90 a month.

La Joya Police Chief Geovani Hernandez echoed Bermea’s observations, estimating a 300-400 percent increase in recent activity. He pointed to three minor pursuits involving La Joya officers on Saturday as an example.

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County considers new minimum wage for low-level employees

Hidalgo-County-SealHidalgo County Commissioners Court is considering a request made by President Barack Obama to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for anyone earning less than that amount.

The minimum wage received by county employees is $7.25 an hour. While the county employs between 3,800 and 4,000 employees, only 2.5 percent, or 85, earn less than the $10.10 recommended by President Obama for minimum wage. The court was told it would take about $137,000 to bring those 85 personnel up to the minimum wage proposed by the President.

Commissioner Hector “Tito” Palacios said the county might have to streamline and cut down on a few employees, but he thought “raising salaries for those earning less that $10.10 could be done.” He added the funds might have to come from cutting back on the number of employees the county has.

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Retaliation alleged in flurry of lawsuits

20140530 lawHidalgo County Pct. 3 Commissioner Joe Flores has filed his own lawsuit after he was called out in yet another case alleging he is pulling the political strings of western Hidalgo County.

Flores’ suit was filed May 8 against former State Rep. Kino Flores; Ruth Villarreal, a former insurance provider for La Joya Independent School District; and Arnold Ochoa, a former La Joya ISD trustee and former city of Palmview employee.

Also named in his suit is Javier Peña, the attorney who filed separate suits on behalf of Villarreal and Ochoa.

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