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Hidalgo-County-SealThere is no danger to the public from the diseases being brought into Hidalgo County by the wave of immigrants coming from Central America, Bobby Villarreal told the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

Villarreal, the county’s economic development director, said Hidalgo County has seen minimal diseases among the immigrants, and Border Patrol is having people screened for illnesses in McAllen before they were being released to go other places.

Villarreal did say additional emergency funding was needed to help the local government officials meet the influx of people coming to Hidalgo County, which has been recorded at more than 1,000 per day.

Members of the OWLS (Objective Watchers of the Legal System) had different opinions on the health safety of those entering the country. Jim Barnes told the court the county had admitted there was one case of chicken pox and one case of tuberculosis that had been discovered. But Barnes believes the problems are far greater than the public is being told.

Barnes said that while Judge Ramon Garcia was telling county residents the situation was under control, the Monitor ran a newspaper article saying $68,000 had been requested from federal agencies as reimbursement for expenditures.

Barnes said he also aware is aware of one Border Patrol agent was being treated for scabies after picking up an infected person from Central America. He had also heard reports of lice on the children in the encampment along with other diseases.

Barnes quoted one doctor he talked to who said he treated about 40 of the 1,000 people coming in daily at the McAllen Center. Barnes questioned who screened the other 960, saying that strep throat, swine flu, measles and other diseases had been found at Lackland Air Force Base from the youth sent there from the Valley.

“Transporting these people who have infectious diseases to other areas in the country is not a good idea,” Barnes said.

Barnes said he had been told the Border Patrol and Hidalgo County health officials were under a gag order that prohibited them from talking about the conditions found at the center. He said county health officials and the Border Patrol are undermanned and it is time to call in the National Guard to help monitor the situation along the border.

Administrative building

Alex Palacios of Prodigy Construction told the court the construction of the new Hidalgo County Administrative Building is 60 percent complete. The metal infrastructure for walls on second floor and dry walls were under construction. A crack in the second level’s floor had been found and the contractor was taking steps to correct the problem.

Friday, the air conditioning and chillers would be shut down for repairs, leaving the building without air conditioning.

Palacios said 41 percent of the budget remained along with a $1.5 million retainer fee to see the project is completed.

Transportation funding

The court approved a resolution in support of a constitutional amendment for increase state funding for transportation. Jesse Ozuna, Precinct 4 right-of-way agent, told the court the resolution, if passed, would provide additional funding for state road and bridge projects. Bond programs have supplemented state projects, but those funds have been exhausted. Texas does about $5 billion worth of projects in each biennium but without the amendment, the amount will drop to $2.5 billon in the next biennium. The amendment would add an additional $1.4 billion to the state highway fund.

According to Ozuna $6.1 billion in funding is needed for the “worst possible
conditions” and $9.5 billion for “minimally competitive conditions.”

In other business

The court approved an increase in funding for a contract with CVQ Land Surveying for the Precinct 3 Penitas Drain Project in the amount of $16,800 for a total of $38,400 project cost.

Commissioners approved a revision to the Exiting Elected Official Expenditure Policy that limits expenditures to $25,000.

Commissioners approved a new biweekly schedule of commission meetings beginning the first week of August. This will save the county about $2,000 a month on rental of the Edinburg City Hall chambers. Judge Ramon Garcia said if there is a need, special meetings could be called.

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