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20101231_River-FloodingMISSION — The biggest news stories in 2010 were concentrated in south Mission where the area received devastating flooding that continues to haunt local businesses. Meanwhile, other stories that generated a lot of talk included the dispute over land at the Mission Trails, along with other political shakeups.

Hurricane Alex-Tropical Depression No. 2

Several families and communities suffered from the July 1 hurricane that dumped almost six inches of rain here, causing an estimated $10 million in damage across the county.

Only July 9, local businesses and homes near the Rio Grande endured even more damage as the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission opened gates and diverted floodwaters into Anzalduas Dam that left the Hidalgo County Precinct 3 park flooded along with businesses like Chimney Park Resort, the Riverside Club and Pepe’s on the River. Countywide, officials said 9,000 homes were affected by floodwater and 195 homes had reported major damages. The flood also affected about 31 businesses.

Officials with the IBWC said the releases from the storms went smoothly and structures from Peñitas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico performed well.

Mission Nature Park and Trail Dispute

Local cyclists and gun enthusiasts clashed earlier this year when members of the Mission Trails Club discovered the City of Mission had entered an agreement in April to lease out a portion of the property to the Mission Skeet and Trap Club for the next 25 years for $1 per year.

Cyclists complained that the city had gone back on a promise made the club for the land after the group made improvements to the area. City leaders, however, said they were unaware of any verbal agreement. The group generated a petition to urge the city to not allow the gun club to encroach on what they called their property.

Under a revised contract, the city explains the skeet club will pay for the construction of a new fence around the property while the city pays for the labor. The fence should be constructed in March.

Meanwhile, the Mission cyclists filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Mission residents. Negotiations between the city and the Mission Trails Group to come to a compromise on their improvements at the park have since ended.

Firefighter Collective Bargaining Rejected

Mission voters here overwhelmingly rejected a push from local firefighters for collective bargaining in May. Election results show that 61 percent of voters were against the proposition. A total of 3,334 votes were cast against Proposition 1, with 2,116 for the proposition.

The local firefighter’s union said it pushed to take the issue before voters because the city’s administration had not supplied them with adequate equipment to safely serve citizens. City leaders disputed those claims and said they’ve provided all necessary equipment and touted that their salaries and benefits were some of the best in the area.

Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores Convicted

Months after his indictment State Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores was sentenced by a state judge to five years probation following his guilty conviction of tampering with government records and perjury.

Flores, 52, was convicted of failing to disclose his sources of income, real estate holdings and gifts received as required by a state elected official. According to the indictments handed down by the Travis County’s grand jury in July 2009, Flores withheld financial information from the Texas Ethics Commission starting in 2004 through 2009 to the tune of $847,000.

A 13-year political veteran, Flores represented parts or all of the cities of Granjeno, Hidalgo, McAllen, Mission, Palmview, Peñitas, and Pharr. He did not seek re-election for his position, which ends in January; voters elected Attorney Sergio Muñoz Jr. to fill his spot.

Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court Shakeup

The Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court was reorganized a couple times this year, first starting with the resignation of Precinct 1 Commissioner Sylvia Handy.

In March, Handy pled guilty to one count of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. As part of her bond, Handy was to resign from the post she’d held since 1997. She was the first female to serve on Commissioners’ Court.

Following her resignation, officials named businessman A.C. Cuellar to fill her spot. A special election to re-fill the seat in November moved Mercedes Mayor Joel Quintanilla to the post.

Rene A. Ramirez, who previously served as the chief of staff for Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-20), left his job as the county’s interim judge following the November elections, where former Judge Ramon Garcia was elected back to his old job. Garcia won the Democratic Primary in March against former judge Eloy Pulido. The Republican Party did not have a candidate. Ramirez said he left to allow the new court to begin working.

Garcia took over as judge in November along with Quintanilla filling in to fulfill the rest of Handy’s term, which expires in 2012.

In January, former Precinct 1 Chief Administrator Joseph Palacios will join the court as the commissioner for Precinct 4. Precinct 2 Commissioner Hector “Tito” Palacios won his re-election with no challengers from the Democratic or Republican Parties.

Mission Park Improvements

City leaders here continued their pledge for a better quality of life by starting major imrovements at city parks.

In October, leaders broke ground on renovations at the Catholic War Veterans Park off of Mayberry Road and Bannworth Park on Shary Road.

Catholic War Veterans Park improvements include a renovation of the pool, a new gymnasium, improvements at the skate park and parking lot, a renovation of the neighborhood center and landscaping work. The project cost is totaling over $2.27 million, city officials said.

Bannworth Park improvements include a competitive-sized swimming pool, extended parking, a soccer field and a ball field. Landscaping work and a gymnasium are also part of the project. City officials said this is one of the most popular parks in the city with fitness enthusiasts arriving as early as 6 a.m. to get in a morning walk or jog. The renovation will cost approximately $2.7 million.

Installation of Bishop Daniel Flores

Over 300 priests from nearly 70 Rio Grande Valley area parishes, along with over 2,000 people participated in the installation of the Diocese of Brownsville’s newest bishop.

In February, the Catholic community welcomed its first new bishop in 14 years from the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan de Valle-National Shrine and outside under tents. Pope Benedict XVI selected Flores in December 2009.

Flores was ordained a bishop on Nov. 29, 2006 at Detroit’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. He was born in Palacios, Texas, baptized in Zapata, and grew up in Corpus Christi.

Sullivan City Police Chief Arrested by FBI

Hernan Guerra, the police chief and volunteer fire chief of Sullivan City, was arrested by Federal Bureau Investigation agents this week following a nationwide sting called Project Deliverance in June.

A total of 429 people were arrested in 16 states in the effort that worked to halt Mexican drug trafficking here, especially along the border, DEA officials said.

The indictment against Guerra charged that he conspired with the intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana starting in June 2009 along with over a dozen other co-defendants. He was also charged with four counts of intent to distribute between 100 kilograms and 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.

Guerra, who had been police chief of the Sullivan City department since 2004, pled not guilty to the charges against him.

Mission-area Soldiers Killed in Action

U.S. Army Pfc. Diego M. Montoya, 20, died Sept. 2 in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Montoya died in Laghman Province, Afghanistan of wounds he suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire, officials said. He was assigned to the 64th Military Police Company, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade of Fort Hood.

Montoya grew up in Mission, attending Veterans Memorial High School before moving to San Antonio where he attended William Howard Taft High School, graduating in 2008.

Weeks later, the community learned that a communication technician working in Afghanistan died Sept. 6 following an attack.

Javier de la Garza, 27, was killed during an attack on a forward operating base in Howz-e-Madad, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. His last residence was listed in Austin, but de la Garza is originally from Havana near La Joya where his mother still lives.

Rep. Aaron Peña Switches Parties

State Rep. Aaron Peña announced on Dec. 14 that he was leaving the Democratic Party after being disillusioned with the party’s leaders.

The self-described conservative represents the cities of Sullivan City, La Joya, Edinburg, Elsa, Edcouch and La Villa in District 40.

Peña was welcomed by Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry in his announcement. His switch now gives the party a two-thirds majority in the House.

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