2012-02-08 / Front Page

County to consider paying grantsman $80,000 to prepare application for housing funds

BY TONY VINDELL
Reporter

The Willacy County Commissioners’ Court will discuss paying $80,000 to a consultant who will submit an application for a $9 million affordable housing project following a meeting this week.

According to an agenda item for Thursday’s meeting, the affordable housing project will be built in partnership with the Willacy County Housing Authority

Aurelio Guerra, the WCHA executive director, said a failed project to build 80 units could be revived even though the housing authority ended up with a $389,000 bank note for what was to be known as the Cottonwood Project.

He said that a bank is willing to re do the note amortized over a five-year term.

“We were approached by two individuals wanting to know if the board would be interested in the project,” Guerra said on Monday. “The figure is appealing and we believe it’s doable.” The same individuals approached County Judge F. Gonzales Jr. who is also interested in the project.

Item 17 of the agenda for Thursday’s meeting calls for “discussion regarding funding through the Willacy County LGC of up to $80,000 for an application to pursue a tax credit program related to the development of affordable housing units in partnership with Willacy County Housing Authority.”

An attorney familiar with county business said it’s “illegal as hell,” to pay that kind of money to a consultant for such a project without soliciting bids, especially when $50,000 or more are at stake.

“Where is fair competition here?” he asked. “Look at what happened last week. The county ended up spending thousands of dollars more because of a shouting match.”

He was referring to a contract the commissioner’s court gave to the highest bidder after the two lowest bidders were run off by the commissioners’ court presiding judge.

The lowest bids came in at $597,107 and $697,511, but the commissioners’ court gave the bid to R&R Paving of San Benito, which submitted the highest bid for $730,740.

Although the money for the road improvement came from a $1 million plus General Land Office Disaster Recovery Project, giving the contract to the highest bidder meant the county will have a balance of $340,226, or $85,000 for each of the county’s four precincts for other road projects.

If the lowest bidder had gotten the contract, it would have left a balance of $ 474,106, or more than $118,000 for each precinct.

In other action, commissioners will vote to lend LGC money to the housing authority to refinance a Rio National Bank loan and a HUD deficiency.

HUD Section 8 funding for Willacy County is in jeopardy because a project the housing authority administers is short $90,000.

HUD sends the housing authority an average of $14,000 a month to pay the rent of about 60 “vouchers,” or families, under a rental assistance program, but this last month the federal agency sent a check for a little more than $4,000.

Because of that, the housing authority now has to come out with the remaining $10,000.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” Guerra said. “We will have to borrow it or to ask the county for help.”

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