2017-11-01 / Front Page

Willacy reaping benefits from grants of state, federal funds

BY ALLEN ESSEX
Reporter

Construction of four extrawide bridges across major ditches and resumption of a long-delayed storm shelter construction project are hopeful signs that cash-strapped Willacy County is able to leverage state funds.

“Willacy County absolutely needs to take advantage of these state programs,” County Judge Aurelio “Keter” Guerra said. But the county needs to have a fund surplus each year so officials can take advantage of state programs when they become available, he said.

Four bridges will not only allow local traffic such as pickup trucks and cars to move across ditches but will also save farmers many miles of driving tractors and other large farm equipment, as well as time, money and wear and tear on roads, County Judge Aurelio “Keter” Guerra said.

In addition to bridges, the long-awaited “shelter of last resort,” a project that has been redesigned, downsized and had its location moved several times, is finally being erected, Guerra said. The county is paying roughly $430,000 of the $1.6 million cost. The concrete building is going up on land belonging to the Willacy County Housing Authority’s Labor Camp development south of Raymondville. The shelter will be used only by law enforcement, first responders and essential personnel during the impact of a hurricane, tornado or other calamity but will not be used as a shelter after the storm.

The storm shelter was originally funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the money is funneled through the state, he said.

Willacy County Emergency Management Coordinator Frank Torres said everyone is to be evacuated during the approach of a major hurricane so there will not be any emergency responders or police cars, fire trucks or ambulances in Willacy County at such a time.

The county judge said the shelter will be used for offices of the Willacy County Housing Authority and for a youth recreation program modeled after the Boys and Girls Club.

Each of the four bridges being built on county roads now will cost about $1 million each and the county is paying about $407,500 each. The locations are on Humphrey Road (CR156), Butler Road (CR 35), Ramirez Road and Israel Cavazos Road (CR 3300).

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