2018-12-05 / Front Page

New Y-shaped pier planned for Fred Stone Park

BY ALLEN ESSEX
Staff Writer


MEMBERS OF THE WILLACY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT, from left: Henry De la Paz, Eddie Gonzales, County Judge Aurelio “Keter” Guerra, Oscar De Luna and Eliberto “Beto” Guerra. (Photo by Allen Essex) MEMBERS OF THE WILLACY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT, from left: Henry De la Paz, Eddie Gonzales, County Judge Aurelio “Keter” Guerra, Oscar De Luna and Eliberto “Beto” Guerra. (Photo by Allen Essex) The dilapidated, but popular, fishing pier at Fred Stone Park at Port Mansfield will be remodeled or replaced with a larger, Y-shaped pier, Willacy County commissioners learned on Thursday.

In the first phase of the project, a new 500-foot pier will be constructed and then it will extend out in a Y-shape into the Laguna Madre, engineer George E. Lazaro said. The project is ready to go out for bids and funding approval is expected to come from Texas Parks & Wildlife in April or March. The project will be on a 50/50 basis, with the county matching state funding. The pier replacement is expected to cost $400,000. If funds are available, a seawall to protect the shoreline will also be built. The architect’s drawing provided to the county, are only for illustration purposes, County Judge Aurelio “Keter” Guerra said. But the other features, such as an office, fencing and landscaping may be part of later projects, he said.


AN ARCHITECT’S DRAWING OF A PLANNED Y-SHAPED FISHING PIER TO REPLACE THE OLD, DILAPIDATED PIER AT FRED STONE PARK. The old pier attracts many anglers but has been in poor condition for many years. Only the pier itself is part of the current project planned by Willacy County. Other features such as buildings or fencing are only for illustration. (Photo courtesy of Willacy County Judge’s Office) AN ARCHITECT’S DRAWING OF A PLANNED Y-SHAPED FISHING PIER TO REPLACE THE OLD, DILAPIDATED PIER AT FRED STONE PARK. The old pier attracts many anglers but has been in poor condition for many years. Only the pier itself is part of the current project planned by Willacy County. Other features such as buildings or fencing are only for illustration. (Photo courtesy of Willacy County Judge’s Office) A new pier built recently at Willacy County Resource Center on South Port Drive at Port Mansfield is also a popular fishing site, but lights on that pier have proven a little difficult for people fishing. The lights at the remodeled Fred Stone pier will be built on higher poles to prevent tangles while casting, commissioners learned.

Lazaro and commissioners also discussed the possibility of obtaining a long-term loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to refinance remaining bond debt on the county jail, finance a possible expansion of the jail and finance the renovation of the historic courthouse. The courthouse had to be closed due to mold problems. All those projects could be rolled into one 40-year loan of $9.2 million at 3.5 percent interest, Guerra said.

The jail project would be a 17,000 square-foot charge that would cost about $4 million and accommodate 100 extra inmates, but more study would be needed to see if that space could be used, Guerra said. After the financial crisis caused by the “tent city” riot in 2015 and closure of that facility, county officials are wary of going into debt again and depending on payments for funding federal inmates.

Funding for courthouse renovation will be done in cooperation with the Texas Historical Commission, which would have to approve any contract for restoration work, Guerra said. The county would pay a share of the cost.

In other Port Mansfield issues, Commissioner Oscar De Luna said county financing of construction of an office for the Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce office is becoming confusing because the location of the office and cost figures have changed at least three times.

It was not clear if documents submitted by the Chamber were an invoice (bill) or request for funding with “in-kind” labor provided. Details need to be worked out so the county can provide funding from sales tax receipts to make the project possible, commissioners said.

If county funding is to be used as part of the project, bids from contractors will have to be sought and specific plans will have to be submitted. De Luna said he can’t understand why a restroom in a free-standing building is included in the latest plans when there are restrooms in the Chamber’s existing building. The latest plans are much more expensive, he said.

Richard and Robin Gonzales, of the Science & Spanish Club Network Inc., A Coastal Environmental Education Program of Corpus Christi outlined plans for educational programs to be offered at the Willacy County Coastal Resource Center at Port Mansfield.

All four school districts in Willacy County are to be included in the Willacy County Coastal Studies Program, which will emphasize marine life and environmental issues to supplement classroom work to expand science, wildlife and environmental knowledge, Gonzales said.

Jessica Rodriguez-Gracida, Willacy County community development specialist, explained how the new facilities are being outfitted with computer and WiFi equipment and services needed for educational programs at the new center at Port Mansfield. IN OTHER BUSINESS:

Commissioners proclaimed Dec. 4 as “Judge Migdalia Lopez Day” in honor of the judge’s retirement from the 197th state District Court, which has jurisdiction in both Cameron and Willacy Counties.

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