EDINBURG, RGV – Only formalities remain when it comes to establishing the official support infrastructure that will eventually get Hidalgo County’s new courthouse built, tentatively by the end of this year, according to Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia.
At a joint meeting between Edinburg’s City Council and Hidalgo County Commissioners, both entities unanimously adopted a motion to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction of a courthouse.
Following an extended executive session to discuss the legalities of the agreement. Edinburg leaders ultimately gave their initial approval to provide a maximum of $30 million over the course of 30 years to help in the construction of the $150 million courthouse.
“We basically passed a motion where we agreed on the Memorandum of Understanding. It needs to be properly prepared, and part of the understanding is that there are still details to work out on an inter-local agreement and fine tune it,” Mayor Garcia told reporters after the meeting. “We both passed a motion to pass the MOU agreed. It’s just formalities that are left, but we basically both approved the MOU as was generally agreed to.”
Details still in question include infrastructure costs, drainage and signaling, according to the mayor. Leaders will also work with TxDOT to eventually close the portion of Closner in front of the current courthouse in order to facilitate one-way “circular” traffic.
“I don’t know if there is anything we haven’t come to an agreement on, but these are going to be reduced to writing so we can sign a proper document,” Garcia said. “The inter-local is really what we are taking about as far as the contract itself. We had an MOU where we are agreeing to the inter-local, and we have to pass that as soon as the details are listed as we work them out. We had meetings with our lawyers and our financial advisors right now in executive session, and my understanding is we came to an agreement on everything.”
The MOU caps the city’s contribution at $30 million, or a contribution of at least 20 percent of the cost for the estimated $150 million project should the total cost be reduced.
“We are trying to do it with the cooperation of the city, which are very appreciative. We expect it to be a win-win type of project for both the city and county, but because of all the different legal issues that are involved and the financing issues that are involved and that needed to be clarified, that was something we have done as a result of this meeting,” said County Judge Ramon Garcia.
It’s my understanding that our county is now prepared to enter into this general Memorandum of Understanding, with the further understanding that there will be a further inter-local agreement prepared by the various legal departments; the city and the county and the different lawyers that we have hired.”
The courthouse plan drew small but vocal opposition. Members of the Objective Watchers of the Legal System (OWLS) who were in attendance derided the impending cost of the courthouse and its final design.
“We can’t afford this, and it looks like crap,” said OWLS spokesperson Fern McClaugherty, referring to the final design of the upcoming courthouse. “This is the ugliest building I have ever seen in my life. We were on the committee to decide whether we needed a new courthouse, and at the time ERO kept showing that it was going to be Spanish-style.
“This does not blend in with anything we have in Edinburg. We can’t afford this. They’re not going giving us a voice in it, other than to pay,” McClaugherty said.