San Benito: Large Leaderboard

PHARR, RGV – In his 2018 State of the City Address on Thursday, Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez announced UT-Rio Grande Valley will soon have a presence in the city.

UTRGV is to build an aquatic center in Pharr, Hernandez said.

“Through the collaboration, the PSJA School District and our families will have the opportunity to use the indoor aquatic center for practice time and the hosting of competitive school swim meets throughout the year,” Hernandez said.

“Imagine that, our very own state-of-the-art facility here at home with significant additions in the area of sports medicine and rehabilitative services.”

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez

In addition, UTRGV’s School of Medicine is to develop a medical clinic campus in Pharr designed to improve access to primary and specialty care in the region. “This is only the beginning of greater things to come,” the mayor said.

Pharr has not been known as a city for higher education but in fact, Hernandez said, it will soon be home to three higher education institutions. In addition to UTRGV, one college has arrived and another is one the way.

Hernandez pointed out that last year, Rio Grande Valley College opened the doors to a 42,000 sq. ft. state of the art facility, becoming the first college in Pharr.

“RGV College provides high-quality education in the healthcare field and for the past three years has locally-held the highest-passing licensure rate in the Vocational Nursing Program. RGV College is currently in the process of establishing Associate Degree programs which will prove beneficial for the City of Pharr and the surrounding communities,” Hernandez said.

Also last year, Pharr broke ground for the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. Hernandez said the center will offer college-level certifications and professional training in public safety, law enforcement, border security, and fire science.

“We are in talks to have the center serve as a unique national model for homeland security that will accommodate the security, law enforcement and public safety training needs on a local, regional, state-wide, and national level,” Hernandez said.

In his State of the City address, held at the Pharr Events Center, Hernandez also gave a shout out to three Pharr schools that have have been recognized by the Texas Education Agency as Blue Ribbon schools. They are PSJA’s Carmen Anaya Elementary School, PSJA’s Cesar Chavez Elementary School, and Hidalgo ISD’s JC Kelly Elementary School.

Hernandez also discussed road construction, recreational activities and improvements to Pharr International Bridge. He said $200 million has been earmarked for roads, and $10 million has been spent on recreational activities.

On the subject of taxation and revenue collections, Hernandez said:

“Taxable sales in the City of Pharr increased by more than $17 million compared to last year, and approximately $133 million since taking office in 2015. Pharr International Bridge revenues increased 3.6 percent compared to last year, and ten percent since taking office in 2015. Pharr enjoyed $47.2 million in new retail and industrial development and $16.6 million in new residential and multi-family development since January 2017.”

Hernandez described his city commission and city staff as progressive. He said they decreased the property tax rate again, from 68 cents to 64.9 cents over the last three years.

“We also approved a reimbursement of water meter deposits for customers in good standing, providing real cash back in many citizens’ wallets,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez also highlighted three big events that have happened since the start of the new year.

“We hosted the grand opening of Index Fresh, 60,000 sq. ft. avocado ripening facility, marking the first fully-operational tenant in Pharr’s produce park, and many more to come. We also celebrated the grand opening of the South Pharr Development and Research Center, a multi-purpose community facility that aims to improve economic conditions for families in South Pharr.  We broke ground for one of the most highly-anticipated entertainment venues in the Rio Grande Valley, Topgolf, which now calls Pharr home.”

With regard to the Pharr International Bridge, Hernandez said the city was “reaping the benefits of the investment that our neighbors to the south have committed to modernizing the Reynosa Aduana port of entry.”

He said $80 million has been investment by Mexico into the Reynosa/Pharr port of entry. He said this highlights its importance in the region to promote cross-border trade.

“This project is expected to double capacity, efficiently streamline crossings, and reduce wait times,” Hernandez said.

“The Pharr International Bridge continues to make improvements to its infrastructure to allow for more efficient crossings, and to help our competitive advantage to continue. Through the federal Donation Acceptance Program and a more than $30 million investment, the projects include 2 new entry lanes, 2 new exit lanes, a dry inspection dock expansion, additional cold dock inspection rooms, and a regional agriculture and training center.”

Here are the prepared remarks for Mayor Hernandez’s 2018 State of the City Address:

Good Afternoon!

Thank you, and Welcome to the Great City of Pharr!!

I am Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, and I am proud to report that the state of our great city Pharr continues to be dynamic, growing, and better than ever! 

I want to thank all of you for joining us today, and especially, my family and my beautiful, supportive wife Cristina.

Thank you to my City Commission, city leadership team, and employees. Special thanks to all the elected officials here.

If you couldn’t tell from our grand entrance and song, this year’s theme is “We Built this City.”

Many of us have helped to lay the foundation of the past, a legacy of leadership pioneered by many great giants upon whose shoulders we stand.

Some of us, in our own way and through our own time and talents, have contributed to cultivating growth in our area:

Some, like me, have left and returned to our hometown – ready to serve

Some have helped lay the brick and mortar of our streets, our facilities, and our communities through hard work;

Many are raising their families and their children with a rich and vibrant cultural heritage of which we are all proud.

And some, like the children who helped us build this city today, are laying the groundwork to build our future – through their hopes, their dreams, and their grand ideas.

Together… We Built, and Continue to Build… This City.

As Mayor, I am privileged to work alongside a progressive City Commission, administration, and staff, all working toward the common, united goal of improving the quality of life for our Pharr families.

Together, we have enjoyed many successful accomplishments over the last twelve months.

Together, we are building our city.

Working together with our partners, we have earmarked more than $200 million in federal, state, and local funding to fix, expand, and reconstruct our roadways, to expand Owassa Road, and to repave more than 44 miles of residential city roads, $150 million to expand and improve the Pharr Interchange.

As a city commission, we invested more than $10 million in parks expansions and improvements to provide more outdoor recreational activities for our Pharr families to enjoy. 

A few weeks ago, we celebrated the ribbon cutting for the improvements to Jones Box Park, which expanded a walking trail, new basketball courts, and more… and this year, we will be celebrating ribbon cuttings for many more parks!

We were awarded more than $2 million from the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Tri-City Pedestrian Safety Improvements Project to improve access to safe sidewalks for pedestrians in the Pharr, San Juan, and Alamo areas, especially around our schools.

We were also awarded approximately half-a-million dollars for the Pharr Pedestrian Connections program to improve sidewalks within our city.

We lifted a brand-new, 1-million-gallon, elevated water tower in the northern part of the city that will increase Pharr’s capacity to add 10,000 new connections for future growth.

We helped our neighbors in need by providing 25 personnel to help in the rescue efforts of Hurricane Harvey, including 13 firefighters, 8 volunteer firefighters, and 4 radio technicians.

We continue to enjoy phenomenal and unprecedented growth, as shown in our healthy sales tax collections, increases in bridge revenues, and continued increases in residential and commercial development in Pharr.

Taxable sales in the City of Pharr increased by more than $17 million compared to last year, and approximately $133 million since taking office in 2015.

Pharr International Bridge revenues increased 3.6 percent compared to last year, and 10% percent since taking office in 2015.

Pharr enjoyed $47.2 million in new retail and industrial development and $16.6 million in new residential and multi-family development since January 2017.

And like all good stewards, we share our successes with our residents:

For the second time in three years, our Pharr City Commission made good on a promise to Pharr residents. We decreased the property tax rate again, from 68 cents to 64.9 cents in the last three years!

We also approved a reimbursement of water meter deposits for customers in good standing, providing real cash back in many citizens’ wallets.

We developed the Pharr Family Foundation Home Program with Affordable Homes of South Texas that will grant eighteen, previously unused lots to qualifying Pharr residents as a down payment for the construction of a new home. Through this innovative program, we will see an increase of more than one million dollars’ in property values to the City of Pharr, and accommodate 18 families within our community… a WIN-WIN for all! 

This year, we are breaking ground, we are building up, and we are boosting our economy, our opportunities, and our quality of life.

Eighteen days into the new year, we have already set the pace for what promises to be a phenomenal year. And there is much more on the horizon.

This past week alone, we celebrated multiple milestones on several projects. We hosted the grand opening of Index Fresh, 60,000 sq. ft. avocado ripening facility, marking the first fully-operational tenant in Pharr’s produce park, and many more to come!

We also celebrated the grand opening of the South Pharr Development and Research Center, a multi-purpose community facility that aims to improve economic conditions for families in South Pharr.

We broke ground for one of the most highly-anticipated entertainment venues in the Rio Grande Valley… Topgolf, which now calls Pharr home. 

We are excited at the opportunities that this new venue will bring to our community, and we look forward to enjoying the many memorable experiences to be had at Topgolf for years to come for our great city.

We are reaping the benefits of the investment that our neighbors to the south have committed to modernizing the Reynosa Aduana port of entry. This $80 million investment by Mexico into the Reynosa/Pharr port of entry highlights its importance in the region to promote cross-border trade. This project is expected to double capacity, efficiently streamline crossings, and reduce wait times.

The Pharr International Bridge continues to make improvements to its infrastructure to allow for more efficient crossings, and to help our competitive advantage to continue.  Through the federal Donation Acceptance Program and a more than $30 million investment, the projects include 2 new entry lanes, 2 new exit lanes, a dry inspection dock expansion, additional cold dock inspection rooms, and a regional agriculture & training center.

Just yesterday, the Texas Education Agency announced that 26 schools from across the state of Texas have been nominated for the prestigious national Blue Ribbon Award. According to TEA, this award recognizes schools “where students perform at very high levels or where exemplary progress has been made toward closing the achievement gaps among subpopulations while maintaining high achievement levels among all students.”  

Out of the thousands of schools in Texas, only 26 were chosen to exemplify the best and three of those are in the City of Pharr:

  – PSJA’s Carmen Anaya Elementary School

  – Also from PSJA Cesar Chavez Elementary School, and 

  – JC Kelly Elementary School of Hidalgo ISD

Congratulations to PSJA and Hidalgo ISD, and all other Blue Ribbon Award Recipients in our region!

This year will mark a very important turning point in Pharr and a wonderful opportunity for our community and its citizens – Pharr will soon have three higher education institutions located in our city – two colleges and, one major university!!!

Last year, Rio Grande Valley College opened the doors to its 42,000 sq. ft. state of the art facility, becoming the first college in Pharr. RGV College provides high-quality education in the healthcare field and for the past three years has locally-held the highest-passing licensure rate in the Vocational Nursing Program. RGV College is currently in the process of establishing Associate Degree programs which will prove beneficial for the City of Pharr and the surrounding communities.

Last year, we broke ground for Pharr’s second institution of higher education with the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The center will offer college-level certifications and professional training in public safety, law enforcement, border security, and fire science. 

We are in talks to have the center serve as a unique national model for homeland security that will accommodate the security, law enforcement and public safety training needs on a local, regional, state-wide, and national level.

And now, It is my distinct pleasure to announce today that our friends and partners at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the School of Medicine, under the direction of UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey and Dean John Krouse will now have a footprint in our great city.

Through their leadership, the city of Pharr will become the home of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley aquatic center.

Through the collaboration, the PSJA School District and our families will have the opportunity to use the indoor aquatic center for practice time and the hosting of competitive school swim meets throughout the year.

Imagine that, our very own state-of-the-art facility here at home with significant additions in the area of sports medicine and rehabilitative services.

The School of Medicine will also develop a medical clinic campus in our community that will help improve access to primary and specialty care in the region and for Pharr families!

This is only the beginning of greater things to come!!

In commemoration of our successes, in the middle of my term as Mayor, I wanted to memorialize the accomplishments we have enjoyed and the vision we have for Pharr’s future.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our new Pharr City Seal:

The Pharr City Commission adopted the city seal on January 2, 2018. We wanted to represent the following themes, which are specific and meaningful to Pharr.

  • The green rows represent the historical significance of agriculture in our area. They transition into the pages of a book, which represents the transition over time to an educated workforce.
  • The bridge represents Pharr International Bridge’s status as the number 1 land port of entry for produce.
  • The rays above the bridge honor Pharr’s former motto – “On the Rise.”
  • Under the bridge is Pharr’s city skyline – honoring Pharr’s historic downtown corridor and also representing Pharr’s continued expansion of storefront and retail development.
  • The symbols on the buildings highlight the move to higher-paying jobs and opportunities in new industries – education, healthcare and public safety.
  • Finally, the four words at the bottom of the seal are Pride, Progress, Community and Learning, pillars of the city that demonstrate the immense value we place on these ideals.

Last year we unveiled the inaugural Leo “Polo” Palacios Service Award, awarded annually to a member of our community.

I would now like to ask our Service Award namesake, and last year’s recipient, Mr. Leo “Polo” Palacios, to join me on stage to present this year’s award.

This year’s recipient has been a longtime staple in our community for many years, carries the torch of service and pride for our community, and embodies the four pillars on our new city seal:

PRIDE – One must have a great sense of pride in his career, his work, and his personal and professional history to be able to be successful in his field for so many years. Our recipient demonstrates his pride for our community by telling its stories – truthfully, honestly, and impartially.

PROGRESS – As publisher of a local weekly print newspaper, he works diligently to tell our stories. In these interesting times, we are witnessing a challenge to our first amendment and freedom of the press like never before. A successful news organization is one that is willing to progress with the times while maintaining the highest journalistic integrity.

COMMUNITY – A clearinghouse for our community, our recipient gathers together our community’s stories, weaving together a narrative of new beginnings, loved ones’ passings, important and notable news, and a mix of supportive and critical commentary where relevant. Thank you for preserving our community’s stories.

LEARNING – Supportive of education and learning, our recipient shares stories of educational excellence, innovative educational projects, and celebratory successes from our local educational partners. Again, thank you for supporting learning and education in our community!

Without further ado, it is my distinct honor to present the 2018 Leo “Polo” Palacios Service Award to Gregg Romero Wendorf!

I would like to once again thank all our sponsors for their generous support. Because of your generosity, ZERO tax dollars were used to host this event. In fact, our sponsor contributions exceeded the cost of today’s event, and as was the case last year, we are donating our proceeds to local nonprofit organizations in Pharr that serve our citizens.

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to present the following checks in the amount of $5,000 to the three community nonprofit organizations in the City of Pharr.

  • They are building the arts and culture community;
  • they are building science and engineering interest for our children’s future; and
  • they are helping to rebuild the lives of those affected by addiction.

I’d like to present the first check for $5,000 to the Pharr Community Theater, represented by:

Artistic Director Pedro Garcia and Stage Manager Nela De La Garza

I’d like to now present a check for $5,000 to FirstRGV, represented by:

President Jason Arms and Vice-President Milly Hernandez.

 At this time, I would like to present a check for $5,000 to Outcry in the Barrio, represented by:

Pastor Carlos Arenas and Bonnie Cabello

We hope that this small contribution will help you continue the work you do to provide opportunities for our citizens in Pharr and across the Rio Grande Valley. Thank you again for all you do to support our community. We wish you the best of luck and many more successes!

As we approach the end of this year’s State of the City Address, there is one more way we will be memorializing this moment in time. In celebration of the City of Pharr’s 109th birthday, which we will be celebrating with a free community birthday party later today, we are asking for the help of everyone in the audience.

On your table, we have cards asking for a message from you for the future. These message cards, along with photos from the photo booths, and other mementos and relics, will be placed into a time capsule and buried underground, to be opened after 50 years.

Capturing this moment in time will help our future generation of leaders and community members recognize and understand the historical context of our present, which will be their past, and provide a snapshot of Pharr as we now know it. 

In 50 years, Pharr will look very different, and I look forward to our future leaders uncovering this buried treasure we will have left them. As you write your message of hope for our future, we are building our city, and together, we will leave our legacy for our future generations!

On behalf of my colleagues on the Pharr City Commission, administration and employees, I want to thank you for attending today’s State of the City Address. We look forward to all our future growth and progress in the upcoming year, and we wish you and yours a happy and prosperous 2018!

Mission EDC: Large Leaderboard