EDCOUCH, RGV – State Rep. Terry Canales and U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa have taken great offense to claims that the Mercado Delta is being foist upon South Texas College.
In testimony before a Senate panel on Monday, STC President Shirley Reed said ““We were offered an abandoned farmers market that was an EDA property and this became a very fierce political football in our region. The whole genesis for creating a campus in the Delta was to force us to occupy that farmers market.”
Reed was testifying on legislation authored by Canales that instructs STC to put more resources into the Edcouch-Elsa-La Villa area. Reed and STC trustees say they are providing resources to the area but argue that a campus there would not work because the population is too small. They point out they provide buses from the Delta to the STC Mid-Valley campus in Weslaco.
“We are not asking for a campus. We are not asking for bricks and mortar. My intention and the community’s intention is that courses and programs be offered through the use of the school district’s facility,” Canales, D-Edinburg, told the Rio Grande Guardian, in a phone interview from the state Capitol on Wednesday. The school district he was referring to is Edcouch-Elsa ISD.
“What the school district is saying to STC is, you can come and use our buildings, our classrooms. We will maintain it, we will pay the electricity. Just bring our students warm bodies to teach.”
Congressman Hinojosa championed the Mercado Delta and helped secure a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to get it built and started. Hidalgo County’s Urban County Program chipped in with a $500,000 grant. Despite a lot of marketing the market was a commercial flop and now sits abandoned.
(To read the Rio Grande Guardian article on Dr. Reed’s testimony on Canales’ legislation, and that of STC board of trustees, click here.)
Canales said he believes Reed is confused. “I think Ruben Hinojosa wanted them to use it (Mercado Delta) if possible. But no one has forced them (STC) to take it. That was an option. We were trying to entice them into doing something for us, not force. You cannot force somebody to take something. We were saying, hey, we will give you a $2 million building if you come.”
Canales said Edcouch-Elsa ISD has told STC that it will buy more land and give it to STC, if the college provides courses and programs in the area. “We are at a point now where, if we can’t entice you then we will dictate to you that the resources need to be allocated evenly throughout Hidalgo County,” Canales said. “If they say everyone will want a campus, well, everyone is not 30 miles from the main STC campus.”
Canales said he and his office has no control over the Mercado. He said it is run by an independent board. “My understanding is that something is in the works to give it (the Mercado) to Edcouch-Elsa (ISD). The Mercado has been off the table since the beginning of all this. Dr. Reed is trying to put a dark cloud over what we are trying to do. The Mercado has nothing to do with it.”
Canales concluded the interview with what sounds like a potentially positive outcome. “We are in the process of discussing the expansion of higher education in the Delta with STC. There may be an agreement we can come to, to resolve whatever differences the community and STC have,” he said.
Patricia Guillermo, Congressman Hinojosa’s communications director, made this response to Dr. Reed’s testimony about the Delta Mercado: “The references by Dr. Reed concerning the Mercado Delta, or farmer’s market, are completely wrong in attempting to associate the two issues. The legislation makes no mention of including the Mercado. Talk to the mayor of Edcouch who is much more informed on this issue than Dr. Reed. They are two separate entities and I might add that the Mercado is being dealt with in a completely different situation.”
Canales’ legislation regarding higher education opportunities in the Delta – House Bill 382 – has been approved by the House and a Senate committee. It must now win majority support in the Senate. If that happens, the legislation will be on its way to the Governor’s desk for a signature. If that happens, it will become law.