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EDINBURG, RGV – When the Rio Grande Valley suffered the heavy rains of June 20 and 21, OWLS members went around Edinburg taking photos of which areas were flooded and which were not.

The watchdog group found that the downtown courthouse square was badly flooded. However, the La Sienna master-planned development owned by Burns Brothers, where 20 acres have been offered to Hidalgo County leaders for a new courthouse, was not. There, millions of dollars of infrastructure had ensured drainage was excellent.

“The land over there at La Sienna is high and dry with plenty of room for parking. This is a good reason to put the new courthouse there,” said OWLS leader Fern McClaugherty.

La Sienna is a 726-acre master-planned development located in Edinburg near the intersection of I-69 Central and Monte Cristo Road. It comprises three residential subdivisions and a commercial area. The 20 acres of land that has been offered to Hidalgo County for a new courthouse is worth about $4.3 million.

When the OWLS went to see how much flooding La Sienna had they were shocked to see there was none at all. This was in stark contrast to downtown Edinburg.

McClaugherty said she tried to show the photos the OWLS had taken during the flooding at this past week’s Hidalgo County Commissioners Court meeting. “County Judge Ramon Garcia did not allow us to show the photos,” McClaugherty said.

Objective Watchers of the Legal System (OWLS), a watchdog group, went around the city of Edinburg to take pictures of the flooding. A lot of flooding occurred where the current courthouse is and the businesses surrounding it.

Hidalgo County Commissioners Court is planning to build a new courthouse at the same site, but members of OWLS disagree because the area is prone to flooding and is not easy to reach from the expressway.

“I wanted the commissioners and the county judge to know that the people living here in Edinburg are not stupid,” McClaugherty said. “We’ve lived here long enough. We know what the water does. Why in the world would you build a new courthouse in the same hole that we have? And there’s no parking for the public. No one in their right mind builds in the hole when you have the option of moving [it elsewhere].”

One reason why the City of Edinburg might be flooding is because there is no more room in a holding pond located south of Lake James, McClaugherty claimed. She said the City of Edinburg allowed Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and the City of McAllen to “flush their water” in Edinburg’s city drain.

“That’s why we were not able to hold all the water. Our water couldn’t go anywhere because the drainage ditch was overflowing on Canton and Jackson. We never had that kind of problem before until this was allowed,” McClaugherty said.

“We have pictures of how high the water was in the holding pond. It looked like a huge lake. It looked like Lake James had a sister lake. I’ve always understood that no other city can dump their water on another city.”

McClaugherty added: “The only thing we care about and have always cared about is doing right by the people and making sure the taxpayers’ money is being spent correctly with this courthouse.”

Asked for a wrap-up remark, McClaugherty said: “We know where the areas that flood are. We know what actions produce greater potential for flooding, like covering a drain canal to expand a parking lot. People need to vote to reduce taxes and utilize public funds better. The public pays the price of poor financial planning, but that can be changed.”

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