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Rep. Muñoz: STC approves agreement with Pharr leaders that will result in creation of “landmark” South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured, from left: Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Thursday, July 9, 2015, following their presentations before the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s 84th Legislative Wrap-up Luncheon, held at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel in McAllen.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Plans to build the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr received final approval from the STC Board of Trustees on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, a move that will result in a multi-million dollar economic impact for the city while improving law enforcement throughout South Texas, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. On a unanimous vote – with District 5 Trustee Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr. of Edinburg excused on important business – the remaining six board members present for the public meeting approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will result in a major presence by STC on a 113.9 acre site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard. “Obviously, this is a huge step for the people of Pharr and the PSJA school district because it brings one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Texas into our community,” said Muñoz, whose House District 36 includes a large section of Pharr. “This is a landmark event, the latest success story in the Valley, and I congratulate the many people who worked long and hard to help make this happen.” The STC Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence was made possible in large part by Muñoz, who successfully authored House Bill 1887 last spring before the Texas Legislature. HB 1887 led to statutory authority for the STC to undertake the development of regional law enforcement training. “The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” Muñoz further explained. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.” The importance of establishing the STC complex in Pharr was emphasized during the State of the City Address on Wednesday, December 23, 2015, by Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernández. “We are proud to announce that we have entered into a partnership to have a South Texas College facility in Pharr,” proclaimed the mayor, who was elected to his first term in May 2o15. “The facility will bring $9 million in economic impact and approximately $3 million in payroll.” Hernández shared Muñoz’ vision of the potential for the complex, with the mayor calling it “an STC Branch for PSJA ISD students.” Muñoz, a three-term state legislator who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which shaped the current $200+ billion state budget, praised his fellow Valley lawmakers for helping pass the state law authorizing and helping fund the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety. “Sen. Juan Hinojosa was the Senate author of my House Bill 1887, while Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Bobby Guerra, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and Rep. Ryan Guillen were joint authors in the House, and they all deserve credit for this huge accomplishment,” said Muñoz. “There is no substitute for experience when it comes to getting what we deserve from the Texas Legislature.” According to STC, with the interlocal agreements with the city and school district be approved, it will take between 18 months and 24 months to build the 21,800 square-foot facility, which will be the initial heart of The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The project will include classroom facilities, vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, and administrative offices. The estimated initial construction cost is $6.782 million, which includes $4.2 million from South Texas College’s Series 2013 Bond Issuance, $1.5 million provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and $1 million provided by the PSJA school district. The City of Pharr will contribute 59 acres and the PSJA school district will contribute 10 acres to begin the project. Within two years, the City of Pharr has proposed contributing another 32.24 acres, and within five years, the City of Pharr proposes contributing 12.55 additional acres.

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South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety in Pharr, created by Rep. Muñoz, set for action this evening by STC Board of Trustees

Photograph By PETER SALINAS

Featured: Rose Benavidez, Member, Board of Trustees, South Texas College, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, in the underground annex of the Texas Capitol, during Community College Day on Thursday, February 3, 2015.

Photograph By PETER SALINAS

Pharr could soon see construction begin on the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety, to be located on a 113.9 site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard, as a result of House Bill 1887 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. On Tuesday, January 26, 2016 (today), the STC Board of Regents are scheduled to review and approve an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will see the landmark complex take shape, and with it, improve the quality of public safety in deep South Texas. The pending action is part of the STC Board of Trustees’ regular monthly meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Ann Richards Administration Building Board Room at the Pecan Campus in McAllen. Muñoz predicted the planned STC facility and site also will pave the way in the future for a branch campus – and possibly more – in Pharr, which is part of his House District 36 legislative district. “South Texas College is one of the best college systems in Texas, it is only one of a handful of community colleges in the state which offer university-level bachelor degrees, it is poised for greater growth, and it has helped transform the South Texas economy through its outstanding graduates who are as skilled and talented as they are numerous and in demand,” Muñoz said. “This is just the beginning for STC in Pharr.” The three-term state legislator, who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee which shaped the current $200+ billion state budget, praised his fellow Valley lawmakers for helping pass the state law authorizing and helping fund the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety. “Sen. Juan Hinojosa was the Senate author of my House Bill 1887, while Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Bobby Guerra, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and Rep. Ryan Guillen were joint authors in the House, and they all deserve credit for this huge accomplishment,” said Muñoz. “There is no substitute for experience when it comes to getting what we deserve from the Texas Legislature.” According to STC, once the interlocal agreements with the city and school district are approved, it will take between 18 months and 24 months to build the 21,800 square-foot facility which will be the initial heart of The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The project will include classroom facilities, vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, and administrative offices. The estimated initial construction cost is $6.782 million, which includes $4.2 million from South Texas College’s Series 2013 Bond Issuance, $1.5 million provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and $1 million provided by the PSJA School District. “The Regional Center for Public Excellence in Pharr shall increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Muñoz. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area do not.”

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McAllen’s city legislative agenda to include proposal for new, 100,000-square-foot, postgraduate higher education complex, says Rep. Gonzáles

Ciro Treviño, featured right, takes his oath of office on Wednesday, November 12, as he is sworn in for a new, four-year term on the Edinburg school board. Treviño, who faced two challengers – Carlos Ramos and Roger C. Bunch – earned more than 55 percent of the vote during the November 4 general election, accumulating 9,648 votes, compared with Ramos’ 6,059 (almost 36 percent) and Bunch’s 1,486 (almost nine percent) turnout. It was the first campaign race for both Ramos and Bunch against Treviño, a veteran political figure in the city and Hidalgo County. Extending a peace offering to his two challengers and their supporters, Treviño gave them credit for running a good race. “I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I am glad I did,” he said. “I think this was my hardest election, really, and I have had few. But we will do the best we can. I know we are all going to be working towards the same goals.” Justice of the Peace Charlie Espinoza administered the oath of office with Armando Barrera, the Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector who served as Treviño’s campaign treasurer, holding the Bible for Treviño. See related story later in this posting.

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Carmen González picked up almost 60 percent of the vote in her November 4 reelection bid for a second term against challenger – and former veteran ECISD board president – Gilbert Enríquez with 9,981 votes compared with 6,782 votes for her rival. González’ match with Enríquez was the most visible, through the use hard-hitting advertisements featured in the McAllen Monitor, and personal attacks on local, anonymous blogs on the Internet. “I know I am perceived by some that I am as a threat to their personal goals,” she said. “Believe me when I say that I know who I am, and that you know who I am, and why I am the way I am. I make no apologies.” González was sworn in by Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios, with González’ husband, Edward, holding the Bible upon which his wife placed her hand while taking her oath of office.  See story later in this posting.

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The McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Business Center have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to help small businesses. In October, the two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding which pledged both entities to work together to provide technical and training assistance to women-owned businesses in South Texas. For more information about the Women’s Business Center, call (956) 618-2828 or to reach the MHCC, call (956) 928-0060. Featured during the signing ceremony are, seated, from left:  María “Charo” Mann, chief executive officer and executive director for the Women’s Business Center, which is located in Edinburg, and Cynthia Sakulenzki, the president and chief executive officer for the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Standing, from left: José Leal, business advisor for the Women’s Business Center; Pam Garza, special events coordinator for the Women’s Business Center; and Elizabeth Martínez, managing editor for the South Texas Business Times and vice chair of membership for the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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Gilbert Enríquez, honored by Texas for integrity and public service, seeks return to ECISD board

Gilbert Enríquez, a former Edinburg school board president, also serves as executive vice-president of Enríquez Enterprises, Inc., one of the more renowned construction firms in the region. He said he is running for election to the school board on November 4 in order to continue helping the community which has helped shape his life. “I am here to help, to offer my leadership, skills, experience to everyone, to help everybody prosper, not one individual,” Mr. Enríquez pledged. “I never had any kind of ambition to be in politics or to be an elected official, but I felt I needed to give back to the district that provided me the education that got me to where I am today.” See lead story later in this posting.

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Former longtime Mayor Ronald Case, seen here on the right, passed away on Friday, September 19, Rep. Aaron Peña, a lifelong supporter of the popular city political leader, has announced. Case, who served as mayor from 1973 to 1981, was featured in this recent photo which included three other former Edinburg mayors with the state lawmaker.  Peña characterized the former mayor as being “the epitome of a gentleman public servant stepping forward to serve the community he loved. I am very proud to have been a friend and admirer of Mayor Case.”  From left are: former Mayor Richard Alamia; former Mayor Richard García; Rep. Peña; former Mayor Rudy De la Viña; and former Mayor Case.  See story later in this posting.

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Museum opens The Museum of South Texas History opened its newest exhibit, Edinburg: A Centennial Salute 1908 – 2008, on Wednesday, September 10. A ribbon cutting hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and a private viewing was held for Museum FRIENDS. Installed in the Upper Old Jail Gallery, this exhibit presents a sampling of photographs and artifacts from the museum’s collections and is organized into four themes: education;government; civic life; and commerce. One of the largest artifacts in the exhibit is a mural depicting Edinburg Junior College students and academic subjects.  This mural was painted by Joseph Brennan and Humberto Cavazos and was presented to the college by Emil Fossler, president of the sophomore class. The exhibit coincides with the Edinburg Centennial Committee’s city- wide celebration, October 5-10. Throughout the week, various organizations will host mini-celebrations, including Edinburg’s largest birthday cake, an essay contest, and a fireman’s parade. An open house will be held at the Museum of South Texas History on October 5, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. As a gift to the community, the museum will have free admission. Family activities include Edinburg Trivia, an Edinburg activity book, entertainment, refreshments, and, of course, a few shared words to commemorate the occasion. For a complete listing of the city wide celebrations, visit http://www.edinburg.com, or call 383-6911. Featured, from left: chamber board members Gus Casas; Cynthia Bocanegra; Maggie Kent; Shan Rankin, the museum’s executive director; Lee Cavazos; chairman-elect of the local chamber of commerce; and Willard Moon, chairman-elect of the board of directors for the museum.

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Dan Richards, son of former Gov. Ann Richards, featured left, celebrates with Dr. Shirley A. Reed, South Texas College president, and Othal Brand, Sr., former McAllen mayor, during the Tuesday, September 16 naming of the college’s Pecan Campus Administration Building in honor of the late state leader, who died on September 13, 2006.  The Democratic governor played a large role in the early 1990s in bringing the college to fruition, helping thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents realize their goals of attaining a higher education and a better quality of life.  See story later in this posting.

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Janet Escalante, Pedro de la Fuente and Lucio Torres are just three of the more than 22,000 students who have decided to continue their higher educations at South Texas College this fall. The landmark figure was reached at the two-county community college begins its 15th year anniversary.  See story later in this posting. (more…)