Projects supported by the city’s economic development corporation are moving forward, members of the corporation board learned Thursday.

City Economic Development Director Oriana Fernandez went over all of the Del Rio Economic Development Corporation (DREDC) projects that have been reviewed by the city council. Those projects include the expansion of lanes between the Del Rio Port of Entry and the international bridge and funding for marketing of American Airlines.

Fernandez first reviewed the proposed expansion of the cargo and SENTRI traffic lanes coming into the Del Rio Port of Entry from the international bridge.

Fernandez noted the project was proposed by Del Rio Port of Entry Director Liliana Flores in mid-2019. She said the DREDC board in October 2019 approved a motion to commit up to $1 million, to be paid in installments, for the design plan and the construction costs.

In January, the city council voted unanimously to amend the DREDC action and approved $54,000 toward the project’s preliminary design.

Fernandez read the board members an update on the project written by the city engineer: “The survey work is completed. We have altered the connection point, with U.S. CBP (Customs and Border Protection) approval, which will reduce costs. Still anticipate receiving preliminary design in late March. We won’t go back to council until we can show them the preliminary design and the initial cost estimate.”

Fernandez next moved to $40,000 in advertising support for American Airlines pledged by the DREDC.

“For this, I have been coordinating with our new public relations manager. We’re trying to get some fresh designs out with electronic billboards, social media and things of that nature. So by next month, I’ll have a better update for you,” Fernandez said.

After Fernandez completed her presentation, DREDC Board Member Manuel Pacheco asked what assistance, if any, the city planned to provide for completion of the U.S. Census.

“We’re 41 days away from it, and that’s a lot of money on the table. Everything from political representation to the monies that we get for education, housing, health care, Head Start, and so far, the only thing I’ve seen is postings for Census employees. Does the city have a campaign underway to let people know how important the Census is?” Pacheco asked.

“We’re sharing everything that’s been generated at the federal level for the U.S. Census, and we’re sharing it actively on our social media and our web site,” she replied.

She added she and Michael Garcia, the assistant to the city manager, as well as other staff members, have been discussing the topic.

“I feel that everything that we can do in our purview, we are doing,” Fernandez said.

She added she believed DREDC funds “were not appropriate” for use in promoting the Census.

“I agree with that assessment, that they’re not appropriate,” Pacheco said. “What I’m, saying is, the city has the built-in network, I would hope with the contacts you already have in place, with the school district, with the hospital district, with the county, that there would be some sort of way, some sort of concerted effort, to make sure that everybody gets counted.”

“Just because we can’t do something through the EDC; I’m going to be a big cheerleader for the Census because it’s that important. This is money in the bank for the next 10 years. I know that there’s still a lot of misinformation out there about the Census, and right now, people take their news, sadly, from their neighbor, but if we could have a message from the city, from the school, from the hospital, from the county, and keep hitting that message, I think it is well worth our time,” he added.

DREDC Board Member Eddie Amezcua Jr. suggested a statement from the EDC saying how important the Census is, and DREDC Board Member Rachel Beavan suggested the city use its utility bill to inform about the Census.

DREDC Chair Leo Martinez brought up another item of concern, he said he has been approached by several business people in town “saying that we have an issue with our utilities commission.”

“Since November of last year, they’ve been basically working without a quorum, so if anybody’s bringing any new projects to the commission for approval, they’re being tabled for now, so if you’re doing a replat or if you have some construction going, they’re at a standstill,” Martinez said.

Martinez noted he knows of several people who would be willing to serve on the commission.

Martinez asked Fernandez to forward his concerns about the commission to the appropriate city administrators.

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