With federal stimulus money filtering down to the state level, Nueces County Pct. 2 Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria is hoping to find funding for several projects in Western Nueces County.
Longoria received permission from the court earlier this month to submit pre-application paperwork to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program for $5.6 million in proposed projects.
Two of those applications are for projects at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds that did not receive funding in the county's allocation of $6.9 million in bond money earlier this month after the proposed Heritage Center was voted down.
The first grant, for $1,653,000 would fund the construction of a new 100 stall horse barn, doubling the capacity of the fairground's current 100 stall horse barn. In addition to providing added convenience for rodeo operators and other event organizers, the added stalls would also bring new revenue to the fairgrounds, Longoria said.
"From what I understand, when they put their horses in there the owner pays to put their horse there," Longoria said. "I look at it as it's going to generate funds for us."
A second grant application would provide $650,000 in additional parking and covered walkways at the fairgrounds, two items Longoria had fought for during the bond reallocation but eventually dropped.
A third grant would provide $2 million in funding for renovations to the Calderon Public Building in Robstown. Although that building is located in Pct. 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz's area, Longoria said she obtained permission from Ortiz to include the building with her grant applications. The proposed $2 million would be used for extensive renovations to the building, including bringing it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Longoria said she would have preferred to tear down the aging facility and build a new structure, but the costs were too prohibitive.
A fourth project would provide $1.6 million to construct a new community center in Agua Dulce that would also consolidate county offices in that region.
The county currently has a building that houses offices for a constable, a justice of the peace and the City of Agua Dulce, and there is an additional facility across the street that is used by Community Action.
Longoria said the proposed funding would allow the county to tear down the building used by Community Action, an aging structure that at one time was a restaurant, and build a new facility on the site. That building would then house the Community Action programs, the justice of the peace and the constable, and the current county building would be turned over to the City of Agua Dulce.
If the pre-applications are approved, Longoria would then go back to the commissioners court to ask for more extensive applications, including proposed matching funds and in-kind aid as needed.
When she brought these proposed applications up in a meeting earlier this month, several other commissioners expressed an interest adding their own projects to the applications. Longoria said they are welcome to send their own applications, but her programs will not be delayed.
"I was out there busy, doing my job. I'm not going to hold it up for anyone, for any project," Longoria said. "They need to make the time to get their projects together and do the same thing I did."