Streets tapped for fixes

SAN BENITO — Amid heated debate, city commissioners have voted to push three street projects toward the top of the city’s repair list.

In a meeting Tuesday, Commissioners Esteban Rodriguez and Tony Gonzales requested commissioners step up repair work on Shafer Road from FM 509 to Whalen Road, Resaca Drive from Robertson Street to the Interstate 69 frontage road and Lasby Park Road from Poinciana Street to Stookey Road.

“I’m just trying to move the list forward,” Rodriguez told commissioners.

The project would cost an estimated $431,000, nearly the city’s entire $450,000 street budget, Rodriguez said in an earlier interview.

Mayor Ben Gomez and Commissioner Rene Villafranco opposed the move to bump up the streets’ repair over other street projects on the priority list.

“We cannot prioritize three streets as more important than other ones,” Gomez said. “All streets are important.”

Villafranco said streets in such subdivisions as El Jardin have “never been touched.”

“Why are we moving one street forward?” Villafranco asked. “All streets need repair.”

Commissioner Carol Lynn Sanchez said streets in such areas as the La Palma subdivision “are some of the worst streets in the city.”

Meanwhile, Gomez asked commissioners to hold off on approving the proposal until they meet in a workshop with Harlingen businessman and developer Humberto Zamora.

“He can teach us and help us re-do our streets — to fix most of our streets or some of our streets without the city being in debt,” Gomez said.

Gomez did not disclose details into any plan to repair streets without incurring debt.

Earlier this week, Rodriguez said he and Gonzales requested the three streets be bumped up on the priority list because “these are the ones in very, very serious condition,”

“Some of these citizens have been waiting over 20 years,” Rodriguez said, referring to street repairs.

Rodriguez said he and Gonzales proposed Lasby Road to be selected as a top priority because the street does not run along sidewalks children can use to walk to nearby Dr. Cash Elementary School and Miller Jordon Middle School.

“By the time they get to school, they’re all mud,” Gonzales told commissioners.

But Gomez said many streets do not have sidewalks.

Rodriguez said he and Gonzales proposed Resaca Drive’s selection because it is located near the popular Heavin Resaca Trail.

The request does not downplay the importance of repairing the city’s other streets, Rodriguez said.

“We have to start somewhere,” he said. “It wasn’t because other streets don’t matter. They all matter. These are decisions commissioners have to make.”

The city estimates repairing 70 streets on the list would cost about $7.6 million, Rodriguez said.

“It’s hard to choose (streets) when we’ve got limited funds,” he said. “There is a priority list. Every year it changes. We’re trying to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Rodriguez said commissioners are reviewing plans to boost the city’s street repair budget.

But he declined to disclose details.

However, the city does not plan to charge residents a so-called street maintenance fee, he said.

Last month, commissioners took no action after discussing Rodriguez’s proposal to charge residents a street fee to help fund more repairs.

“We are working as a commission to find more money to do more streets,” Rodriguez said earlier this week.

Prioritized street projects

Shafer Road from FM 509 to Whalen Road

Resaca Drive from Robertson Street to the Interstate 69 frontage road

Lasby Park Road from Poinciana Street to Stookey Road

Total estimated cost — $431,000