City set to spend your fees for street repairs

HARLINGEN — Utility customers are funding most of the city’s new $1.8 million street repair program.

A year after city commissioners approved the so-called street maintenance fee, the surcharge is expected to pump more money into street repairs.

During its first year, the monthly fee charging homes $4.50 has raised about $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, $354,432 from the Community Development Block Grant program is funding the remainder of the new street program.

The city is expected to launch its new road repair program in about two weeks.

Some critics have called the surcharge a “hidden tax” appearing in residents’ monthly utility bills.

But City Manager Dan Serna describes the street maintenance fee as an exclusive kitty earmarked specifically to fund annual street repairs.

“This fee allows us the opportunity to fund road improvements on a consistent basis year after year to ensure that our residents have new and improved roadways as they make their way through the city — as they deserve,” Serna stated.

This year, the surcharge will help repair 19 streets across most of the city.

The street list was taken from a 15-year master list.

Criteria used to select streets included street conditions and volume of traffic.

“The scope of the work includes reconstruction, overlay, milling and base repairs depending on the condition of each roadway,” city spokeswoman Irma Garza stated.

In the past, the city has funded its annual street programs through its general fund budget and federal Community Development Block Grant account, setting aside about $1.5 million a year for street repairs.

Now, the street maintenance fee is pumping more money into the account, City Engineer Ponciano Longoria said.

“It’s gone up tremendously,” Longoria said.

In March, commissioners awarded the project to Earthworks Enterprise, which presented a low bid of $1.2 million.

Earthworks’ low bid allowed the city to add street projects to their list.

Longoria, who previously served as a city engineer for Edinburg, said the company has performed high-quality, timely work.

Serna said Earthworks is bonded for the $1.8 million project.

Now, the city is wrapping up a $1.5 million project that has repaired 19 streets.

This past week, crews were paving the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Dixieland, where crews reconstructed a stretch from Garrett Road to the juncture.