New animal shelter, termination of JP post mulled

Cameron County Commissioners Court is researching whether it can divert funds from projects already on the drawing board to construct an animal shelter.

But there are differing views among commissioners on how to fund the proposed shelter.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Ernie L. Hernandez Jr. brought it before Commissioners Court at a meeting Tuesday.

Hernandez said after the session that commissioners have to be “fiscally responsible” and indicated that they might have been too quick to select the projects last year.

“We put too many eggs in one basket,” he said.

Hernandez said he offered to allot the $500,000 that had been allocated for a community center in his precinct in Olmito toward an animal shelter and suggested that the $1.3 million allocated for a multi-use center in Precinct 1 also could be shifted for the animal shelter. Sofia C. Benavides represents Precinct 1 on the court.

“Sofie doesn’t agree with me and I respect her position, but the money would be better utilized,” Hernandez said.

Benavides said that while she believes that animal shelters are needed, “I believe that we need to address our youth problems. He was going to build a community center and now all of a sudden it’s changed and I’m supposed to give up my project? It’s just as important to address children’s needs.”

Benavides said she is more than happy to work with fellow commissioners and the county judge to find funding, “but to change everybody else’s projects at this point is unfair.”

Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos said Commissioners Court needs to find out if shifting funds can be legally done.

“There is obviously some hesitancy (about shifting allocations),” Cascos said.

Cascos said he doesn’t want to follow the path of issuing bonds and taking on more debt, saying that a workshop would be held in several weeks to continue discussions.

In November 2011, Cascos told The Herald that none of the $23.6 million would be diverted to new initiatives. The comment was made after he, Hernandez and others had discussed diverting funds to convert a warehouse to jail cells.

Tuesday’s proposal to assist in building an animal shelter was lauded by animal advocates.

Teresa Saldivar, president of the Texas Humane Legislative Network Rio Grande Valley Chapter, said that a shelter is very important, “because the quality of life that we as humans lead is based also on how well we deal with the animals that live among us and how we handle them in trying to find them homes.”

Saldivar said that in fiscal year 2010-2011, a total of 1,918 animals had been euthanized in Cameron County. This is in addition to 8,014 animals euthanized in the city of Brownsville during the same period, she said.

Her assessment of Tuesday’s discussion at Commissioners Court was that it had been positive.

“We are satisfied with the way the discussions are going forward. Animal advocates are happy and we are here to help,” Saldivar said.

In other business, Cascos said that he, Hernandez and Commissioner David Garza were in favor of eliminating the Justice of the Peace Pct. 3 Place 1 post, while Benavides and Commissioner Dan A. Sanchez were not in favor, wanting to tie the elimination with creating another justice of the peace slot in Brownsville.

Julian Sanchez, who currently holds that justice position, was tending to a family matter and was not available for comment.

But Cascos said the elimination of the post at the end of Sanchez’s term this year is proposed because Sanchez publicly said he no longer intends to seek election; he has, however, filed as a candidate for a re-election bid.

A public hearing on the proposal to eliminate the post and possible action is on the agenda for Thursday’s 10:30 a.m. meeting of Commissioners Court.