Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rio Grande City CISD Board Recognizes Wrestling Team

The Rio Grande City CISD Board of Trustees commended the Rio Grande City High School Wrestling Team for having won the district championship and qualifying for state competition. Mr. Ronald Pratt (Wrestling Coach) is very proud of all of the students and congratulated them for all of their hard work. "Passion, dedication, and desire have taken the students to this level," said Pratt. Mr. Basilio Villarreal, Jr. (RGCCISD Board President) congratulated the students on behalf of RGCCISD and the whole community. "You have put Starr county on the map and we are extremely proud," he said. (Pictured with the students is Mr. Roel A. Gonzalez-Superintendent, Coach R. Pratt, RGCCISD Board President Mr. Basilio Villarreal, Jr., Board Members-Mr. Cesar Gonzalez, Mr. Ruben Klein, Mr. Noe R. Gonzalez and Mr. Francisco "Paco" Zarate.) RGCCISD Photo.


At their regular monthly meeting on Monday morning, March 8, the County Commissioners discussed two viable options for financing of the upcoming solid waste transfer station.

Federal/State Programs Coordinator Rafael Montalvo stated, “Our depository has indicated verbally that they are willing to provide a loan at 3.25 percent interest. There are strong loan possibilities from NADBANK; they’ve expressed willingness to reimburse a CD loan.”

County Judge Eloy Vera suggested, “Borrowing the money is the fastest route. Hopefully we can be reimbursed. Our I&S Fund is sufficient to cover repayment without any tax increase.”

Montalvo explained, “Our depository is willing to do 100 percent financing.”

The commissioners then approved seeking a construction loan from Lone Star Bank, with the understanding that a NADBANK loan or grant would be the primary mechanism if it comes through, even at a late stage.

Elections Administrator Montalvo told the commissioners, “Today, provisional ballots (from the March 2 elections) will be counted. It’s up to the Elections Board to decide how many votes will be counted.”

He added, “There will be one runoff, in a J.P. race. There will be one early voting site and one election day site, since there are no statewide runoffs.”

The commissioners were told that International Bridge revenues for February 2010 totaled $187,354.50, a decrease of $26,805.50 from the February 2009 figure of $214,160. The February 2010 amount showed a decrease of $23,476 from the January 2010 total of $210,830.50.

Judge Vera emphasized, “We’ll just have to weather the storm (caused by violence in Mexico).”

The Sheriff’s Department reported that Detention Center revenues for February 2010 totaled $115,011.54, with $103,488 coming from the U.S. Marshals Service. On Monday, March 8, there were 124 federal inmates and 104 county inmates for an overall count of 228 inmates.

Vera noted, “I did notice there was a small increase in federal inmates.”

The commissioners approved a proclamation from Border Region MHMR proclaiming “Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” in Starr County.

The commissioners approved a resolution that the Crime Victim Assistance Program continue to be operated in Starr and Jim Hogg Counties in 2010-2011.


The District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Rangers are continuing to probe allegations of possible irregularities involving mail-in ballots in the March 2 primary elections.

District Attorney Heriberto Silva told The Rio Grande Herald on March 4, “I’m investigating whether 112 mail-in ballots delivered to the Post Office were delivered in violation of the statute.”

Silva emphasized, “Right now these are merely allegations. We will follow up and investigate the allegations.”

“The envelopes were impounded, not the ballots,” explained the D.A. “I did not take custody of the ballots, but the envelopes and applications for mail-in requests.”

Silva stated, “We were told by the (Rio Grande City) Postmaster and the Texas Rangers that there is an issue regarding mail-in ballots. The Postmaster contacted his superior and the Rangers contacted our office. I started an investigation based on what the Ranger told me.”

Silva continued, “I requested that the Ranger take custody of the ballots. I got a court order from District Judge Garza that the ballots be impounded…We made the request on Monday (March 1); the ballots were impounded on Tuesday (March 2).”

The official explained, “The allegation is that the mail-in ballots, a total of 112, were delivered without the ballots being signed on the outside…If it’s not your ballot and you deliver it, you have to sign the outside of the ballot.”

Silva pointed out, “Anyone who assists the voter (casting a mail-in ballot) must sign that they provided the assistance.”

“I consulted with the (Texas) Secretary of State’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office,” he declared, “I am requesting the Rangers’ continued assistance.”

During the middle of last week, KRGV-TV, Channel Five reported that a recount would be taking place in the District Clerk’s race. After ballots were counted, incumbent Eloy R. Garcia, seeking a second term, held an 88-vote lead over challenger Dave “Chachi” Jones. Garcia received 3169 votes, or 50.7 percent, to 3081 votes, or 49.3 percent, for Jones.

The Rio Grande Herald attempted to contact Silva on Monday, March 15, but was unable to reach him.

The Herald also tried to contact Elections Administrator Rafael Montalvo on Monday, but was unable to reach him.


Attorney Gema Lucia Lopez formally inaugurated her law practice in Rio Grande City on Feb. 23, 2010. The grand opening was a huge success, despite the bad weather. The new attorney was surrounded by her family, friends and colleagues.

Gema will be practicing immigration law, criminal defense, family law and civil litigation.

The attorney stressed, “This is a dream come true for me. I’m so grateful for all the support of the community.” Gema went on to thank all who attended. She stated that her family played a huge part in her accomplishments.

Gema is starting out her solo practice, hoping to become an active member of the community.

“My family and I are very proud of Gema,” said proud sister Petra Garza. “Our father, Hermenegildo Lopez, always said, ‘Mija va a ser una gran abogada.’”

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The Starr County Democratic primary elections of Tuesday, March 2 was highlighted by a razor-thin District Clerk race in which the incumbent held a lead of 88 votes out of more than 6200 cast after the counting of votes was complete.

The vote count indicated that Eloy Garcia, seeking re-election to a second term as District Clerk, garnered 3169 votes to 3081 for challenger Dave “Chachi” Jones. Garcia gained 50.7 percent of the votes cast to 49.3 percent.

As of late last week, it seemed a strong possibility that a recount would take place in the District Clerk’s contest.

On Thursday, March 4, District Attorney Heriberto Silva indicated that his office and the Texas Rangers are investigating an issue involving mail-in ballots.

Silva stated, “More than a handful of ballots are in question; a total of 112 ballots have been impounded…The envelopes were impounded, not the ballots. I did not take custody of the ballots, but the envelopes and applications for mail-in requests.”

Silva explained, “I’m investigating whether 112 mail-in ballots delivered to the Post Office were delivered in violation of the statute.”

Silva emphasized, “Right now these are merely allegations. We will follow up and investigate the allegations.”

The Rio Grande Herald will print more information about the mail-in issue in the near future.

Voting in the Precinct Seven Justice of the Peace race resulted in a runoff scheduled for April 13. Incumbent Johnny Garcia received 180 votes to 121 and 106 for challengers Julian Gonzalez, Jr. and Raul Vidal. As the challenger receiving the most votes, Gonzalez qualified for the April 13 runoff. Garcia received 44.33 percent of the vote to 29.80 for Gonzalez and 25.86 for Vidal.

There were three other contested Justice of the Peace races. Precinct Four incumbent Homero Garcia defeated challenger Martin Martinez by a margin of 1091-655, or 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent.

Precinct Six incumbent Ramon De La Cruz defeated challenger Jorge Bazan by a count of 722-547, receiving 56.9 percent to 43.1 percent for Bazan. Precinct Five incumbent Antonia S. Trevino won an overwhelming victory over challenger Francisco Herrera by a margin of 240-44, or 84.9 to 15.1 percent.

In statewide races, Bill White, former mayor of Houston, carried Starr County with 1888 votes to 1549 for Farouk Shami, his closest challenger. White received 43.35 percent to 35.57 for Shami. Felix (Rodriguez) Alvarado garnered 569 votes, or 13.07 percent.

White easily won statewide with over 70 percent of the vote. He will go on to face incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry in November. Perry defeated challengers Kay Bailey Hutchison, an incumbent U.S. senator, and Debra Medina in the Republican primary.

RGC Rattler Baseball Team participates in Tournament

On Thursday March 4, the Rio Grande City Rattler Baseball Team participated at the Tony Rico Invitational Tournament in Weslaco. In the first game, the Rattlers pounded the Weslaco East Wildcats 21-1 Junior Alex Morin drove in 8 RBI’s and went 4 for 4 at the plate. Angel Alaffa threw 4 shutout innings and received the win for the Rattlers. On Friday March 5, 2010 the Rattlers pounded the Progresso Red Ants 24-0 and finished the game in 1 ½ innings. In the second game the Rattlers beat Mission Veterans 6-5 and won the pool play 1st seed.

Sophomores Jose Martinez, Phiilip Guzman and freshman Victor Fuentes all pitched for the Rattlers. On Saturday, the Rattlers beat Edcouch Elsa 14-0 to advance to the championship game at Weslaco Panther Stadium. The Rattlers again faced Mission Veterans and continued their excellent play to beat Mission Veterans 7-4 in the grand finale. After the game Coach Ricardo Lopez announced the All Tourney team. Freshman Victor Fuentes was awarded the Tournament Most Valuable Player, Junior Alex Morin, Sophomore Alex Olvera, Sophomore Phillip Guzman and Senior Osiel Islas all received All Tourney honors. The Rattlers will next play in the Calallen Tournament in Corpus Christi. Congratulations Rattlers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The 2010 Starr County Youth Fair, which reached its peak from Thursday, Feb. 25 through Saturday, Feb. 27, has been called a strong overall success, and this is being evaluated as a remarkable achievement considering the continued shaky economy.

This year’s Fair featured a three-day format from Thursday through Saturday for the third consecutive year. For many years, the peak of the Fair took place during a three-day period from Friday through Sunday. The Fair Parade took place on Saturday morning, and the Parade of Champions and Auction both took place late Saturday afternoon.

The theme of the 2010 County Fair was “A Good Ol’ Starr County Roundup.”

The Grand Champion Steer, shown by Lilith Alvarez of Rio FFA, was purchased for a $7500 premium by the “Stars for Starr” sponsors. The Reserve Champion Steer, shown by Brittany Gonzalez of Rio FFA, was purchased for a $5000 premium by Stars for Starr. As in the past several County Fairs, the “Stars for Starr” group pooled funds together to purchase grand and reserve champion projects in numerous categories.

A full list of the Parade of Champions is printed elsewhere in this edition of The Rio Grande Herald.

Fair Association President Billy Canales told The Herald on Monday, March 8, “I think it went pretty well. The cold and windy weather slowed things down somewhat Thursday night. We had recordbreaking attendance Saturday night.”

Canales emphasized, “All in all, we had an excellent Fair…I think we did really well considering the shaky economic situation…Enthusiasm about the Fair seemed to be as strong as ever.”

“People seemed to be happy with the quality of the Fair,” he commented. “Baking and Art seemed to be enjoyed by everyone…There were quite a few livestock entries; the number seemed to hold its own with last year, as did the numbers of Baking and Art entries. Interest among the students seemed to be as strong as ever.”

Canales stressed, “The volunteers were tremendous this year, doing an excellent job in every respect…We thank all the sponsors and volunteers for their efforts. We look forward to an even better Fair next year.. We also thank all those who came out and enjoyed the Fair.”

The Fair Association president noted, “We did build and complete the new office complex within the Fairgrounds (during the past year). That’s where the baking competion took place.”

Among this year’s Fair features, indicated Canales, was that “we had the trailer from Texas Parks and Wildlife again with different stuffed animals on display.”

Canales contended that the Wild Game Dinner on Feb. 20 “went very well, considering the troubled economic situation.”

The president commented, “The talent show on Friday night was an excellent feature. Attendance and participation were both great. It was well received by the public.”

He noted that the Rio Grande City Police Department, the Starr County Sheriff’s Department, and the Rio Grande City CISD Police Department “all provided security within the grounds…The Border Patrol provided security and kept an eye on things outside the complex.”

About the coming years, Canales predicted, “I think the future looks excellent. I think the quality of the Fair gets better with each passing year. I look forward to a better economic situation in future years.”

Tissa Peterson, active with the Fair for many years, emphasized, “There were a lot of parade floats. The evening entertainment was very well received.The ranch rodeo for kids was well received and enjoyed. The weather was very good for most of the Fair. It was a ‘Good Ol’ Roundup’ in terms of participation and talent. Volunteers were plentiful in all aspects.”

Peterson pointed out, “There were a lot of entries in all categories, including Baking, Arts and Crafts, Educational Posters and Adult Arts and Crafts.”

She noted that on Thursday and Friday, “There were Public School Days in which more than 2500 students were bused in on Thursday and Friday, both morning and afternoon, for educational field trips. Oscar Mariscal did live demonstrations on how to shoe a horse…The Starr County Farm Bureau had a cotton gin demonstration.”

Peterson explained that the 2010 Fair featured “the petting zoo and pony show and the Super Comedy Show which included juggling and unicycling. A real crowd pleaser were the performances of the dance teams from Rio Grande City and Roma. This went on all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

Peterson noted in conclusion, “The Trail Ride, dedicated to the memory of Roland Mancha, was the biggest and best ever.”

Emma Gonzalez served as the Parade Marshal for the 2010 County Fair Parade on Saturday morning, Feb. 27.

County Fair Queen Andrea Rae Noles presented trophies to the grand and reserve champions during the Parade of Champions late Saturday afternoon. Also honored during the Fair were Teen Princess Annike Karen Nunez, Pre-Teen Princess Eliza Briana Rodriguez, Petite Princess Ilani Solis and Precious Princess Jayda Vianey Garza.

Recipients of Fair Association scholarships were also announced. Crystal Lee Perez of San Isidro High School was awarded the $2000 Heraldo Gonzalez, Jr. Memorial Scholarship. The second ranking recipient was Jaime Requenez of San Isidro High School, who was awarded a $1500 scholarship. The other scholarship recipients at $1000 each were Stacey Garcia and Stephanie Saenz of Rio Grande City High School, Juan Escobar and Jorge A. Gonzalez II of Roma High School, and Oscar Longoria, Jr. and Jose Angel Valdez, Jr. of San Isidro High School.

In the Parade on Saturday morning, Feb. 27, My Sweet Home Home Healthcare, LLC won first place in the Youth Float category and was awarded a $100 premium. The first place float carried the theme “Roundin’ Up the Best Healthcare in Town!” Cactus Country Princesses won second place and a $75 premium. North Grammar Elementary and Rattler 4-H Club won third and fourth place and were awarded premiums of $75 and $25, respectively.

In the Commercial Float category, Rio Grande City Rehabilitation won first place honors. Primera Iglesia Bautista, Lacks Roundup and Mi Casita finished second, third and fourth, respectively.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


County officials, especially those in the law enforcement field, are continuing to keep a wary eye on worsening violence in the border areas of northern Mexico and preparing to deal with a possible spillover of the turmoil into Starr County and the remainder of the Valley.
County Judge Eloy Vera told The Rio Grande Herald on Friday, Feb. 26, “We are very concerned. All our law enforcement entities are on high alert. We’re in regular contact with state and federal entities. At this point, things are fine on the U.S. side.”
During the past two weeks, reports indicate that long-simmering violence has seriously escalated in areas of Mexico bordering Starr County. There have been widespread rumors and some concrete reports of gun battles in Miguel Aleman, Camargo, Mier and Guerrero. News reports indicate at least several police officers in Mier were abducted in an incident last week. Streets of Miguel Aleman were reported to be deserted after a gun battle last week.
The violence throughout the border area and much of Mexico is believed by some to be a conflict between one or more drug cartels and the “Zetas”, previously a military arm of one of the cartels.
Judge Vera commented on Monday, “Rumors about the situation in Mexico are very rampant. Facts are hard to come by. It (the violence) will without a doubt have serious implications for bridge traffic. Traffic on the bridge (at Roma) is down to virtually nothing. I hope things improve, but I don’t know how long this situation will linger. I don’t know when the situation will return to some degree of normality.”
“The Sheriff’s Department is in constant communication with state and federal law enforcement entitities,” stressed the judge. “They are all sharing resources and manpower…Authorities are keeping a close eye on the bridges.”
Vera declared, “Nobody seems to have a full understanding of why this unrest is going on.”
The judge declared it is his understanding that “there have been at least several fatalities in Mier, Miguel Aleman and other Mexican communities close to the border (in the past week or so).”

Roma High School SkillsUSA Students Qualify for State


By Ricky Pérez
Harlingen, TX – The annual District 13 SkillsUSA conference was held here on the campus of Texas State Technical College February 19-20, 2010. SkillsUSA is the only national organization for high school and college students in technical, skilled and service careers, including health careers and is designed to develop students into a well-rounded person with technical, academic, and “employability” skills, the skills that not only help you get a job but also have a successful career. Roma High School SkillsUSA students joined other Rio Grande Valley school district local chapters that make up District 13 in entering their respective projects for competition in Automotive Trades, Building Trades, and Media Technology. In Automotive Trades, individual projects including starter motor, alternators and engine rebuild were entered into competition. Automotive Trades students also entered a Team in the automotive Quiz Bowl and the team from Roma High, Jonathan Gutiérrez, Rolando González, Jonathan Chávez, Osiel Canales, and Jesús Reyna won 1st Place to advance to state. Also advancing to state are two team projects and one individual project in engine rebuild, three individual starter motor projects, and one individual alternator project. In Building Trades, ten total individual projects were entered into competition and four qualified for State. The other six projects were rated excellent (the four possible ratings are Qualified for State, Excellent, Good, and Honorable Mention). In Media Technology, GTN (Gladiator Television Network) entered seven media projects and 5 qualified for State. All the adjudicators at the District 13 Conference are respected industry professionals and judged each student project based on established industry standards. The State SkillsUSA Conference will be held at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas March 25-27, 2010. Congratulations to Roma High Schools’ SkillsUSA students and their instructors, Mr. Matías Ochoa (Automotive Trades), Mr. Roel Miranda (Building Trades), and Mr. Jaime Escobar, Jr., Ms. Yolín Muñiz, and Mr. Jesús E. Vidal (Media Technology) for an exceptional District competition and best of luck at the State Conference.


At their special meeting on Monday morning, Feb. 22, the County Commissioners authorized the county to advertise for engineering services to bring about the preparation of a plan for the imminent closure of the county landfill.
The meeting was held in the Courthouse Annex Conference Room.
The agenda item concerning the landfill read as follows: “Discuss and take action to approve Starr County advertising for Request for Qualifications-Professional Engineering Services to prepare plan and certify the closure of the existing landfill.”
Maxine Perez of the Federal/State Programs Office declared, “Engineering services need to be secured for this purpose. This refers to advertising.”
The commissioners tabled for the time being the matter of declaring El Doce Road a county road. County Attorney Victor Canales explained, “This is a (family) partition from back in the 80’s. It’s a private road; there’s no public access road. The family indicates they conveyed the road to the county back in the 80’s.”
Canales added, “We’re asking to name the road for 9-1-1 purposes. We haven’t found any documentation that the road was conveyed (in the 1980’s).”
County Judge Eloy Vera noted, “The item on the agenda refers to declaring.” Canales stated, “I suggest that you table the item as far as the issue of declaring is concerned.”
At the request of County Attorney Canales, the commissioners approved a resolution for the submission of a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Continuous Grant Application for the Victims of Domestic Violence Program.
The commissioners approved a resolution to submit an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) for the 2008 HOME Program-Owner Occupied Housing Assistance Program for Starr County residents (mostly in the Roma-Escobares area) affected by the flooding disaster of Aug. 18, 2008.
The commissioners ratified the approval of a resolution authorizing submittal of an application to the South Texas Development Council (STDC) for 2010/2011 Regional Solid Waste Grants Program.

STC community celebrates dedication of Manuel Benavidez Jr. Rural Technology Center

South Texas College board members, faculty, staff and students, as well
as local dignitaries and members of the community gathered to dedicate
the college's new Rural Technology Center at its Starr County Campus in
remembrance and celebration of the life and dedication of founding board
member Manuel Benavidez Jr., who passed away in March 2009.
"It is so fitting to name the building in honor of the man who worked
tirelessly to bring opportunities for a better life to not only those
living in Starr County, but all students across the Valley," said Dr.
Shirley A. Reed, STC president, who worked alongside Benavidez on STC's
Board of Trustees until his passing. "The Manuel Benavidez Jr. Rural
Technology Center was his vision and it would never have come to
fruition without his passion.
"He embodied the spirit of Starr County - a people thirsty for
opportunities and, as he liked to say, 'looking for a hand up, not a
hand out,'" she added. "His work changed lives and changed this
community for the better. He was one-of-a-kind and we are so proud to be
able to honor him in this way."
The new facility provides space for Internet-connected classrooms,
computer aided drafting labs, a graphic arts lab, a network
administration lab, a Web page design lab, telecommunications technology
labs, computer maintenance labs and areas for a variety of other
information technology-related tools and instruction. The state of Texas
provided $3.5 million in state appropriations to fund the center's
construction and initial technology purchase costs. STC will fund the
center's annual operating costs.
Benavidez's family, including his daughter, Rose Benavidez, who was
recently elected to serve the constituents of Starr County on STC's
Board of Trustees, were in attendance to share in the celebration.
"I want to congratulate Starr County and the surrounding communities on
the opening of this tremendous facility," said Rose Benavidez. "My
father put a lot of work into bringing this facility to fruition. It was
amazing to see the passion he exhibited in pursuing his mission. He was
a gambler at heart and knew that with the people of Starr County behind
him, the odds were in his favor.
"Now this facility will provide our community the technological edge to
compete in the global economy," she added. "I know he would be extremely
proud and equally appreciative of this honor. Our family takes comfort
and solace in knowing that his legacy will live on through every life
touched by this institution."
Following his appointment as a founding STC board member in 1993,
Benavidez was re-elected to his board seat two times. He served the
board as chair and vice-chair, and was the board secretary at the time
of his passing. He was a member of the Education and Workforce
Innovation Committee and the Facilities Committee. He also served as the
director of transportation for the Rio Grande City CISD.
Benavidez's efforts on behalf of STC have received national acclaim. In
2005, he was recognized at the Association of Community College Trustees
Annual Congress as the recipient of the Lifetime Membership Award for
exemplary leadership and strong support in the areas of diversity and
equal opportunity. In 2006 he received the Western Region Trustee
Leadership Award, given by the Association of Community College Trustees
(ACCT). He was one of five regional award winners selected from nominees
located across three countries, including the United States, Canada and
"I spent a lot of time talking with Manuel about his vision and
aspirations for Starr County," said Gary Gurwitz, who was elected as a
founding member of the STC Board of Trustees along with Benavidez and
who currently serves as the board's vice-chair. "It was a heavy burden
because so much was riding on the development of the college in the
county. But, he bore it with enthusiasm and happiness. We appreciated
and respected him so much. And it's a personal and professional pleasure
that we celebrate the opening of this facility today, named in his
In addition to praise for Benavidez's vision and dedication, STC
President Reed also extended thanks to the many hands that helped bring
the center from concept to reality.
"I also want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to State Rep. Ryan
Guillen and State Senator Judith Zafarrini, who both worked to usher the
bill through the capitol and make the funds possible to bring about the
birth of the center. We are very fortunate to have two such strong
advocates on the side of the Rio Grande Valley."

District Spelling Bee Champs

Rio Grande City CISD's Dillon McGuffin and Andres Salazar named District Champs in the District Spelling Bee held recently. McGuffin is a Ringgold Elementary student while Salazar attends Veterans Middle School. Both students qualified for the Regional Spelling Bee to be held at South Texas College campus in Weslaco on Saturday, March 6, 2010. McGuffin is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Lamar and Patrick McGuffin and Salazar's are Mr. and Mrs. Pedro and Rosa Salazar. Congratulations to both students and we wish them luck at this Saturday's meet.