Text Reprinted from McAllen Monitor:
Eloy Pulido – Monitor Board of Contributors – Dec 13, 2016
Back when I was a young boy, the Hidalgo County Courthouse was open for half a day on Saturdays. It was the perfect place for my grandmother, Porfiria Guerra, to sell her tamales. She sold them for 50 cents a dozen and they were the best in town. We would walk to the courthouse, sell tamales, and then ride the elevator up to the fifth floor, stand on a chair and look out the window as far as the eye could see. It was our biggest thrill.
Now several decades later, Hidalgo County has outgrown the courthouse due to additional courts and a population increase, which requires additional services. Of course, with the growth came a problem that plagues any area that experiences an increase of traffic flow and that is the need for additional personnel parking.
Flooding is also an issue that has been troubling the town square since at least the ’60. As any homebuyer or business entrepreneur will attest, these two issues are definite deal-breakers when considering a location for building or starting a business venture. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to speak up regarding the construction of our new courthouse.
The town square consists of the courthouse and a couple of parking areas that offer around 600 parking spaces combined. Considering that county employees take up between 230-270 parking spaces, there isn’t much parking availability for customers, attorneys, litigants or jurors. I brought this up in a meeting with our county judge a few months ago and was told that vehicles could find parking throughout the city streets around the square. I laughed it off waiting for a more serious response that never came.
In 2000, when I was county judge, we had a five-year capital improvement plan that included a 100-bed juvenile detention facility, an elevated parking facility with 396 spaces, a $39 million courthouse complex, and $12 million to be split between the offices of four county commissioners for area roads.
I believe building a new courthouse without adequate plans for relocating parking would be disastrous and undoubtedly paralyze the existing courthouse and the town square, especially with the construction equipment needed for the project.
This will result in months of traffic and business interruptions to build a new courthouse in an area that floods, has limited parking, and is not conducive for additional business development. It just doesn’t make any sense.
What makes sense is building a new justice center in a location that has adequate space for parking, is easily accessible from all areas of the Valley, and isn’t prone to flooding. A justice center that is exclusively for courtrooms, jury pool and associated county components, such as the county clerk, district clerk, district attorney, and any other ancillary services necessary for the courts to operate effectively and efficiently.
Eloy Pulido is a former county judge for Hidalgo County. He writes for The Monitor’s Board of Contributors.