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City, county look for ways to pay for North Beach canal

Posted at 5:41 PM, Nov 05, 2019

CORPUS CHRISTI — The North Beach drainage proposal and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone were back under the microscope Tuesday.

This time it was Nueces County Commissioners looking at the proposal after Judge Barbara Canales wanted to expand on the joint workshop with the city council held a couple of weeks ago.

One big topic was the canal proposal and how to pay for it. The takeaway: paying for the proposed $73 million canal and street elevation project may doable without increasing taxes or utility rates. That’s because fixing North Beach drainage is a utility project, which can be paid through revenue bonds.

“If you look at our budget, we have a few bonds that are maturing; 2010 bonds that are maturing in 2020,” said Gil Hernandez, District 5 City Councilman.

When a bond matures, that means it's paid off. The city has around $35 million in revenue bonds maturing next year alone, and more than $162 million by 2027. Some of that money is already be earmarked for other projects, but plenty would still be available to pay for drainage.

“There is some debt capacity for this, so there would be no increases associated with this because it would just be coming off of existing debt,” said Hernandez.

Another option is funding the project through state grants, specifically a Texas General Land Office Community Development Block Grant program for flood mitigation funding. Nueces county qualifies for this program because of Hurricane Harvey. Canales thinks the GLO program is tailor made for North Beach, but only if the city and county work together.

“Big dollar grants are really being awarded to those entities that can show collaboration,” said Canales. “It doesn't help us to have a city grant or a county grant, what helps us is to have a multi-jurisdictional grant.”

According to Canales, other grants are available as well, but only if the city and county are aggressive enough to go after them.

“We do have to do something.” Said Canales. “We can't just sit and wish for it to happen, or for someone to bring us these ideas or resources. We're going to have to go chase them.”

Another potential funding source is among the Texas Constitutional Amendments on Tuesday’s ballot. Proposition 8 proposes taking $1.7 billion from the state rainy day fund to establish the Flood Infrastructure Fund, a grant proram through the Texas Water Development Board. Canales says if Prop 8 passes Tuesday, the county will start writing its grant application Wednesday.

The city council is expected to take a final vote on creating the North Beach TIRZ at next week's meeting.