Starr County mayors upset over lack of funding

The landscape along the Rio Grande has changed.

"We can see the Mexican military chasing people, Lieutenant Rafael Aguierre started. We could hear the gunshots and sirens as they chased the group to the outskirts of town and engaged in more fire fights there."

All the while, Lt. Aguierre and his fellow officers watched in the distance.

They kept a close eye on the violence and made sure the resident they are sworn to protect were kept out of harm TMs way.

"We make do with what we have---but the more people we have the better job we can do," Aguierre said.

But the mayors of Roma, Escobares, and Rio Grande City told Action 4 News that they cannot add any more people to their departments because the funding is not there.

"We still need resources locally so we can have our police departments secure our areas within the population centers and until that happens will continue having difficulties," Mayor of Rio Grande City, Ruben Villarreal said.

Mayor Fred Guerra of Roma agreed, I see that the federal and state governments use border funding as a supplement to law enforcement agencies. We don't see it as a supplement we see it as a necessity."

For Ecobares Mayor Noel Escobar the problem is a little more urgent.

"I can't afford to have police protection 24/7. I do, at best, 40 percent because of funding."

All three told Action 4 News they have applied for grants in the past, but it is a competitive process and nothing is guaranteed.

That is why they hope the federal government can offer some help.

"Maybe we can bring in some additional manpower to take care of our people a little better and have them live in a safer environment," Escobar said.

Action 4 News took these concerns to Congressman Henry Cuellar.

He said since 2007 Starr County received more money than in years past.

"They've received about 5-million dollars to date, Congressman Cuellar said in a phone interview. The county needs to work out a plan with the cities and talk about what they're supposed to get."

He added that in fiscal year 2011 Starr County received $627,000---of that money he said Roma and Rio Grande City would get $85,000 and Escobares $10,000.