This is your Friday update, which takes a quick look at the week ahead and some developments that El Paso Matters is following.

Early Voting Begins for Primary Runoffs: Early voting starts Monday for the unsettled Democratic and Republican primary races for statewide and El Paso-area offices that will determine the candidates for the November general election. Statewide runoffs on the ballot include the Democratic and Republican attorney general and land commissioner primaries, as well as the Democratic lieutenant governor primary. Use our voter guide to research the local runoff races. Early voting ends May 20 and election day is May 24. Early voting polling locations and hours can be found here.

Valuation Protest Deadline is Monday for Many Homeowners: Many property owners have a Monday deadline for filing a protest of their property tax valuations. The El Paso Central Appraisal District sent out new valuations last month for all property owners in the county. State law allows property owners to protest their valuations if they think they are too high. Protests must be filed by Monday, May 16, or 30 days after the date of the property valuation notice, whichever is later. El Paso CAD officials have said about half of all valuations went out in the first wave of notices, so protests of those valuations must be made by Monday. Click here to learn more about the property valuation protest process. You also can call the Central Appraisal District at 915-780-2000, or go to their offices at 5801 Trowbridge. 

City Shifts COVID Funds from Relief to Recovery: El Paso City Council voted on May 10 to switch the use of  $154.3 million in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from a relief approach to a recovery approach. The federal funds will be used on city programs such as $65.9 million for testing and vaccination; $14 million for business grants and support; $6.6 million for body-worn cameras; $7 million for surveillance cameras; $1.5 million for new health programs; $16.1 million for public health relocation; and $6 million to support the homeless.

New VA Director for El Paso Region: Froylan Garza is the new executive director of the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System. He will take over on June 6. Garza comes to El Paso from the Miami VA Health Care System in Florida, where he currently holds the position of associate director. Serving in various Veterans Health Administration positions since 2013, Garza recently was the interim medical center director at the Amarillo VA Health Care System. The El Paso VA Health Care System includes the main El Paso VA clinic at Fort Bliss, and six community-based outpatient clinics in El Paso and Las Cruces.

El Paso Water proceeds with $305 million bond sale: The water utility’s $305 million bond sale has been completed. The final amount is below the $356 million the utility originally requested in March. The bond has a 30-year lifespan. The utility paid off an exhausted line of credit called Commercial Papers, for $80 million, which can now be used again, leaving $273 million for new construction projects. You can read our previous coverage here.

Calling All Food Retailers: El Paso County, in partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and PeopleFund, have launched the third application cycle of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative program. The program offers up to $1.5 million in grants and low-interest loans to businesses and nonprofits whose goal is to increase the availability of healthy, affordable foods in underserved areas of the county. Projects can be capital intensive in nature, and generally must demonstrate a plan to accelerate the construction, establishment, rehabilitation or expansion of food retail or food retail infrastructure. The application period ends on May 31.

Ramon Bracamontes

Ramon Bracamontes is editor of El Paso Matters. He may be reached at ramonb@elpasomatters.org.