Residents claim county abandons them in time of need

Like the rising creek water, that destroyed everything in its path, anger floods Thoroughbred Farms.

"I'm tired of having that ((expletive)) there," says Alice Vallejo, adding,"the mailman asked us where's the county why haven't they picked up the trash."

Her frustration at a fever pitch, "Now we are going to have rats and snakes and everything."

Robert Quintero says his lawn is still littered with debris. "They had sent out a paper saying that on February 12, would be the last day we pick up trashes from everyone's yard," he explains. "The next day came it was February 12, no one ever came out to pick up anything and for the week before that they had sent trucks to pick up stuff from the front yards."

A month later, the lingering trash a permanent reminder of their daily struggle.

"It does stay with you, all the tragedy and devastation and the disaster," says Travis County Deputy Chief Constable Manuel Jimenez. He should know, he's been here from the beginning, "before you couldn't stand here because there were RV's turned over, cars turned over."

And he says he's in it for the long haul. "When we see the frustration we try to get them help and try to work on it."

The 44 year-old, who mounted a failed bid for Constable, is organizing a volunteer clean-up for Sunday. "It's part of my job, I'm a public servant that's what I've chosen to do, and my job is helping people."

Especially the people who feel like their hope is being washed away by yet another downpour

They are looking for more volunteers, and additional equipment for the clean-up.

The Commissioner Court is actually the group responsible for making decisions about the trash pick-up. We reached out to the Precinct 4's Commissioner Margaret Gomez who declined to speak to on camera. But she did send a statement:

Elizabeth, it is very difficult for people to understand that living outside a city is very different because the county has very little regulation authority.  Living in the county offers a lot of freedom from city regulations, fees, etc., but living in the county also places almost all responsibility on the homeowner.
When the floods occurred in October, 2015, the Travis County Commissioners Court authorized the placing of dumpsters in the areas that flooded such as Thoroughbred Farms.  We eventually get reimbursed by FEMA for this expense but it’s only for picking up flood-related debris.
Our county staff, led by Don Ward, work that area and let the Commissioners Court know how many dumpsters are needed and are ordered and placed in the neighborhoods such as Thoroughbred Farms.  The residents did request an extension that was granted by the Commissioners Court through February 12.  The Court felt that this was sufficient time for flood-related debris to be picked up.
County staff placed door hangers on every door in Thoroughbred Farms announcing that in three weeks, the dumpsters would be removed.  They also placed signs at intersections announcing the end of dumpsters being in the neighborhood.
Additionally, county staff cannot go on people’s private property to remove flood-related debris.  It had to be brought to the right of way in front of the property to be picked up.  County staff is prohibited from cleaning out any debris in the creeks.
Elizabeth, county staff is preparing a chronology of events in Thoroughbred Farms if you are interested.  I will ask Edith in my office, 512-854-9444 to send that to you if you want it.  Just let Edith know.

Margaret Gomez, Co. Comm., Pct. 4


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