Heavy rains returned for several days over the past few weeks, affecting roads all over Frio County. Some of the work done by Frio County Road & Bridge in Precinct 4 for the two week period ending Friday June 4th:
In a future post, I’ll talk more about the magnificent work done by the new Frio County Events Committee for employees and for the community. In the meantime, I’ll just say that I’m proud to be part of the team.
On Saturday, June 5th, the Frio County Events Committee organized and hosted an Auto Show, attended by 40 vehicles, with vendors, food, and music…
UPCOMING EVENTSIN FRIO COUNTY
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
THE PEOPLE HAVE TO KNOW I asked Commissioner Joe Vela, Pct. 1, how residents liked his weekly newspaper column. Personally, I thought it was a good idea, and had been thinking about borrowing his concept.
“The people have to know,” he told me.
HOW ROAD & BRIDGEFUNCTIONS After Commissioner Vela’s May 27th column, I asked him if I could post a follow up. Instead of simply highlighting county road problems, I thought it was necessary to communicate how Road & Bridge plans to address them.
In addition to Commissioners Court meetings, we hold workshops– marathon meetings to discuss specific topics. So far this year, we’ve held two on the topic of Road & Bridge. The last Road & Bridge workshop was on May 20th, and we specifically addressed Goldfinch Road. Goldfinch Road is scheduled for a road rehabilitation project in the new fiscal year (October 2021-September 2022), unless Commissioners rearrange priorities based on unexpected damage elsewhere, or a significant drop in property tax revenue that forces project cuts.
If you’re curious to see how Road & Bridge dialogues with Commissioners Court, you can watch our 3-hour May 20th workshop here.
THE STORM SLOWED DOWN REGULAR MAINTENANCE On a regular schedule, road maintenance is a full-time effort. But an unusual number of extreme storms this year has set back the maintenance program. Winter storm Uri’s freeze and thaw required an unscheduled response from Road & Bridge crews, compounded by heavy rains. May’s wake low wind storm pummeled trees into the roads, and clogged drainage systems across the county, using up Road & Bridge staff and equipment.
Once the trees were cleared and the drainage systems cleaned of major obstructions county-wide, Road & Bridge moved on to road patching. Depending on when you read this, Road & Bridge already patched or will patch storm damage in all precincts, including the aforementioned Goldfinch Road.
A CHANGE IN THE PATCHING PROCESS Last year, Ancelmo “Chemo” Ornelas was promoted to Road & Bridge Supervisor. He knew the county’s long-time process for patching potholes wasn’t working.
“Just putting coal mix in the hole is not working, and hasn’t been for years,” he said. He remembered some lessons from the county engineer that had worked for Frio years ago- lessons that were promptly abandoned upon that same engineer’s firing. Under the direction of the current County Engineer Roxana Garcia, who started at the end of July 2019, Chemo works on re-training the crew on patching.
First, the hole is cleaned, a new step in the process. Then, the hole and fill material is treated with a tack emulsion- a sticky substance to hold the material together, in place, in the hole.
“It’s like a Rice Krispy Treat” County Engineer Roxana Garcia explained in layman’s terms. The added emulsion keeps water from penetrating the hole and displacing the fill material, she said, which is why Road & Bridge patches had been less than effective for so long.
Eventually, Chemo is going to add “squaring” the holes as part of the process, but can’t spare the added time right now due to overwhelming demand from the storms.
PRECINCT 4 | HURT ROAD Hurt Road was not on Frio County’s project list for this fiscal year. But regular maintenance failed to stave off damage to the road. And then an unexpected increase in traffic due to an oil pad site installation caused the holes in the road to become a serious danger. Last month, Road & Bridge started a rehabilitation on Hurt Road.
Today, the Hurt Road project is about three-quarters complete. It’s another place where County Engineer Roxana Garcia and Road & Bridge Supervisor Acelmo “Chemo” Ornelas have made improvements to road work methods.
Previously, Road & Bridge used soft rock on road rehabilitation jobs. Soft rock, according to County Engineer Roxana Garcia, will either powder when graded or break into sharp flints that damage tires.
This time around Road & Bridge Supervisor Ancelmo “Chemo” Ornelas used millings donated* by TxDOT rather than soft rock, and the difference is immediately apparent. The plan is to build roads that last longer, “paving” the way for a more effective maintenance schedule…
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
*”Donated” doesn’t mean “free.” Donated material has to be hauled from location, which can be as far as San Antonio, and then stored. We opted to use Road & Bridge crews over hauling contractors. But even that has a cost- labor hours, equipment hours, and fuel. The hauling has taken months, but the payoff of higher quality materials has been evident.
The Tuesday May 25th Frio County Program Fair is shaping up to be one of the most comprehensive resource events we’ve seen in a long time.
Much more than tables of flyers and swag, here are some of the headliners:
Aaron Ibarra, Frio County Clerk | Free Birth Certificates Birth Certificates are a basic required document to receive a State ID and a number of other services. Aaron Ibarra will offer free birth certificates that originate in Frio County. http://www.co.frio.tx.us/page/frio.County.Clerk
South Texas Rural Health Services | Free Health Screenings for Non-Insured, Free COVID Vaccines South Texas Rural Health Services has been on a tear through Frio County lately. As soon as eligibility permitted, STRHS used their mobile clinic to provide vaccines to a majority of the employees at Frio County, Pearsall ISD, Dilley ISD, and the City of Dilley. When the age requirement was lowered, they provided vaccines to the ISD students too. The mobile clinic will be parked at the 2021 Frio County Program Fair, providing free health screenings for the non-insured and free COVID vaccines. The mobile clinic is equipped to provide much more, so a visit is recommended for any concerns about physical or mental health. https://southtexasruralhealth.com/
Eva Perez, Paralegal, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid | Pro Bono Paralegal Services Eva Perez will do intakes for several civil issues. Ms. Perez explains, “Doing an intake is very different from working on a case. My specialty is expunction law, so if an applicant is seeking to get their record expunged or sealed it is very likely I will be able to work on their case directly. However, that doesn’t mean that the residents of Frio county can only apply to get their record clean. Whatever their legal inquiry, I can do an intake for them as long it is a civil matter. We do have financial guidelines to qualify and certain civil matters are not accepted, but every case is reviewed by attorneys on a case to case basis.” Thank you to Judge Susan Ruiz-Belding for finding and inviting this guest. https://www.trla.org/
Delma Pargas, Community Council of South Central Texas | Utility Assistance Application Community Council of South Central Texas has been assisting eligible Frio County residents with past due utility payments. An application is necessary, and will be available at the program fair. http://www.ccsct.org/
Christina Guajardo, Care Program | Free Diapers Call the Care Program on 210-449-4346 on Monday May 24th before 4:30pm to register for free diapers. They will be available for pick up at the Tuesday May 25th Frio County Program Fair. https://www.stpaulcdc.org/
Corina Martinez,Southwest Family Life Centers Corina Martinez is an advocate/case manager for victims of domestic violence.
When the rain finished around 1am today, the wind started. It shook mobile homes, snapped trees, and tore roofs. We checked our phones for tornado warnings, but found none.
That’s because it wasn’t a tornado. It was a wake low. That’s of little consolation when it feels like your windows are about to shatter, but for the nerds out there, a tornado is a “narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground,” according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
A wake low, by contrast, comes after the storm and does not rotate. According to weather.gov, a wake low “is a small area of low pressure that forms 30 to 50 miles (50 to 100 km) behind a line of thunderstorms…In some cases, wind gusts over 70 mph have been recorded with wake lows cause damage to trees and some buildings. In addition, winds can gust over 40 mph for 30 to 60 minutes over even longer as a wake low moves through an area.”
Paul Yura, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), confirmed in an email today that it was a wake low that hit Frio County last night and described it as a “weird phenomenon.”
Fun fact about tornadoes: “nobody knows the ‘true’ wind speeds at ground level in most tornadoes.” Tornadoes are rated in the F-scale and the new Enhanced F-scale. Wind speeds are derived from engineering guidelines, and have “never been scientifically verified in real tornadoes.” source: https://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/
The Flood Warning continues for the Frio River Near Derby until Wednesday evening. * Flood stage is 6.0 feet. “Flood stage” is defined as “The stage at which overflow of the natural banks of a stream begins to cause damage in the reach in which the elevation is measured.” * Minor flooding is occurring and moderate flooding is forecast. * Recent Activity…The maximum river stage in the 24 hours ending at 2:30 PM CDT Monday was 6.6 feet. * Forecast…The river will rise to 9.1 feet tomorrow morning. It will then fall below flood stage Wednesday morning to 3.6 feet and begin rising again early Thursday morning. It will rise to 4.9 feet early Friday morning. It will then fall again and remain below flood stage. * Impact…At 10.0 feet, Lowland flooding below Concan to Choke Canyon Reservoir floods oil well pump jacks, irrigation pumps and any equipment in the lower flood plain near and above Derby. * Flood History…This crest compares to a previous crest of 9.1 feet on 10/12/2018.
According to the unofficial Dilley election results, which will become official when canvassed, Dilley voters selected Gilbert Villanueva Eguia as Mayor, Inelda Rodriguez as Councilperson Place 1, and a tie vote left Councilperson Place 2 undetermined.
Gilbert Villanueva Eguia unseated Mayor Obregon, who dominated elections in Dilley for decades. Obregon held the mayor position continuously since 2009, and had served as Dilley mayor as far back as the 90s.
Inelda Rodriguez will be serving as Dilley Councilperson after winning an election on her first attempt. At 244 votes, Rodriguez had the highest number of votes in the 2021 Dilley election.
Councilperson Joanne Rodriguez and Nathan Rodriguez campaigned to a draw at 212 votes apiece.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The city of Dilley will likely confer with the Texas Secretary of State to ensure accuracy before releasing details to the public.
The Election Code for General Law Type-A cities such as Dilley states that “a person must receive more votes than any other person for the office.” Since neither candidate received more votes than the other in Council Place 2, we know this is unresolved.
Hereare some of the possibilities of what happens next:
–Provisional Ballotsaffect the canvass Some people cast provisional ballots if they don’t have proper ID, questions about residency or legal name, or other issues. The voter is allowed to cast the provisional ballot, then “cure” it within a specified time frame by producing the required documents. The qualified, eligible votes would be added to the certified tally, and could affect the outcome. The number of provisional ballots, if any, were not posted with the unofficial results.
–A recount Given how long it took for the unofficial results to be released on the night of the election, it’s likely the ballots were counted a few times before posting. If the tie stands after the canvass, the city could order a recount with the cooperation of the candidates. Also, a recount might allow the candidates and two appointees to supervise the tally.
–If the results stand after a recount, a runoff After the recount and canvass certifying the canvass results, the city might order a runoff election that would have only Councilperson Joanne Rodriguez and Nathan Rodriguez on the ballot. A runoff would take place 20-30 days after the recount.
CASTING OF LOTS I can’t find if the following provision applies to General Law Type-A cities, but in at least one part of the Texas Election Code, the tying candidates are allowed to “cast lots” if the recount does not resolve the election.
From KERA North Texas News: You may be wondering what it means to “cast lots.” According to Wikipedia, it’s a form of cleromancy. You may now be wondering what cleromancy is. It’s a form of selection where the outcome is determined in a random manner, such as by rolling dice or like we saw in Virginia, pulling a name out of a bowl. And using the phrase “casting of lots” instead of “random drawing” or “drawing names” harkens back to biblical times. There are several references to casting lots in the Bible. It was even how Roman soldiers decided who won Jesus’ clothes when they crucified him. Modern definitions point to casting lots as being a way to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities.
Why would a candidate agree to this? Campaigning can be extremely difficult, personally expensive, and emotionally taxing. They just might want to get the process over with. Also, elections cost the government entities time and money.
-WITHDRAWAL There are any number of reasons a candidate may get this far only to decide that they don’t want the position anymore, and a candidate’s withdrawal is another way the election could be resolved.
One month after winter storm Uri, dozens of Frio County households are still managing with limited or no water in their homes. Many of the residents are elderly. Some are special needs. Some were abandoned by contractors who started the work and never returned. All of them are people who didn’t know where to turn as our local good Samaritans balance their volunteer time with busy work and personal schedules. There was simply too much damage in Frio County to reach everyone in a timely manner.
I have water pipes that are stillbroken because of the winter storm. How do I get help repairing them? If you’re a Dilley/Precinct 4 resident, fill out this form: https://bit.ly/3bNX2Lj If you’re a Pearsall/Precinct 1,2,3 resident, fill out: https://bit.ly/2Q5mvYa
Are they going to charge me for parts? There is no cost to residents-in-need that suffered broken water pipes as a result of winter storm Uri. There is no application process, other than filling out the form.
How long will it take for them to repair my pipes? Right now, we’re still getting a sense of the magnitude of the county-wide situation. Also, each home has unique variables, so we just ask for patience. Repairs and assessments have already begun.
Not everyone has social media. What are you doing to reach them? The cities of Dilley and Pearsall have identified water utility customers through work orders that likely suffered damage as a result of winter storm Uri, and called them individually. However, we are still finding residents that never informed the cities of problems with their pipes, so we are pursuing other means of outreach. The more important question might be: what are you doing to help your neighbor-in-need sign up for this service?
Frio set a goal… and we’re a major step closer to achieving it.
After the extreme cold from winter storm Uri devastated Texas, Governor Abbott announced on February 20 that only 77 of Texas’ 254 counties would be eligible for individual assistance. Frio was not one of them.
On February 21st, the state of Texas offered all excluded counties an option: “prove” you have the need. They instructed us to ask residents and businesses to fill out an online survey detailing the damage until our county reaches an unspecified threshold of responses. Then, maybe, our residents would be given the opportunity to apply for partial reimbursements. You probably saw the link on your social media feed…
As an elected official, it seemed like a daunting task. Filling out an online survey without the promise of something in return is the last thing any of us wanted to do while trying to clean up and make repairs. Much of our population with the most need after the storm probably isn’t using a smartphone. And judging by our census returns, Frio isn’t the “fill out a survey” type.
But we made it our goal. The survey was spread widely on social media by elected officials, jurisdiction pages, and involved residents. The City of Dilley Police Department printed color flyers. Frio County WIC directed their clients to the survey and assisted with filling it out. Commissioner Carrizales, Deborah Hughes of Red Cross and I went car-to-car at our respective water distributions, handing out flyers, explaining the situation, and assisting if necessary. Several other residents helped family members and spread the word.
Only four days after Texas made the survey available, Frio met the threshold of responses for Governor Abbott to re-request our county’s eligibility for individual assistance from FEMA. 92 other counties are still trying to meet the threshold.
Frio isn’t finished yet… We’re still awaiting approval of the request from President Biden. Don’t let up. Continue to make noise. Continue to fill out the survey. TDEM has added a call-in option.
Counties included in this request are Archer, Atascosa, Bandera, Brooks, Callahan, Camp, Cass, Clay, Coleman, Delta, Dimmit, Duval, Eastland, Ector, Fayette, Franklin, Frio, Goliad, Hamilton, Haskell, Howard, Irion, Jack, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Kerr, Kinney, Kleberg, Lamar, Lampasas, Lee, Leon, Live Oak, Llano, Marion, Midland, Mills, Morris, Newton, Rains, Randall, Refugio, Robertson, San Augustine, San Saba, Shackelford, Somervell, Starr, Titus, Trinity, Webb, Wilbarger, Willacy, and Young.
Thank you to everyone for your patience, perseverance, and participation,