Plumbers Without Borders Arrive in Dilley, Pearsall, Frio County…

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.

Enter Plumbers Without Borders. After coordination with State Senator Roland Gutierrez, local Frio and Dilley officials, and Water Mission, Plumbers Without Borders sent the first round of volunteers: Jeff and Tosha from Morgan Miller Plumbing of Kansas City, Missouri.

Jeff and Tosha at a home in Pearsall…

I have water pipes that are still broken 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 County WIC Hosting Spring Event in Dilley featuring SA Food Bank, Farmer’s Market, and Latched Diaper Giveaway…

The Frio County WIC program is hosting a major Spring Event in Dilley on Thursday March 18, 2021, open to all Frio residents…

The event will be a drive-thru in Dilley’s downtown city park, including:

  • SA Food Bank Distribution
  • Farmers Market by SA Farmer’s Market Association
  • LatchedSupport Free Diaper Distribution with registration

LatchedSupport Free Diaper Distribution Link

Those organizations will be joined by:

  • Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG)
  • Texas Agrilife
  • Frio Regional Hospital
  • Methodist Health Care Ministries
  • Pearsall Health Department
  • Dilley Police Department
  • Music by: DJ Angel Martinez “DJ Jefe”

Date: Thursday March 18
Time: 9am-1pm
Location: City of Dilley Downtown Park
Follow Frio Pearsall WIC Facebook page for updates

Governor Abbott, TDEM Re-Request Addition of Frio to Individual Assistance List…

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,

Jose Asuncion
Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4

SNAP Assistance and the 66 Texas Counties…

Frio landed on a good list today!

Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received federal approval to automatically provide replacement benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in 66 impacted counties for food lost or destroyed due to winter storm Uri, which began on Feb. 11, according to Governor Abbott’s February 24th press release. The good news: Frio is one of the qualifying counties. The notice refers to “partial” replacement, so it is unclear how much of the benefit will be replaced.

Until this announcement, SNAP recipients were required to download a form, then either fax or mail their application to receive replacement benefits. No digital application tools were available.

Current SNAP recipients in the 66 counties receiving approval for automatic replacement benefits do not need to take any action and do not need to call 2-1-1 to receive their replacement benefits. Recipients in the affected counties will automatically receive a percentage of their February benefit allotment on their Lone Star cards by March 4.

Three days ago, Governor Greg Abbott announced the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) received federal approval to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to use their food benefits to purchase hot foods and ready-to-eat meals due to impacts from the severe winter storm. SNAP recipients can now use their benefits for hot foods and ready-to-eat foods, such as rotisserie chicken or grocery store deli foods, at retailers that accept SNAP anywhere in the state through the end of March.

Counties eligible to receive automatic partial replacement include: Angelina, Aransas, Bastrop, Blanco, Borden, Brazoria, Brewster, Burnet, Calhoun, Chambers, Coke, Colorado, Comanche, Cooke, Delta, Duval, Eastland, Edwards, Falls, Frio, Galveston, Garza, Gillespie, Glasscock, Goliad, Haskell, Irion, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kerr, Kinney, Knox, La Salle, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Llano, Loving, Lynn, Martin, Matagorda, McCulloch, Medina, Menard, Mitchell, Montgomery, Oldham, Parker, Reagan, Refugio, San Patricio, San Saba, Stephens, Sterling, Sutton, Terrell, Throckmorton, Trinity, Upton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Waller, Williamson, Young, Zapata, and Zavala.”

FEMA Assistance and the 77 Texas Counties

If you’re from Frio County and reading this post, you probably already received notices about how to apply for individual disaster assistance. And if you already tried to apply, you probably noticed that only 77 of Texas’ 254 counties are eligible- and Frio is not one of them.

The Frio County Commissioners Court is working hard to make this individual disaster assistance available to all of our residents. Governor Abbott’s announcement yesterday, Saturday February 20 at noon, provoked the ire elected officials across the entire state of Texas:

WHAT ACTION HAS ALREADY BEEN TAKEN?

At the Frio County level, Judge Arnulfo C Luna, with the assistance of Commissioner Raul Carrizales, Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Kallio, and other officials drafted an Emergency Disaster Declaration to send to Governor Abbott on February 16th- a crucial first step taken early in the disaster to claim Frio’s fair share of aid.

At the State level, two days after receiving Frio County’s emergency declaration and request, Governor Abbott sent a request to President Biden for individual aid for all 254 Texas counties. “I am requesting Public Assistance (all categories), Individual Assistance (all programs), and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for all 254 Texas Counties,” the letter stated…

At the Federal level, as we know by now, President Biden approved only 77 of the 254 counties requested by Governor Abbott for individual assistance. Elected officials across the state are demanding answers, including the Frio County Commissioners Court.

⬆︎ Texas House Rep. Stan Lambert

⬆︎ Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams

WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

If you’re a resident:

  • ***UPDATE 2/21, 12:30pm – Fill out this State survey to help the State understand the amount of damage in Frio County: https://arcg.is/uOrOb . The success of this effort will assist us with the eligibility to potential federal programs.
  • Track all of your disaster related expenses including but not limited to cleanup and repairs. This will prepare you for aid, whether it comes from FEMA or if another source becomes available
  • Take photos to document damage
  • Keep all receipts
  • Follow social media for updates, and share news with those without internet
  • Keep the pressure on local officials

If you’re an elected official:

To quote Dilley Police Chief Homer Delgado, “make noise.” Our legislators need to hear us. Don’t stop at the district level. If you don’t have contacts at the State or Federal level, make them.
__________________

I’d like to thank everyone who helped get us through the storm. Right now, there are too many residents, too many elected and appointed officials, too many examples of courage and initiative to even attempt to name names for fear of leaving anyone out. The response to this emergency has not ended, and some of us are still working round the clock. To everyone who showed up during this storm to help our friends, families and neighbors in Frio County…
Thank you.

Jose Asuncion
Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4

Map of the 77 counties:

Courthouse Photo Credit: Constable Rudy Ortegon

Winter Garden Town Hall with Gina Ortiz Jones on Saturday August 1st

I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure of speaking with U.S. Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones several times this year. As COVID-19 suddenly compounded my duties as a first term County Commissioner, I appreciate everyone who actively contacts me with help to offer. Gina Ortiz Jones reached out early and often, and our conversations about other counties in the district yielded valuable ideas for our COVID response in Frio. As the site of one of the hottest of hot spots in the country at one point, we needed all the help we could get.

Continue reading “Winter Garden Town Hall with Gina Ortiz Jones on Saturday August 1st”

Last Days of Early Voting | July 9 & 10

Photo: Deborah Hughes

Typically, Frio County Precinct 4 and the city of Dilley get only one day of early voting for county and state elections. For the 2020 primary runoff, we had a full week.

The last days of early voting for this round of elections in Dilley will be today (Thursday July 9) and tomorrow (Friday July 10). Hours are 8am-5pm and for these two days, voting for both Boxes 9 & 10 will take place at the old library.

Early voting is recommended to avoid the lines and congestion of election day, especially for those practicing social distancing.

Frio County Clerk Race, The Best Option Is Clear: Aaron Ibarra | June 25

One of the earliest pieces of advice I received as County Commissioner was to be cautious about endorsing candidates. Answering questions about who you’re voting for? Fine. Privately reaching out to voters on behalf of another candidate? Ok. Anything further than that? No way.

The risks are too many. Your candidate will lose and the winner might not cooperate with you. Or the candidate you vouched for will win, and they will only disappoint you and the community after they take office. Either way, you will alienate one base of voters, jeopardizing not only your political standing, but your personal relationships in a county where everyone is connected. 

But I’ve seen good people lose. And Dilley did not elect me to sit in silence.

Vote for Aaron Ibarra for County Clerk.

If you read nothing else in this post, vote for Aaron Ibarra for County Clerk.

He’s been through the fire. Aaron was appointed to County Clerk last year, and he walked into that courthouse like Ethan Hawke in Training Day. Hazed by some of the old guard in that building. Tested by a clique hoping to see him fail.

But he stuck with it. Thrived. Learned all aspects of the job. Reshaped communication between Frio County and the public. Personally, I lean on Aaron constantly for records in preparation for meetings.

This job is more important than most of the public gets to see. County Clerk Aaron Ibarra recently asked for a debate, attempting to start a new cycle of candidate evaluation and accountability, something we desperately need in Frio County.

After his opponent refused, Aaron walked into the fire again, setting up an online forum on social media. If asked, I would have advised against it. But he showed what he was made of. And if the tone of a candidate’s supporters tells you anything about the candidate, I think his Ask Me Anything forum told a story of two starkly different choices for County Clerk, and potential future of Frio County.

Read the thread here:

Thank you,

Jose Asuncion
Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4

Cornelio HH | Dilley, TX

I was trying to concentrate on replacing a windshield in a truck parked in my grandfather’s front yard, but the customer was fixated on the sky. I didn’t ask what she was looking at. I didn’t want to know.

“There’s an old man in your tree,” she said.

I looked up. Oh yeah that’s Cornelio, I told her, relieved. A mesquite limb fell to the ground.

Cornelio survived mostly on yard work and probably other odd jobs. All manual tools. A saw blade roped and taped to the end of an 8 foot pole. A rusty grass whip. Sometimes he carried the tools for the mile-or-so walk to the job. Sometimes a friend gave him a lift.

My grandma loved hiring him. He made her feel like a doña. He worked without break on an acre of land in the brutal Dilley sun, and she didn’t pay him much more than a cup of water and maybe enough money for that night’s beer. Embarrassed, my mom always slipped him extra cash and a brisket plate from Eagle Oil BBQ.

I saw that he passed away on Councilman Everardo Castillo Jr.’s Facebook page. Bebe said he passed away a couple days ago, alone in his apartment. Like me, he didn’t know when Cornelio moved to the States from Mexico or even what his last name was. “I’ll call you back,” he said.

I remembered a photo I snapped of Cornelio. The file’s metadata says it was October 20, 2018. I’d never seen Cornelio wearing anything but Cintas work pants and a long sleeve linen shirt, but that day he was walking around town looking fly. I snapped a pic for style inspiration. He liked it. He was clearly feeling himself. 

“His last name was Hernandez,” Bebe said when he called back. “But he signed his last name ‘HH.’ My mom thinks it stood for Hernandez Hernandez.”

We know he lived in Dilley for a long time. Judge Flores remembers him for sure 15 years ago. Bebe remembers maybe 30. He spoke purely in Spanish, in a gentle voice.

We don’t think he has any family in town. If he doesn’t, Judge Flores, who did the inquest, will call the Mexican consulate in the morning. If they don’t claim him, his cremation will be paid for by Frio County, and he’ll rest in one of our cemeteries.

Que en paz descanse.

written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4

GEO: Zero New COVID-19 Cases This Week.* How Did That Happen?

In the week that ended May 8, Frio County was subjected to a slew of positive COVID-19 case press releases in GEO’s immigrant detention center in Pearsall. At first, it was a steady trickle- only one case each day of May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. And then fifteen positives out of the detention center on May 6. Add nine on May 8, for a cumulative total of thirty-two cases associated with the detention center.

With no statutory authority over the publicly traded, privately operated GEO Group that runs the South Texas ICE Processing Center, Frio County, Pearsall and Dilley leaders demanded a public accountability session with management through phone calls, email, and certified mail.

Continue reading “GEO: Zero New COVID-19 Cases This Week.* How Did That Happen?”