Families on three-mile road can't get services

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Jim Wells County Correspondent

One Jim Wells County resident awoke to find that the road in front of her house had been closed.

Although County Road 118 does have road problems, including rocks and deep ruts that develop after heavy rains, the actual road closure was a surprise.

"They never notified us when they closed the road. We saw the sign at the end of the road last week, and we haven't had any mail delivered in a week, but the county didn't notify us when they were going to close it," Laura Saenz said.

Peggy Reyes, officer in charge at the United States Post Office in Alice, said the route's mail carrier had not been out to the road this week because of the temporary road closure. Reyes said her office has not been notified by the county as to how long the road will remain closed.

Saenz, along with her husband and in-laws, is one of two property owners who live on the three-mile county road, situated between County Road 170 and State Highway 281.

She has complained numerous times to the county about the conditions of the road. The county has come out throughout the last year to scrape the road and put down some caliche, but Saenz said the road continues to deteriorate. She feels that the road is being neglected because of the lack of homeowners living on the road.

"(Commissioner) Zenaida (Sanchez) said 'Well, it's your choice to live out here.' and that they've done what they can, but they never really do anything for it," Saenz said. "For all the money and time they spent coming out here with the crew to scrape and drop caliche, they could have paved at least a one mile section from here to (Highway) 281, but because we're the only ones out here, it hasn't happened."

The problem is also a safety hazard, Saenz said. She said her niece, who was in need of medical attention some time back, couldn't get access to the ambulance because she said the ambulance couldn't make it down the road. Saenz ended up taking her to the hospital.

"If there's an emergency out here, they won't be able to come in because of the closed road and the conditions out here. There's just too much mud when it rains," Saenz said. "When I married my husband five years ago, I knew it would be quiet, but I've been through four vehicles in the last couple of years because of the condition of this road and I didn't expect that when I came out here."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez said most of her crew, about nine men, came out to scrape the road and lay caliche about five times in 2002. Sanchez said that was above the normal maintenance visits, which included cutting brush and picking up trash.

"We were already on top of the situation. We planned to go out there before she called about the issues with the road. We shut the road down temporarily, but we will continue to service it," Sanchez said.

"We brought in recycled cement for some spots on the road, and used more than 15 loads of caliche on it, but a combination of heavy rain and people going out there mudding has ripped up the road base. County Road 118 is a three-mile stretch out of the 121 total miles I'm responsible for. The proceeds we set aside for roads have to be stretched for all the roads. There are only three homes on that road, tops, and we have to balance that with where the roads need to be maintained in the precinct."