Monday, June 5, 2017


By  Juan Montoya
For years after they bought their lots in the Salazar Acres Subdivision in the margins of the southeast Brownsville city limits, the residents had to do without water connections from El Jardin Water District.

The late B.C. Price was El Jardin manager and his board had argued that the residents there could not have a meter and connections to the district's water mains along Browne Road because there was no dedicated right-of-way on Salazar Road. They said it was one of many illegal subdivisions that carried over the years in the precinct.

And so the residents toiled to haul drinking and domestic-use water in plastic 55-gallon drums. Some even had placed large black plastic tanks atop their homes to which they pumped water with small pumps. In this way, they could have some water for their showers and baths.
Lacking connections to any existing sanitary sewer branch lines of the Brownsville Public Utility Board, the subdivision was serviced by (on-site sewer facilities) septic tanks.

Things dragged on for years and politicians came and went. The problem, however, was getting bigger and bigger and the people wanted a solution. Over time, they enlisted the aid of activists for Valley Interfaith (Sister Consuelo was her name) and set about to get their water. The commissioner at that time was Lucino Rosenbaum.

County officials suspected that since Price and Salazar were competing developers, that might have played a part in El Jardin's reluctance to provide the hookups. Nonetheless, with the nun from Valley Interfaith applying pressure in the form of camping out in the commissioner's office and showing up en-masse at the commissioners court, things were rapidly coming to a head.
At the time, the area around Saldivar and Browne roads was rural. There was no Ben Brite School across the subdivision. The city was still off in the distance ending somewhere near El Jardin Elementary near the airport.

At that time, Pct. 1 had an acting engineer named Juan Garza. Garza was an old-time county employee who had training as a surveyor, but pressed into service, had been acting county engineer. You might have known him. His brother Willy owns the Border Lounge on 14th Street. They are an old barrio family.

 When registered engineer Andy Cueto was hired by the county, he moved to consolidate his territory and Garza – already in his 60s – was unceremoniously let go. Pct. 1 picked him up and made him the Right-of-Way guy.
Tired of Sister Consuelo and her band of Saldivar Subdivision protesters, Garza came up with a plan to get the residents water, and ease the political pressure on the elected officials.

He researched the matter and came up with a plan. In those days, each precinct controlled its own Road and Bridge budget, basically throwing caliche on the worst roads as best they could. The consolidated Public Works Dept. did not exist.

Garza and the precinct staff went about gathering documentation to establish the fact that county materials and workers had serviced Saldivar Road. Going back on their daily duty logs, they put together evidence indicating the road had been serviced. Old-time precinct employees (going back to commissioner D.J. Lerma, and before) signed affidavits that they had worked on the road. By coincidence, it was found that aside from having gone into the road to service it, at least one old-timer knew some people there (a woman) for whom he spread caliche on the road. Well, why not?

Under Texas law, an easement (ROW of Saldivar Road) could be obtained by the county if it could prove that county materials, machinery and manpower to maintain it had been used for a period longer than 10 years.
Then, an action item was placed on the commissioners court to declare Saldivar Road a part of the county road system by prescriptive easement. Once this was done and the commissioners voted to accept it, the way was clear.

Price was shown the commissioners' court vote, and that an easement through where he could run the lines now existed.
To everyone's relief, he gave in. Each connection would cost residents about $3,000 which could be paid in small increments in their monthly water bills. And the residents would no longer have to haul water (it weights a little over 8 pounds per gallon, we learned) to drink or for domestic use.

Sister Consuelo was happy to have helped the Saldivar Acres residents. They were no longer camped out at the precinct office, and Price had them off his back.

When the water lines were finally run out to the subdivision, they held a prayer service and invited the county's public officials to drink the first glass that ran to the end of the road. And that was the day that water came to Saldivar Acres Subdivision off Browne Road.


Anonymous said...

Like anyone gives a fuck about colonias. Write about bitches, juan!

Anonymous said...

"The squeeky wheel gets the grease"

Anonymous said...

Colonias are part of our culture, Bro. Be nice. You cannot be a True Mexican if you disrespect colonias. Colonias is who we are!

Anonymous said...

If you are poor, you live in a "colonia", if you are middle class or "rich" by local standards, you live in a "subdivision".
People should research better. I know people living or grew up in Cameron Park and Portway Acres that are professionals with jobs in the tv. business and education. Not everybody that lives in a colonia is an "illegal" or a "mexican", not everybody that lives in a colonia sells drugs. Some people that sell illegal stuff actually live in those "subdivisions".