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Investigation by TCEQ unearths permit issue

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Posted: Monday, June 6, 2011 12:00 pm

By Sonya Campbell

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - More than eight months after losing their home in the Sept. 8 flooding caused by Tropical Storm Hermine, a Belton family continues to struggle to recover from their loss and contends the city of Belton has done little to help.

Carolyn and J. Jolly believe the city may be partially to blame for flooding that occurred in their neighborhood, where several homes ended up being condemned - including theirs.

The couple's reasoning is based on the belief that in the months prior to the flood, the city was dumping truckloads of materials onto undeveloped, private property in the Shirttail Bend area adjacent to Nolan Creek, thereby adversely affecting the flood plain.

Doing so would constitute a violation of city ordinances and federal flood-control guidelines.

Belton City Manager Sam Listi confirmed to the Herald materials from public works projects had been dumped into an old gravel pit in the area and said the action was taken with the former property owners' permission.

But according to a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigation report, the former property owners failed to get permission from the state agency.

In the report, written by TCEQ investigator David Mann in March, a complaint was filed Jan. 24, alleging that concrete, lumber, fill dirt, construction debris and brush were being disposed of in an old gravel pit by "a local government and local contracts."

The property was located at the end of South Head Street in Belton, adjacent to Nolan Creek, and was privately owned.

On Feb. 11, Mann made an unannounced visit to the site and found several brush piles and a large amount of inert fill material, the report indicated. But he did not see scrap lumber or construction debris as alleged in the complaint.

In his report, Mann wrote that he contacted Listi Feb. 15 and was told the city of Belton had an arrangement with the property owners to haul dirt to the site, but had ceased do so in September 2010.

Listi said he was aware of the complaint and confirmed he had been in contact with the TCEQ.

Also on Feb. 15, the investigator contacted one of the property owners and reviewed the complaint with the woman.

Mann wrote he explained to the property owner that the disposal of municipal solid waste on the property must immediately cease.

Furthermore, he noted, the property owners were to receive a notice of violation for failing to get written authorization from the TCEQ prior to disposing of the unauthorized solid waste. They were also required to remove and dispose of it according to TCEQ rules.

According to Listi, the city incurred no penalty from the state.

The property has since been sold.

Long recovery

That's little solace for the Jollys, who are living at a temporary location until the utilities can be connected to their new double-wide manufactured home on property on Avenue B, a short distance away from the site of their old home.

Wiping away tears, Carolyn Jolly expressed frustration about a deluge of events and circumstances that have occurred within the past year.

At the time of the flood, the Jollys resided in an older wood-frame house at 220 Hale St., off Interstate 35 near Central Avenue. They had lived at the location for about 18 years.

"We were dry and happy there," Carolyn Jolly said.

She noted she had never seen the creek rise as high as it did on Sept. 8, after Tropical Storm Hermine dumped more than 10 inches of rain in what was described as a 100-year event.

Since the flood, the couple has spent months struggling to recover.

Carolyn described their financial situation as going from "making it" to "terrible" and said they have had to depend on the generosity of others to help them secure temporary shelters - a hotel through the American Red Cross and donations, and later an apartment from the housing authority.

The couple's plight has been championed by members of the community, particularly the Belton Concerned Citizen Alliance.

Carolyn singled out Joe Trevino Jr. for helping them find a new home and for working with volunteers to have it moved from the Waco area to another of the couple's properties in the Shirttail Bend area.

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