City of San Marcos wants to use federal grant money to reimburse 2015 flood victims

Money has already been granted, but to use it city needs public, HUD approval

SAN MARCOS, Texas – Memorial Day marked four years since the deadly 2015 flood that destroyed neighborhoods in cities such as Wimberley and San Marcos.

Since then, San Marcos has received a total of $33 million in federal disaster recovery grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As recovery continues, the city has discovered a way to bring more resources to homeowners in the heavily damaged Blanco Gardens neighborhood.

Vanessa Schmidt's 79-year-old father-in-law lives in that neighborhood, and his home is still marked with signs of the flood.  

"Oh, my God. There was mud up to the door," she said, pointing to the middle of the front door. "It moved the porch off of the stilts."

The scars from that terrifying day are both visible and imperceptible.

"Every time it rains, I freak out," Schmidt said.

So does Ana Perez, who lives around the corner.

She was home on Memorial Day 2015, when floodwaters began pouring into the house she'd lived in for 30 years.  

"Oh, it scared me!" Perez said.

It's the story of so many people in Blanco Gardens, which is why San Marcos has funneled so many of its federal grant dollars to those homeowners.

Of the more than $33 million HUD has granted the city since 2016, the majority has gone to infrastructure: fixing damage and creating new flood control systems.

Another chunk went to fix damaged homes.

Some homes scattered throughout Blanco Gardens needed so much rehab that the city rebuilt them entirely. Those homes are lifted far off the ground, making them more floodproof.

The grant's original action plan also set aside $1 million for fixing rental homes in Blanco Gardens.

"What we've discovered is there's not a lot of demand right now for rental rehab in the community, so we're looking at better ways to utilize that funding," said Aaron Harris, community initiatives administrator for the city of San Marcos.

Harris said the funds could instead be used to reimburse homeowners who have rebuilt with their own money.

In order for the money to be re-appropriated, the city has to gather public input, put together an amendment and submit it to HUD for approval.

"As soon as HUD approves it, we're off and running and the program will start," Harris said.

It's welcomed news for Perez and Schmidt's father-in-law, who have not yet received help from the city.

The city of San Marcos will hold a public hearing at City Hall in the council chambers at at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 4. Staff will present the plan and ask for ideas and concerns.

Residents can also give their input online or by taking a survey.

About the Author: