SAN MARCOS, Texas - A surprise grant for the city of San Marcos will fuel much-needed recovery efforts from disastrous 2015 floods.
The city received an extra $24 million in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. City leaders are not the only ones celebrating the new gift.
"We had 24 inches of water the last flood, in the house, all the way through, so we had to tear everything up," said Jimmy Hinojosa, who lives on a street positioned in between the Blanco and San Marcos rivers.
After years of fixing damage to his home, he's thrilled to hear about plans for infrastructure updates.
The plans are possible because of two federal grants. The first was for almost $34 million, awarded to the city in late 2016 and early 2017. The latest grant of $24 million was awarded to the city Tuesday.
"The last year, we've been procuring our construction people, having application intake, talking to the residents and getting them qualified, so now we're just at the time where we can reconstruct houses," said Stacy Brown, manager of San Marcos Housing and Community Development.
Brown and her team have also laid out five infrastructure projects they're about to start, which will be funded by the first grant. The catch is that the money must be used only in the Blanco Gardens neighborhood, where 600 homes were damaged.
The original grant will fund drainage issues and build up river banks along Uhland Road, Clarewood/Barbara, Midtown and Blanco Riverine.
The Uhland Road project will be the first, beginning this summer. It will cost about $4 million. The second drainage project will be on Barbara Street, which is near Hinojosa's house.
The new grant is more flexible and can be used anywhere in San Marcos.
"We can mitigate floods for the whole city, moving the water, the rainfall, to the rivers faster so that it doesn't stay stagnant in neighborhoods. That was the problem before," Brown said.
Hinojosa feels lucky he was able to restore his home. Many of his neighbors could not. He said he's glad to hear people across the city with lower incomes will qualify for the help.
"We've already gone through it and hope nobody else has to go through it," he said.
The new grant mandates the work be finished within two years, so the city has already hired new employees who are hard at work.
While future infrastructure projects are already planned, the city has not nailed down which housing projects the new grant will fund. Those decisions will be made with help from the public. The city will soon announce a series of public hearings this summer.
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