The right-of-way acquisition and relocation process had been explained in some way to dozens of Wharton citizens who are being affected by the $73.2 million federal levee project.
These citizens were advised of their status by various means, including letters through the U.S. Postal Service. Earlier this month, those affected put a face to this process as a levee acquisition and relocation was held at the Wharton Civic Center.
In some case, familiar faces of the Wharton County Recovery Team (WCRT) were on hand to guide citizens along in the process. WCRT’s Patti Odom was in attendance, as was most of the Wharton city staff, including City Manager Andres Garza. City Secretary Paula Favors also spoke to citizens where they had questions.
The entity in charge is HDR, based in Austin, but it has various satellite locations across the country, including Houston.
HDR was hired as the acquisition and relocation firm several months ago in May following Wharton City Council approval.
Since then, HDR has been working with Wharton’s city staff, including City Finance Director Joan Andel, Community Development Director Gwyneth Teves, her assistant Krystal Hasselmeier, and Brandi Jimenez, who is Garza’s assistant.
At the Aug. 8 meeting, these citizens were told that there is a process that initially begins with these Colorado River acquisitions and relocation services. After that, citizens are no longer involved.
There are plans to have a Phase I design update and review, and Baughman Slough project design work done this summer.
In the fall, HDR will then provide more right-of-way acquisition and relocation services for citizens who are affected by the levee project who live on Baughman Slough. Then Phase II design work will commence. There are also plans to begin Phase I, Phase II and Baughman Slough pre-construction work.
HDR plans to continue more right-of-way acquisition and relocation services in the winter before the end of the year.
According to an HDR timeline, in the fall of 2020 Colorado River Phase I construction will begin and last 16 months. In the spring of 2021, Baughman Slough construction will begin (approximately 18 months) and Colorado River Phase II construction (approximately 18 months).
In regard to the citizens, there has nothing been left to chance when explaining the right-of-way acquisition and relocation services process. They have been broken down in order of steps, including obtaining right-of-entry to a property by a city agent, survey data to ensure data is accurate, appraisal ordering to determine a property’s true market value, monetary offerings from the city to a property owner/resident, and relocation assistance that includes benefits and expenses for property owners/residents.
All of this can take between 60-90 days for each citizen.
When HDR interviewed for this, Regional Real Estate Services Lead Elaine Verver, said there would be emphasis placed on lessening the emotional and financial impact of displacement.
At the meeting, there were large boards that explained how the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act of 1970 (Uniform Act) is intended to insure fair treatment compensation, and assistance to property owners whose property is acquired for public use projects.
All of this information can be found on the city’s levee project page through its website at www.cityofwharton.com. You can also call Hasselmeier at 979-532-2491, ext. 239.