Aransas County commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Oct. 12, heard complaints from Richard Karowski, as well as others, living in the vicinity of junk conditions created at 260 Allen M. Parks Road.
Karowski said he has been a homeowner in that area since 2014, and prior to Hurricane Harvey everything was okay.
“After Harvey, it’s gotten worse and worse, with squatters (and junk RVs, trailers, etc.), he said. “Now there are over eight junked RVs on the property.
“It could be really bad if kids get inside them. If a child was to walk into one of them and get hurt, (nobody would know) they’re in there.”
He noted all (or many) of the trailers left on Rattlesnake Point Road have now been moved to Allen M. Parks.
“(The squatters) have burn barrels, burning plastic (and who knows what else), and it leaves a stench in the air,” said Karowski. “We want to bring people over to our house, but it’s embarrassing looking across the road.
“I’m tired of looking at this and dealing with this day after day.”
Commissioner Jack Chaney asked if anyone is living at the site.
“Just squatters,” said Karowski. “They have no water or electricity. They use a generator.”
The property owner is from West Texas, and known to county officials. County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills said the county has contacted the owner in the past.
Karowski said, “Then they started moving out, but now they’re moving more (junk RVs) in.”
Commissioner Wendy Laubach said the county’s penalties for such actions aren’t having any effect.
“We’re filing on people and fines can’t be collected,” she said.
“These people just don’t care,” said Karowski.
Commissioner Charles Smith said the county faces the problem of “having to follow the law.”
Laubach stated, “It’s not working.”
Karowski noted the people on the property do stuff, they get fined, and then it starts all over again.
“They get these trailers and strip them,” he said.
Laubach said she didn’t know if the county needs more legal tools, and added, “But what we’re doing just isn’t working.”
Commissioner Bubba Casterline said, “People know the system.”
Chaney noted, “They pay the fine and then we have to start the (legal) process all over again.
Karowski asked, “Can’t you do an abatement?”
Smith said the county takes someone to court and the person is fined $200, and it costs the county $2,500.
“The second time (they can get jail time,” he said.
“We could go after the landowner, (but then the costs go a lot higher).”
Laubach said, “If after three years we are still just going after squatters, we need to go after the land owner.”
Debbie Griffin, another property owner living in the area, said, “These people (squatters) are all over (this area around Rattlesnake Point Road and Old Salt Lake Road).
“This property is valuable. I remember when the first RV was brought to the property.
“In 2018 I started calling (County Environmental Health Officer Valerie Gonzalez) when RVs were being brought in.
“They dragged them in.”
Griffin said it has been a slow process trying to get the situation rectified, adding, “I think the same people who have been derelict in their duties.
“I think people are paying someone to move (these) RVs.”
Griffin then talked about a little subdivision in the area that has 20 homes with total values close to $4.5 million.
“Honestly, I don’t know what it’s going to take. It’s a shame. Maybe it doesn’t concern you. Where else do we turn to if something can’t be done?”
She also noted the roads in the area have been damaged due to RVs being dragged to different locations.
“Has the county attorney brought civil suits against the squatter?
“Have we attempted to remove the RVs from the property?”
She then read a statement from another property owner, who could not attend Monday’s meeting.
The woman questioned what the squatters are doing with their human waste, since the RVs aren’t hooked up to sewer and water.
Judge Mills noted the concerned property owners brought the problem to the court’s attention, and the county will look into the situation to see what further action can be taken.