MISSION, Texas (KVEO) —Mission Resident Come Gomez, was the victim of a break-out fire that burned down his home and business.
Gomez is the owner of Air King Heating and Cooling, which burned down after a neighbor burned trash.
Hidalgo County has been more at risk to fires due to the drought, and currently has a burn-ban in effect.
However, trash-burning is not a new problem, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said that it comes from unregulated trash pick-up services in colonias.
Colonias is a term used for low-income communities or neighborhoods that lack services, such as running water or trash pick-up.
“We would like for [residents] to have the same services that people in that live in the municipality have, but in order to do that we have to charge,” said Cortez.
Gomez, whose house burned down in a colonia, said he and his family have to stay in a hotel while they figure out what to do. Gomez told KVEO that his house was uninsured.
Cortez said that under Sections 364.034 (a) and (b) of the Texas Health and Safety Code, counties are not allowed to charge a fee for trash pick-up in unincorporated areas, such as colonias.
“What this has done to us is it’s caused a huge burden,” said Cortez. “I mean it’s costing us around $8,000,000 annually to pick up people’s trash.”
Hidalgo County shared with KVEO data that shows how much money was spent in taxpayer dollars to pick up trash in the last six years.
Cortez said that the increase is partly because of the growing population, but the cost falls on the average citizen.
“Well, it’s taxpayer’s money because the county only has one source of revenue and that is what the taxpayers of Hidalgo County pay,” said Cortez.
With millions of dollars spent on waste pick-up, Cortez said that he supports Texas Senate bill 594, which seeks to change the Health and Safety Code to allow counties to charge for trash services.
The judge also explained that illegal trash burning contributes to break-out fires, and can cause more flooding.
“Those drainage canals are there to help those citizens from being flooded, we are in a delta area we all know we have a drainage problem here,” said Cortez. “And for people to go and dump those things in the canals, is just irresponsible.”
Hidalgo County has dump sites that people can pay to bring their trash to, but Cortez said that they are just not working.