FFA students worry over barn lease dispute

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by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 5:20 PM

HOUSTON—Dozens of kids say they are being told they’ve got just two weeks to get their animals off the property they have called home for years.

There is just something about kids and animals, at least there should be.

“The whole thing smacks of the Grinch that stole the barnyard. All jokes aside,” said Craig Hanzelka whose nephew has animals on the land near the intersection of Highway 6 and Patterson Road in West Harris County.

This property for years has been owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and it leases the land to someone who has been charging  families to keep the animals there.

The Army Corps said it is not renewing the lease of those 50 acres come the end of the year.

“I don’t really know what to make of the situation because we have been left in the dark. I don’t know what is going on,” said Kathy Stinson whose daughter has been raising goats there for a year.

The parents said they are being forced off the land by Dec. 15.

The lease holder said that all they have done for 25 years is help children and an individual is responsible for causing all this mess.

”With their chronic late payments we do not feel it is in our best interest because of the time and money involved to continue with that leasing program with them,” said Richard Long, the Army Corps Natural Resource Manager.

Bottom line is the kids and their animals have to go, at least for now.     

It is not the land that the parents are worried about.  What they are worried about is all that has been built on the property over the years.

The barns, water tower, and fences could all be gone the, parents said because the leaseholder has told them it’s all coming down.

This is despite the fact that the Corps said it is planning to remove the middleman and lease this property directly to the families as soon as January 1.

Megan Steele has worked four years out here and this should be the time to see the scholarship rewards not be at risk.

“We are working our butts off to go to colleges and make life better for our own, not only that but our siblings,” she said.

This is not just a fight about where to put some animals, it is about the impact if kids like Megan can’t figure that out.

“I have no clue. I honestly have no clue. If can’t show my animals then I have no way of going to college,” Steele said.

Her mother, Elizabeth Steele is angry.

“It is just mean. I think that we could come to a mutual understanding. If they did intend to do this for the children then let’s leave it for the children,” she said.

For now leaving is the only thing that is certain.

That is true for everybody involved.

The Army Corps has offered a nearby piece of land for the kids to place their animals in the short term.

The problem with that is there are no barns or pens for the animals and the group does not have the funds to start over from scratch, especially if they have to do it twice in a few weeks.

 

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