HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – Drivers speeding down Garrett Road may not even notice the little street leading into a country subdivision called Padok Timbers.
The word “subdivision” doesn’t exactly conjure a clear picture of the neighborhood, which is more like a collection of lots and modular homes surrounded by woods.
“It’s country living,” said Dee Hughes, who’s lived in the area for decades. “It’s nice. It’s quiet.”
Only one road leads into the neighborhood, a narrow strip of asphalt that passes over a bridge crossing a small ditch. And right now, that’s a problem.
“The bridge caved in,” Hughes explained. “It keeps caving in more and more. And eventually, we won’t be able to get in and out of Padok.”
Neighbors said the bridge started showing signs of decay months ago, but a disturbingly large chunk of the road collapsed into the water just a couple of weeks ago. Sawhorses now stand on the roadside along with yellow emergency tape stretched between stakes in the ground, an effort to keep drivers and pedestrians from treading on land that looks ready to crumble.
“This is the only (road) in and out of our little subdivision,” Hughes said. “It’s all private. We don’t have no help, you know. So what do we do?”
Seems like a simple question, but the answer is complicated.
The problem is that the bridge, like all the roads in the small subdivision, was privately built when the subdivision opened more than 30 years ago. So neither the county nor state government is responsible for maintaining it.
Each of the roughly 50 property owners in the subdivision is assessed a $5 a month fee for road maintenance. That fee is fixed in the subdivision’s deed restrictions, according to Stephen Krebs, the son of the late Paul Krebs, who developed the subdivision. The revenue it generates – about $250 a month – can’t even come close to paying for repairs to the bridge.
“It’s been a problem,” Krebs said. “And there’s been several meetings out there that I’ve been associated with where I’ve tried to indicate to them that in 1980, $5 a month was OK to handle it, but here we’re just not capable of maintaining the roads for the quality that they need.”
Krebs said his family volunteered to pay for a bulkhead to shore up the bridge, a job that cost about $19,000. But some of the neighbors complained about the quality of the work, and county officials briefly put a stop to it while they tried to figure out whether a permit was required.
That bothered Krebs, who figured his family was generously offering to help solve a problem for a neighborhood where they no longer even owned any property.
“It was kind of a slap in the face,” Krebs said. “We got the money, we got the funds for it, we started working on it. And then we were told it’s not going to happen.”
Krebs decided to stop work on the bridge, leaving a half-built bulkhead on the roadside.
By coincidence, Paul Krebs, the subdivision’s developer died over the weekend at the age of 90. His children said they decided their father would probably want them to finish fixing the bridge, so they said would work would resume shortly.
That can’t happen soon enough for some of the neighborhood’s residents.
“We’re having so much rain I’m afraid it’s going to wash out the bridge,” said Tom Rogers, one of longtime residents who depends on the bridge for access to his home.