dove springs

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The city of Austin has made offers to buy at least two dozen homes damaged by the Halloween flood. Why then, are some homeowners refusing to sell?

Floods are nothing new in South East Austin’s Onion Creek neighborhood. And neither is the city’s buyout program. It began back in 1998. The idea has always been to buy homes in the floodplain using taxpayer money to avoid future loss of life and property damages.

Terry Morris, a contractor and a real estate agent in Austin, owns a duplex in Onion Creek that’s been on the city’s buyout list for years. He recently opted out of the program.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Damaris Covarrubias lives in Dove Springs, with her entire extended family. It is a huge family. So large in fact, that Damaris has never stopped to actually count how many there are.

“Okay, my grandparents, I think they had 9 kids. Cousins? I think there’s like 30 or 40 of us. Including the little ones? I don’t know. And now every cousin’s having babies so it keeps on growing and growing,” Covarrubias admits. 

The vast majority of her cousins have become parents while they were still in their teens, and that’s pretty typical for Dove Springs.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It is property tax season and, for the people affected by last October’s floods, there will be some relief. The disaster declaration Texas Governor Rick Perry signed in December means flood victims can have their properties re-assessed and can make their payments in installments.

The relief will be small, since it will only cover the months of November and December, but Travis County Tax Assessor Bruce Elfant said at a press conference today that, for over 600 properties, the relief means they’ll have a smaller tax payment. 

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Community health workers – or promotoras de salud – with the Latino Health Care Forum are collecting data about people still living in Dove Springs after the Halloween floods.

"We have heard a lot of really sad stories …you just start crying," says promotora Norma Lopez. “We’re going to be working on-hand with our people. Refer them to whatever they need, any kind of help.”

Promotoras say they spent about a month getting feedback from people who still need help, especially medical care. The results will identify Dove Springs families still in need.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

In Southeast Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, crime is a constant.

Ever since an uptick in crime in the 1990s, police have maintained a visible presence in the neighborhood – and residents of Dove Springs haven’t always had a favorable view of the Austin Police Department.

There was a time when the department’s relationship with Dove Springs was especially strained. During the summer of 2005, APD Officer Julie Schroeder shot and killed 18 year-old Dove Springs native Daniel Rocha.

A re-enactment video created by the department in investigating Rocha’s death is set on Pleasant Valley Road – one of Dove Springs’ main thoroughfares.

Connie Gonzaes, Facebook

As people are gearing up for Thanksgiving, many families impacted by last month’s flooding are still trying to put their lives back together.The floods severely damaged more than 600 homes and many of those people still don’t have a permanent place to stay.

But residents came together Sunday night to provide some flood victims with a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to escape the cold temperatures, if only for a few hours.

The event was organized by Dove Springs resident Robert Kibbie and Pastor Richard Villarreal with The Springs Community Church. Overall, 120 meals were served. Volunteers also delivered 60 meals to people who were not able to attend the actual event.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

This year, KUT News is chronicling the challenges and changes affecting Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood in a series called “Turning the Corner.”

These stories have taken on added urgency in the aftermath of Austin’s Halloween floods, where flooding directly affected many Dove Springs residents. 

Bene Jacobs’ morning routine hasn’t changed that much. She still gets up before 6 a.m., before it’s light outside.

In the darkness, at her cousin’s house in Del Valle, Bene struggles to find her way into the room where her children sleep. “Still learning all the light switches,” she whispers.

Roy Varney for KUT News

For the first time in five years, southeast Austin’s Langford Elementary School has a free book program.

Langford, where 65 percent of the students are learning English as a second language, is able to relaunch its Reading is Fundamental program with help from a neighborhood church.

Richard Villarreal is the lead pastor at Springs Community Church. He approached Langford principal Dounna Poth last spring and asked how his church could help the school. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Early on the morning of Oct. 31, as waters rose to historic levels in Onion Creek, two of the flood gauges that officials rely on to monitor water levels weren't working. The flooding heavily damaged more than 600 homes and killed five.

One gauge was completely submerged by water, damaging the equipment – which isn't waterproof. But the other had malfunctioned before the flooding even began. And more than two weeks after the Halloween Floods, city and emergency officials still don't know why.

The gauges, which are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), provide emergency responders with critical information during floods about how fast and how high flood waters are rising. In Austin, there are 130 flood gauges that measure water levels, rainfall and low-water crossings 24 hours a day.

Flickr user trebomb,

Update: This week, Blockbuster Video announced it is closing its 300 remaining retail stores. It’s a bitter end for the rental chain, founded in Dallas, which once had 9,000 stores.

Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood contains two of the city’s three final Blockbuster stores. And unlike the company as a whole, those stores are thriving.

In the story below, KUT examines how forces behind the chain’s closure – the Internet and the rise of streaming video – are the same forces that have kept Dove Spring’s Blockbuster stores open for years.

Original story (Oct. 4): When was the last time you rented something from a Blockbuster Video?

Austin City Council member Laura Morrison’s recollection probably speaks for most of us. “My memory doesn’t go that far these days,” she says.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The floods last Thursday in Onion Creek and Dove Springs damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes, displacing families – many of them with children. 

Bene Jacobs, her partner Lawrence, and their three children are one such family. They were rescued from the roof of her neighbor's home.

“My five year old was holding my 16 month old on top of the roof," she says.

While her family is okay, her home has been condemned.

“All of the walls are buckled and the tree fell on top of the roof so they said it’s no longer safe to enter the premise, so it’s fenced off," she says.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Residents and teachers at Perez Elementary say little information was distributed to residents immediately after flooding in Austin's Onion Creek and Dove Springs neighborhoods last week, leaving some residents confused and unsure where to turn — especially those who don't speak English.

When Pompilio Perez left his home in Dove Springs to go to work at 5 a.m. last Thursday morning. It was raining, but there was no sign of flooding. Thirty minutes later he couldn’t even drive down his own street where his wife, Ana, and his three children were at home. Ana Perez and her kids were rescued from their roof and, by Saturday, they had returned. At that point, she says, they hadn’t received any help.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Austin and Travis County leaders have declared states of disaster in the wake of last week’s flooding, with more than 600 homes damaged and 37 destroyed. It's the first step in getting federal disaster aid. Officials and residents are still working to clear away debris, while emergency responders continue to provide shelter, food and help as victims figure out their next steps.

On South Pleasant Valley Road in Dove Springs, volunteers set up underneath tents along the road handing out everything from blankets and diapers to deodorant. Neighborhood association president Edward Reyes, says people remaining in their homes could face complications as a result of flood damage.

Kate McGee, KUT News

The student orchestra at Mendez Middle School has 15 new musical instruments, thanks to a large donation from Fidelity Investments’ new Austin location. The company surprised orchestra students during a special assembly Wednesday with $20,000 worth of violins, violas, saxophones and other instruments.

Jeffrey Hall, the school’s orchestra director, applied for the gift last year.  For the past four years, he’s built an orchestra program that now consists of 65 sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Donna Spencer and Iliana Gilman work with Austin Travis County Integral Care, the agency that provides mental health services for low-income residents in the area. They recently walked through the site of Integral Care’s soon-to-open $2.4 million facility, inside what used to be a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club.

It’s in the southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. This low-income, majority Latino neighborhood is getting its first mental health care facility. It’s in large part because of a federal initiative, the Medicaid 1115 waiver program, that funds experimental clinics like this one. It will offer mental health care and substance abuse treatment, along with routine primary care.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

In Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, it’s no secret: the middle school there – Mendez Middle School – has challenges. Before last year, Mendez was rated academically unacceptable and faced the struggles found in many low income schools: low test scores, little parental involvement, and chronic absenteeism.

In many cases, the burden of maintaining order at Mendez falls on the shoulders of teachers. Many start their day corralling kids inside the building and greeting them at the front door.

Out of a population of 24,000, who will be the one person to represent Dove Springs?

Last November, Austin voters agreed to adopt a geographic form of city government: one mayor and 10 districts with one council member each.

Advocates for geographic representation argue the old way left large parts of Austin unrepresented. The seven members of the current Austin City Council all live north of Lady Bird Lake, and close to the city’s core.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

The Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin runs from Ben White to William Cannon, bound by Montopolis and Pleasant Valley on the east, and Interstate 35 on the west. One of the issues affecting Dove Springs is its appearance. Piles of trash, broken fences and overgrown weeds and grass contribute to its visual blight. 

Ron Potts is at the wheel.

“We’re going down Stassney, because normally Stassney is pretty horrible in my vision.” He works for the City of Austin’s Code Compliance office, the guys that enforce the city’s codes and regulations.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin runs from Ben White to William Cannon, bound by Montopolis and Pleasant Valley on the east, and Interstate 35 on the west.