Iola Residents Fear Fines; Officials Try to Curb Fears

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Discussion in Iola continues as the community decides whether becoming a city is a solution to their sewage woes.

Since the county and state made it clear that health issues exist, residents have raised concerns of potential fines. Officials tried to calm those fears Thursday evening.

At a community meeting, residents pondered the pros and cons of incorporation, as well as their other options to fix the issues that have fixed the state's eyes on the small town.

"There is a process that has to be kept in place and followed in order to get something done and get some resolution," said Tim Blackmon with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. "Idle threats won't do it."

And it's the continuing reminders that changes must be made that had many residents worried Thursday about fines that could be levied. Before fears could be addressed, several residents made it clear that they did not believe any fines would be appropriate given the fact that they were working towards solutions to the communities issues.

What was continually stressed by Grimes County officials was that as long as progress is being made to alleviate health issues with the sewage, the long-arm of the law will look kindly on the community. That includes residents putting in their own sewage systems, or even an option to hook up all homes to put sewage into a temporary container.

"It is not my duty, nor my job, nor my direction, nor my destiny to go out and send deputies writing tickets to everybody," Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell told the residents. "You can go to the bank and deposit that one."

"I expect there to be quite a panic, actually," said Christina Stover, who heads up the volunteer committee looking into incorporation. "We're just going to ask people not to panic, hang in there and see what we can do."

And on this particular evening, it seemed one main fear was put to rest.

Also helping was an appearance by Bedias' mayor, Mackie Bobo, who touted the benefits of incorporation. Her community recently made the switch to city status, and earlier this year, they received $2.6 million in grant money from the US Department of Agriculture for a sewer system.

Bobo, like the other county officials, said deciding on city status was a long haul, but well worth it.