Best Practices Awards: Hidalgo County

New initiative engages community, supports public safety

By County Magazine

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Before Hidalgo County stepped in, overgrown 
and rodent-infested properties in this South 
Texas community might have been left 
hazardous eyesores.

Before it created its Nuisance Abatement Division in 2016, Hidalgo County didn’t have the authority or the means to address health and safety code violations in its unincorporated areas. Reports from residents, however, regarding unkempt properties continued to rise. By creating the division, the county is now able to act immediately to help protect county residents’ health 
and welfare.

In recognition of its efforts, the Texas Association of Counties has given a 2018 County Best Practices Award to Hidalgo County for its Nuisance Abatement Program.

The commissioners court and Hidalgo County Executive Officer Valde Guerra assigned Hidalgo County Operations Administrator Chris Treviño to research, create and implement a nuisance abatement program for the county. Meetings were held between Treviño’s office and the county district attorney’s office, county judge's office, commissioners' staffs, county budget and management division and county auditor’s office.
While other counties often outsource abatements, Hidalgo County wanted to perform its own to mitigate costs. Beyond the initial expense of field equipment, the operational costs have remained minimal — comparable to a “small office.” The county fully funds the program within its operating budget.




Today, residents can call their county commissioner’s precinct office to report unsanitary conditions, weedy lots, drainage easements or hazards present on county-owned land. Precinct staff input resident reports into automated software that routes the complaint to the Nuisance Abatement Division for inspection. The division then opens a case and goes to work.

The program addresses hazards caused by mosquitoes, rodents, snakes and other pests, tall grass, illegal dumping and blocked drainage easements. Most property owners notified of a problem resolve the reported issue within 31 days and avoid the abatement costs that occur when the county has to step in to resolve the issue. At the time the award was given, there had already been more than 570 successful case closures.

“Since its implementation, Hidalgo County is a cleaner and safer community for everyone,” Treviño said.

The biennial program recognizes the efforts of county leaders in implementing innovative, scalable and replicable solutions to challenges facing local government throughout Texas. Areas of focus include financial and general management, public safety and corrections, health and human services, technology, community improvements and other county-related responsibilities.
 
“I’m encouraged by the tremendous concerted effort of Hidalgo County’s officials and staff to invest the time and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of county residents,” said TAC Executive Director Susan M. Redford. “We hope this award inspires other counties to leverage more best practices and continue discovering new solutions to better serve Texans.”