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The Saipan Neighborhood, 5 Years After Flood

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POSTED: Monday, August 1, 2011 - 5:57pm

UPDATED: Monday, August 1, 2011 - 6:39pm

EL PASO - The Saipan neighborhood near Raynor and Durazno in central El Paso was hit especially hard in the 2006 flood. Five years later, the city is still rebuilding the neighborhood and people in the area say it should've been done by now.

59 of the homes had to be bought out by the city because they weren't safe anymore to live in.

"Water everywhere, the whole building was flooded, all the cabinets were floating around in the water," said Frank Pedroza, owner of Counter Tops Plus, Inc. He lost about $60,000 worth of supplies and potential jobs. And he didn't have flood insurance.

"We thought we were going to close down, because we had lost so many jobs that we had to restart all over again and pay for all this material," Pedroza said.

The city is putting in a new drainage system in the neighborhood, as well as a soccer field and retention pond. But Pedroza says the construction has turned customers away.

"People couldn't get to us, they had detours all over the place," he said. He added that on several occasions, he's been left in the dark.

"One day we went to lunch, we got back and they had torn up all our sidewalks, and our driveways," Pedroza said. "They would turn off the water and the gas and not tell us."

"I think it's going to be a good accent for the area, but it's taking forever," said Lourdes De La Cruz, who lives next to the future soccer field and retention pond. She hopes the project will help home values recuperate.

"The houses are too low, especially this one because it's on the corner," De La Cruz said.

"The intent was to make the project go faster and it probably did to an extent," said city engineer Alan Shubert. He said the city's goal was rather than slowly ripping the bandage off, to do it all at once.

"Had we sequenced it differently where we tore up streets kind of one at a time, it probably would have been a little less painful for the residents, the pain might've taken longer," Shubert said. He added that surprises have come up, delaying the project.

"Conditions where you dig up a hundred year old street, sometimes you find things that were unexpected," Shubert said.

Still, the city has pumped about $6 million into this neighborhood. While the city says it will spruce up the area and prevent flooding, Pedroza just wants things to go back to normal.

"This was more of an impact to the businesses and to the people in this area than the flood was," Pedroza said.

Engineers say the soccer field and retention pond will be built by the end of this month, but it'll still take some time before people can actually play on it.

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