North Texas Daily

Denton City Council grants Joe Rivas ownership of home

Denton City Council grants Joe Rivas ownership of home

February 25
00:31 2016

 Julia Falcon | Staff Writer


A man who was displaced by the Hickory Street substation project was granted ownership Tuesday of a newly renovated home, paid for by Denton Municipal Electric, the company that forced him to move in the first place.

The hashtag, #SaveJoesHome, was created as Denton residents rallied behind Jose “Joe” Rivas. Rivas was one of five tenants living on Bonnie Brae Street asked to move out and relocate so DME could add a substation on the corner of Bonnie Brae and Hickory streets.

“I was angry when I got the letter in the mail, I almost threw it away,” Rivas said. “I did a lot of work on this house with my own money and I wanted to live here forever. I emailed the city and I was told not to worry and I would get help.”

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Rivas needed help finding another house to suit his needs. He reached out to City Council in 2014. Because DME is a city-owned utility and the remodel would cost $175,000, the Council had to approve the sale to Rivas. The Tuesday decision was whether to revisit a previous vote to approve the sale.

“We knew he would be displaced by that project, and it is the federal and state law that we help relocate him,” DME spokesman Brian Daskam said. “We already owned that property he is moving into, so it made sense for the community and it made sense for him. We talked to Habitat for Humanity, local housing authorities and looked at a lot of rental properties around town. With the direction of City Council, we moved him in.”

DME officials worked closely with Rivas to make sure it was compatible for him according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“At first, I was sad, depressed, angry and nervous about moving,” Revas said. “I am happy it’s over with and now I can move forward with everything. The city did a wonderful job and handled everything really well.”

At the end of the council meeting Tuesday, Mayor Chris Watts thanked everyone involved.

“This is a day of celebration, as far as I’m concerned. This is one bright shiny moment in this city’s history,” Watts said. “I wanted to be the first to welcome you to your new home and wish you many years of happiness.”

Councilwoman Kathleen Wazny said despite accusations she has seen on social media about how she isn’t sensitive to those with disabilities, she worked with Rivas through the process and analyzed the policy, procedure and costs. 

“This began before I was a part of the city council, but now Joe has a house, and I am happy for him,” Wazny said. “I have had great conversations with him and my husband and I are very supportive of him. We really studied the details and the council has worked very hard and things ended up going well.”

Staff writer Jynn Schubert contributed to this report.

Featured Image: Map of Joe Rivas’ home that was recently granted ownership to. 

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