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Couple claims backhoe used to pick up hurricane debris damaged home's walkway

HOUSTON – A southwest Houston couple said they are struggling after surviving Hurricane Harvey and dealing with an issue they believe they shouldn't have to be dealing with at all.

After the storm, the couple said the debris cleanup left the walkway to their home in shambles. Now, they said they are left having to foot the bill -- a bill they cannot afford.

"It looks like a big jigsaw puzzle," said John Ojeda.

When water destroyed Ojeda's home, the last thing he thought would give him headaches was his walkway.

"We've been dealing with having to renovate our whole inside our home after Hurricane Harvey, so it's a lot. We're tapped," said Ojeda.

Ojeda couldn't have been more excited for the promised debris cleanup. However, it turned into more of a nightmare.

"We had lots of debris left out here. The city finally came in and decided to move the debris. When they did, they decided to come up our driveway and when they did they brought a small backhoe which destroyed our walkway," said Ojeda.

It was damage that would cost $1,800 - $3,000 dollars to repair -- a cost for a couple who was already stretched thin.

John and his wife, Debbie, filed a claim against the city. They said they called the claims department and the mayor's office but never heard back. They also went through 311 -- following the directions carefully and timely.

"I had to get multiple written quotes, pictures as well as a notarized letter -- sent to two different departments in the city. I took care of everything, I sent it," Debbie said.

"We figured something would be taken care of," said John.

Instead, they were let down.

"My heart sunk," Debbie said.

They got a letter from the city's Claims Section's senior coordinator stating:

"Our investigation fails to reveal any responsibility for your damage, therefore, you are advised that your claim is denied. Our investigation revealed that an outside contractor may be responsible for the damage."

The Ojedas were stunned. They said they had witnesses who saw it happen.

"We didn't hire the contractor. It's the city's contractor. You know, if you hire a subcontractor, you're responsible for their actions," said John. "It's not our fault."

They said they have not heard back from anyone, including the person who sent the letter and the mayor's office. For now, they're worried that the damaged walkway may hurt others -- a mishap which would leave them responsible. They hope the city is able to help.

"It's still a kick in the pants on top of all the hurricane damage," said John.

KPRC reached out to the city of Houston. Its spokesperson said they are looking into the situation.