CHAPARRAL, N.M. - Laura Eaves lives check-to-check on a modest Chaparral property her father left her before he died.
So, the 63-year-old was shocked when she recently got a notice from Doña Ana County that she would have to pay hundreds of dollars to decommission her septic tank and hook up her property to the Chaparral Wastewater System.
On a little more than $800 a month, Eaves struggles to makes ends meet. She hasn't been able to water her lawn or purchase new clothes, and she was forced to have yard sales to make a little extra cash.
"I've been able to live within my means," said Eaves. "I have nothing left to sell. I have nothing left to fall back on."
On her small plot of land, she remembered her father any way she could.
"I have to water my trees," Eaves said, wiping away a tear. "Daddy planted these trees."
Eaves' father, a World War II veteran, died on Christmas Day of 2008.
"He told me, 'If you'll stay here and take care of me and take me to my doctors appointments at William Beaumont, you can have this property,'" Eaves remembered.
Eaves is also diabetic, and her blood sugar has surged to dangerous levels. She said these unexpected costs don't help.
"I'm literally worrying myself to death," Eaves said.
She said she is afraid to cut back on her grocery bills and might sacrifice her health.
Vince Pokluda, the assistant manager for Dona Ana County, said the county will search for every possible resource to help someone like Eaves.
“There’s always some way," Pokluda said. "You just have to be patient and keep on looking.”
Pokluda said if Eaves chooses not the pay, the fees will turn to fines that continue to add up.
However, there is a department within the county called Community and Constituent Services that assists residents with financial burdens by connecting them with community services.
Eaves, however, is still anxious at the upcoming deadlines.
“I'm alone," Eaves said. "I’m scared. I shouldn’t have to be scared and worried every day when I wake up. Where’s this money coming from?”