Dumb Asphalt

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Take a look at this DUMB ASPHALT! Three years ago Angelina County voters said they wanted county commissioners to stop handling road projects because of a history of favoritism.

We’ve got evidence the politicians are still meddling, and while most of the roads are still a mess we found one county road that appears to be getting special attention.

Say hello to some of the residents of Harley Golden Road. We can count more sheep and cattle living along here than people.

A drive down this nearly five-mile stretch of Angelina County roadway should give you an idea how little used it must be. Houses few and far between.

Harley Golden Road runs off Highway 103 in the eastern part of Angelina County.

Much of it has been paved twice in just three years.

We calculate way more than a million dollars has been spent just here. While hundreds of miles of road haven’t been improved for decades.

See this house on Harley Golden, that is where Denise Kendrick has lived for 16 years.

Wayne asked Denise, “You’re the one that believes there’s something fishy.”

Denise Kendrick responded, “Well I just wonder why Harley Golden.”

“There are other roads in the county I have friends that live on that are ten times worse, that you could actually your car will fall into a pothole and might need a crane to get out. So, why Harley Golden?” continues Denise.

We met Denise at a recent meeting of the Angelina County We The Watchdogs. Our message was simple, county commissioners, the county auditor, the D.A., the Texas Rangers, no one was providing accountability for the tax money squandered already.

“And you folks need to demand that every penny of that money needs to be accounted for going forward,” said Wayne Dolcefino.

We don’t know if Precinct 3 Commissioner Terry Pitts will run for reelection next Spring, but his handling of Angelina County tax money should face real scrutiny if he does.

Three years ago, Pitts promised taxpayers he would repair 11.1 miles of road in his precinct for a little more than half a million dollars in asphalt. He wanted to use borrowed tax money.

He didn’t even come close. Pitts later admitted he had only repaired 7.2 miles of road but used all the asphalt.

Harley Golden was the very first road the money was spent on.  Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the local constable lived on that road. But instead of the 3.2 mile promised paving job, Pitts admitted he did just 2.7 miles.

In that same year, Angelina County voters had voted to remove road work from county commissioners and hire an engineer to manage all roadwork.

That engineer was Chuck Walker, who says he was suspicious of the commissioner’s asphalt math.

He found the new asphalt on Harley Golden Road covered only 1.68 miles; you could easily see where the new work had been done. And the question was obvious.

How could Commissioner Pitts have used $190,000 worth of asphalt on such a small area of mostly pothole patches?

Denise and her husband couldn’t believe it

“I think my jaw hit the floor. That doesn’t – I don’t know exactly how much asphalt is needed to patch a certain amount of road but that –,” expressed Denise.

“Neither do they,” said Wayne.

Chuck Walker’s snooping didn’t last long. He was indicted for time sheet fraud and misuse of funds, but Walker says those criminal charges brought by D.A. were only done to end scrutiny of the roads and powerful county commissioners.

Angelina County faces a whistleblower lawsuit as a result.

Walker’s replacement was this guy, James McMullen.

“I’m looking forward to doing the best we can for Angelina County…for all the people that live in it, to give them the best bang for their buck,” said James McMullen.

McMullen had construction experience but wasn’t an engineer, not even a road expert.

“If they could get that they could control him again,” said Bob Flournoy.

And that’s why we called McMullen recently, to find out why all that expensive asphalt put on Harley Golden Road just a few years ago has already been paved over when 75% of Angelina County roads are still listed as poor or very poor.

He hung up on us. Nicely.

“If you have any questions, I suggest you call Keith Wright, he’s the county judge. He can answer any questions that you have. You have a good day,” said McMullen.

Former Lufkin City Attorney Bob Flournoy thinks what’s happened on Harley Golden Road is nothing less than a cover up.

“The only reason was to hide the first work that was done,” said Flournoy.

“This is a really a smoking gun, it tells the whole story of incompetence, of corruption, of coverup and it’s all locked in to 4.8 miles of road,” continues Flournoy.

Wayne Dolcefino asked, “You think they covered it up on purpose?”

Denise Kendrick responded, “I do believe that.”

Dolcefino asked, “Why?”

“Well sometimes if there’s smoke there’s fire,” said Kendrick.

A small section of Harley Golden was already getting beat up a year after the first paving job was done, by oilfield trucks coming to a BP oil yard on Veteto road.

“Two people got stuck and had to call wreckers” one Harley Golden homeowner complained saying she couldn’t get “emergency services or deliveries.”

In November of last year, Aethon Energy company cut a check for $300,000 to Angelina County for the damage they had done. Only three tenths of a mile of Harley Golden Road was impacted.

Yet, Angelina County took the opportunity to repave all of Harley Golden Road.

This time though, with oil sand. There are already complaints about the condition of the road just months later.

And that’s not the only problem. Remember that asphalt work done in 2020? It ended up costing close to $118,000 a mile.

The work done in 2023, more like $133,000 a mile; $20,000 more per mile for materials. But wait a minute, oil sand is a lot cheaper than asphalt. So, how did it cost more?

“I think you’d have to ask him those questions about why he did what he did,” said Keith Wright.

But remember McMullen, he’s not talking.

What may be more troubling is the evidence the Harley Golden Road investigation exposes evidence that Angelina County voters never really got what they were promised, an end to commissioners controlling road projects.

We investigated to find out how it was determined how much Aethon even owed the county for damage to the roads in the first place.

Not sure this answer will make you feel a lot better.

“Somebody took a distance and width and multiplied it by the cost is what I’m assuming. It’s been a real simple quick down and dirty calculation,” said Keith Wright.

The road administrator’s office had no records of any communications with the company, neither did the county attorney. Both should have been deeply involved in trying to recover damages to the taxpayer’s road.

The only correspondence turned over is this letter sent to Aethon in August of 2022, and it was sent by Commissioner Terry Pitts.

“Aethon Energy and we need a big thanks to Commissioner Pitts for getting them to reimburse the county,” said Keith Wright in a meeting.

But no one asked then why Pitts was involved at all. Voters had been told his involvement over road projects had ended years ago.

“I think the company took more notice of a commissioner you know contacting them about the road condition,” said Wright.

But Wright then admitted that three years later, the unit road system set up to clean up Angelina County’s asphalt deals has done little to bring more accountability.

Before the road vote three years ago, Angelina County didn’t even keep records of work orders, no paper trail at all. And there’s little evidence things are much better today since McMullen was hired.

And this year, while there are reports of what streets Angelina County road workers worked on and a record of materials used by precinct, the county still has no way of knowing what an individual road project even cost.

“The county road department does not document labor and equipment costs on a per project basis,” read an email from the county attorney.

That makes it impossible to find out the true cost of any road project the money actually spent.

“Next year you’ll see even more improvements in what we’ve been able to do. We’ll probably look at more than 40 miles of road next year,” said Keith Wright.

Maybe that will bring with it soon actual logic for the road projects picked going forward, because little travelled Harley Golden Road hardly seemed to deserve all this money.

Of course, the same could be said for Eule and Harrell Street, those two little side streets in Zavala. More than $100,000 was spent there. And we’re supposed to believe it’s just a coincidence. The work was done in the front and rear of former Commissioner Steve Smith’s house about the very same time he agreed to change his testimony and testify against one of Commissioner Terry Pitts’ political enemies.

And look, another Angelina County election season approaches.

“Every penny of that money needs to be accounted for and you do that by raising hell. And I do that for a living, I enjoy it. I’ve met some really fine public officials while I’ve been here,” said Wayne in a speech.

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