Potholes To Sinkholes

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The Angelina County Commissioners plan to vote without debate on lowering their budget for road materials. Curious! Quite curious indeed! Especially when the roads have become the big issue in one of the hotly watched races.

This is the horrible county road the Tony and Marianna Garrett deal with every single day.

“It’s wearing out our suspension on our car because it’s bumpity, bumpity, bump all the way down,” Tony Garrett said.

We hear it all the time during our visits to Angelina County. Horror stories.

It’s more than three years since the county borrowed $6,000,000 to lay asphalt on a handful of roads and then never properly accounted for how it was spent: why all the asphalt was used but only a fraction of the promised roads got paved.

“It’s getting dangerous. It’s not just annoying,” said Marianna Garrett.

Between January 2023 and January 2024, residents of Angelina County submitted 353 written complaints about the condition of 236 different county roads.

Imagine just how many other folks just don’t bother to complain anymore.

Like this road, the one we almost busted an axle on is Homer Alto, just west of Lufkin.

“People down here complain all the time, but they don’t do anything about it,” Tony Garrett said.

Residents filed 5 separate complaints about Homer Alto in the past year.

“Road is out of hand and in need of repair.”

“Several potholes and very rough road down Homer Alto road.”

“They are a real hazard. They’re a sinkhole, they’re not a pothole,” Marianna Garrett said.

Neighbors say whatever the county dumps into the hole to allegedly patch it just washes away with the very next thunderstorm.

“You’ve got to know where they are to dodge them, or you’re going to be in them,” said Marianna Garrett.

It’s nearly four years since voters approved hiring a professional to take over control of road projects away from county commissioners.

It was supposed to be an engineer who was above politics.

But, today a non-engineer runs the roads under the direction of the county judge.

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

The cars are taking a banging, all right.

“Well, let me tell you what’s been done since we’ve hired the new road administrator. The first main thing that we did is we put controls on the expenditures of the tax code money, that has to come to the court in order to approve the project first with an estimate,” said Keith Wright, Angelina County Judge.

But more than 350 complaints in the past year tells you not much has changed.

And while PCT 3 Commissioner candidate, Gerald Williamson, has a bizarre billboard saying this election is not all about the roads, we will soon see if the voters disagree.

“We pay taxes… Where’s our tax money go? If not to fix the roads,” said Tony Garrett.

In the past 3 years, Angelina County has spent an average of $4.4 million on road and bridge maintenance.

Last year it spent $4.8 million, more than ever before.

Precinct 1 candidate, Rocky Thigpen, didn’t respond to our request for an interview, but his opponent calls his campaign a road to reform.

“I was born and raised in Angelina County, and at this point, the voters, and we, have not gotten what we voted for,” said Rodney Paulette, County Commissioner Candidate.

With an election coming up, the stewardship of the roads are front and center.

Commissioner candidate, Rodney Paulette, says the money now being spent is being wasted on cheap materials and temporary fixes.

“Roads done professionally and properly managed, properly put in. You should last 15 years without ever having to go back touch them, or even a pothole. We don’t have that today,” Paulette said.

Ironically, the complaints about Homer Alto Road are no surprise to Paulette.

After he spread dirt on this homeowner’s property to repair damage caused by a clogged culvert, he got a thank you from the neighbors.

“He was just trying to do what little he could do fill that in, to help them,” said Lloyd Finch, neighbor.

But he also got a felony indictment that smacked of politics from the now disgraced departed District Attorney, Janet Cassels.

Even though there isn’t a shred of evidence Paulette got a penny to help these frustrated residents.

In her recent resignation letter, Cassels claimed politics drove her out of office.

Now that Layne Thompson has been sworn in as the new DA, we’ll be watching how quickly he dismisses the case.

Let’s take a drive on the most hated road in Angelina County: Morris Road, with 14 complaints in just one year.

Residents reported clogged culverts, dead trees, bad potholes, and vehicle damage.

“We need whole new front ends on two vehicles and we just bought them when they started construction,” said Clara Bergeron, an Angelina County resident.

Clara Bergeron lives on Morris Road and asked the county to pay for the car repairs this road is costing her.

“How much is this costing you?” Asked Andrea Palacio.

“About $2000 for one and three or four for the next,” Bergeron answered.

Clara says the county refused.

“It is just so narrow and so holey and bumpy and so hard to find a place to pass somebody. Lots of places, it’s not safe,” Angelina County resident, Wanda Ford, said.

Wanda Ford isn’t talking about passing a car to get around them.

Her problem is getting by a car coming right at her.

“My son got pushed off in a ditch and we had to pull him out with a tractor,” Bergeron said.

But, resident complaints seem to fall on deaf ears.

“Folks that have made these decisions, if they had to drive this every day, they wouldn’t be happy,” Ford said.

Angelina County officials have clearly eroded public trust by playing favorites with road repairs.

More than a million spent here on little-traveled Harley Golden.

Paving jobs ending at the driveway of an asphalt company executive.

Former commissioner Steve Smith getting fresh pavement in the front and back of his house while his neighbors on other streets didn’t.

And the county never auditing the use of millions of dollars in tax money despite serious, legitimate questions about the work that was done.

“Oh, no. It doesn’t seem right. You would think they are there to help all of us citizens. You know?” Ford said.

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