SPECIAL REPORT: Commissioners struggle to fix Angelina County roads

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Angelina County Commissioners struggle to keep up.  Budget shortfalls and rising demands are behind county road woes.

Billy Rawls has witnessed many changes in the 40 years he's resided on Fuller Springs Drive, but lately, it seems changes have come slower.

"Several years and years, money spent on it. They come out and fill up pot holes, and it doesn't last long," said Billy Rawls, Fuller Springs Dr. Resident.

Same goes for 30-year Grimes Cemetery Road resident, Donna Conner.

"I guess the last year or so they really have not fixed the roads like they should," said Donna Conner, Grimes Cemetery Rd. Resident.

The complaints are mostly the same. It seems if you live on a bad road in Angelina County you're tired of pot hole patching that washes away with the rain.

"It helps a little while, but if it's just going to go - Why don't you just fix it - fix it? You know what I'm saying?" said Jose 'Joey' Jimenez, Morris Rd. Resident.

Of course, that takes money. And that's something Angelina County Commissioners just don't have a lot of.

"Let me tell you just what we have to work with. My budget is a $1,329,663 dollars. $631,508 goes to salary and benefits. $417,000 to spend on roads and $172,000 is for equipment and fuel for repairs," said Commissioner Robert Loggins, Pct. 3 Angelina County.

Commissioner Loggins says he's doing the best he can with what he has.

"You figure at 273 miles of road at six miles a year it takes a long time," said Loggins.

The commissioner asks for patience, but that's not easy to come by when the road you drive is destroying your car.

"It messes your tires up. People who have cars instead of trucks drag bottom quite a bit," said Conner.

"Every person who drives over it knows how it is. You drive, you slow down, or you have a torn up front-end of a car," said Rawls.

And those pesky pot holes do the worst of it.

"Hit pot holes - it messes up your alignment you got to get that fixed, if not, you hit a good pot holes puts a ball on your tire you got to change your tire," said Jimenez.

Commissioner Loggins says 98 percent of Angelina County roads have no base beneath them for support. Mr. Rawls sees the effect of this everyday.

"Clay is coming up through the pavement," said Rawls.

That fact complicates the process of replacing roads even more and cramps the budget even further.

"We're going to have to go in and stabilize the base and put road base on them and come back and top it," said Loggins.

Wen it rains - it floods - at least on morris road. Joey Jimenez has stories to tell. Especially when the nearby creek overruns the road.

"I seen a car pull up there on time and the water was pushing it to the side. I told that guy to stop - come back. I told that lady, she was already in the ditch. Had to pull her out," described Jimenez.

County roads can't take high speeds, can't take high traffic and they can't take heavy loads.

"We have a lot of logging trucks that come through which beats up the roads real bad," said Conner.

With only so many miles in a budget, commissioners must decide which roads are replaced first. Factors like population and traffic are considered, but with both numbers expanding - it's making decisions harder and harder.

"People are moving out of the city and we got population is just growing," said Loggins.

Making their list of demands longer and longer.

"They say they don't have money, but I don't know why we have so many roads in bad shape, but this is a high impact area with traffic here," complained Rawls.

"We're fighting a losing battle until we can get some more type of revenue to help us building these roads," said Loggins

The options for county commissioners are few. They're faced with a budget that depends on a weakened economy.

"Every new automobile sold we get tax revenue off of that. Automobile registration we get money off of that…" said Loggins.

As the car industry has struggled so have the commissioner's budgets.

"Maybe the economy will pick up one of these days, we'll get more businesses back in her and have more tax revenue and have more money to spend on roads," said Loggins.

Leaving Angelina County residents without much hope.

"Main thing its rough ya know. It needs improving. Whether they'll do it, I don't know," said Rawls.

"But I don't know what we can do about it because we've complained, we've called it in, and still we don't get a whole lot of response," said Conner.

All 254 counties in the State of Texas pay for their roads with tax money. Wealthy counties have few problems taking care of their roads - leaving those with less - like Angelina County to struggle.

Precinct three Commissioner Robert Loggins says he plans to work on parts of Fuller Springs Drive this summer when the weather dry's out. Precinct four commissioner refused an on-camera interview to discuss both Morris Road and Grimes Cemetery Road.

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