A long-standing dispute between a county resident living on County Road 120 and commissioner Scot Jackson spilled over into Monday's commissioner court meeting
"I'm doing everything I can to help with the problem, but until the truck traffic slows down, not much can be done," Jackson said. "I'm not going to pave that road again. It's not cost effective because that truck traffic is just going to tear it up again."
Jackson didn't pave the road to begin with, just ground up the pavement when the cost of repairing it became more than he said his budget could handle. Now, residents on CR 120 who lived there when the road was paved, say returning the road to caliche has not only lowered their property values, but put their health at risk.
"You can't go outside, especially not if you have any kind of lung problems, but even a healthy person cannot breathe in that dust that just hangs in the air if the wind isn't blowing," said resident Larry Angerhofer. "We chose the house we live in now because it was on a paved road. My wife has COPD and now she can't even enjoy our yard or go outside."
The truck traffic on County Road 120 started when natural gas wells were drilled and trucks carrying equipment and water traveled the road. Things got worse when a rock quarry was put in on CR 125.
The constant flow of traffic caused major potholes in the pavement, and soon Angerhofer and others began calling to complain. Jackson said he sent crews and the county's pothole machine out to fix the problem several times.
"The pavement was installed about 10 years ago and I spent lots of time working on it my first year in office," Jackson said. "But I have more than 200 miles of roadway in my precinct alone to take care of and I couldn't justify spending that much money on such a small section of road."
County officials said part of CR 120 was paved when two bridges were installed years ago when Rob Lowe was commissioner.
"From what I can tell from the records, there was no officially approved agreement for keeping the road paved," Jackson said. "The only documentation we have is the donation of the property. There is no record of an agreement for any road work."
However, the Williams family, who owned the half acre in question, said the land was not donated, but given with the understanding the road would be paved and maintained. They even brought a copy of a letter saying as much from the former commissioner.
But that's not enough, county officials say.
Judge Tab Thompson told those at Monday's meeting that if the court did not approve the agreement that way, then it is not valid.
"I sympathize with you and your situation on the road, and everyone else living on a dirt road in Texas during this dry weather," Thompson said. "But the way county governments work in Texas, the authority begins and ends with the commissioner of that precinct. So you are going to need to sit down and work with Scot (Jackson) on this."
Jackson said he is willing to work with residents and property owners, but the trucks won't stop anytime soon. The quarry is owned by a man who reportedly lives in Dallas and all the materials go to companies in the Metroplex.
"I've spoken to the guy who owns the rock quarry where the trucks are coming from, and while he was willing to ask drivers to slow down, he is not willing to cover the cost of the damage the trucks do to the road," Jackson said. "I even spent a day stopping the truck drivers and asking them to slow down."
There are options in the form of dust control, but officials say it isn't cost effective as the solution is temporary and expensive. Jackson estimated it would cost the county $7,000 — $10,000 per mile of roadway and would only last six months.
"There is a lot of traffic, but the trucks are the worst, they're 90 percent of the problem. I'd like to see them rerouted, but that's not possible and we know it," Angerhofer said. "I'm willing to work with the county and continue talking to Commissioner Jackson about it, but talking with him hasn't done much good this far."
Jackson said he and others have started a petition to lower the speed limit on the roadway, which should help.
"The dust on our road is like flour and the clouds of it hang in the air worse than smoke when there isn't a breeze," he said. "We will work with the county, but our health, my wife's quality of life, is my main concern here. I'm not going to back down from this. It means too much."
Angerhofer and other property owners say they aren't convinced the county is doing all it can to help, and have contacted the TCEQ. He said they have been informed that county officials are to be held accountable for road conditions and the health of residents living on county roads.
"I've talked to TCEQ about it and they did say there was action that they could take against the county for the issues," Angerhofer said. "They told us they could fine the county for every single violation. But that's not what I want to do here. I'm not after the county and don't want to see our tax money spent like that. But I'll do what I have to do to protect my health and my wife's."