UPDATED: November 8, 2018 5:50 PM
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Neighbors said they thought they knew who was responsible for Lawson Road until they tried calling for help.
“We called Dallas [County], Dallas sent us to Mesquite. We called Mesquite, they sent us to Kaufman [County],” said Kimberly Smalls.
She and her boyfriend, Jeffrey Morgan, said they’ve complained to every jurisdiction around, but no one will take responsibility for a stretch of Lawson Road that is deteriorating just south of Scyene Road.
They live three miles from where a Mesquite ISD school bus crashed last month, killing a 12-year-old girl.
At the time, neighbors and drivers called for change, saying the road is too curvy and dangerous.
Morgan said Lawson Road gets even worse as you travel north.
“We try not to go down that part of the road,” Morgan said. “I mean, we’ll literally drive ten miles out of the way.”
German Villaba agreed. He drives the road every day to pick up his granddaughter.
“We don’t know who to complain to about it,” Villaba said.
A spokesman with the City of Mesquite said engineers are studying the road where the crash happened, but the stretch to the north is not in city limits. Mesquite sent a map showing it partly in Dallas County, partly in Kaufman County.
While part of Lawson Road does fall in the unincorporated area of Dallas County, Commissioner John Wiley Price said that part is not in his jurisdiction.
“I cannot maintenance Lawson Road in Kaufman County… I can’t do it,” Price said. “The law does not allow me to cross the county line.”
His office provided Consumer Justice with two maps and a resolution from Dallas County and Kaufman County dated in 2009, which appear to place that part of Lawson squarely on Kaufman County’s side.
However, Kaufman County Commissioner Skeet Phillips disagreed about that section of Lawson Road being in Kaufman County.
“I couldn’t maintain it if I wanted to, because it’s not on our road reports. So legally I can’t work on that road at all,” Phillips said.
While Price said there had been a “hand off” to Kaufman County, Phillips claimed he’s never heard about any problems from that area.
“Dallas County has always maintained it, so I can’t tell you past that,” he said.
Phillips told Consumer Justice he didn’t know what to say in response to the 2009 resolution.
It took weeks of calls, emails and office visits but Consumer Justice finally tracked down someone who knew.
Innovative Transportation Solutions is Kaufman County’s transportation consultant and bond program manager.
John Polster, the principal manager for ITS, agreed that Kaufman County appraisal maps prove the road was in Kaufman County’s jurisdiction.
In an email to Consumer Justice, Polster wrote in part, “We are now shifting from determining ownership to finding the best and quickest way to make improvements to the county’s portion of Lawson Road.”
After years of disrepair, it’s great news for neighbors who hope improvements to the road will keep everyone safe.
“I can’t have that on my conscience,” said Morgan. “Having another tragedy when something could be done about it.
UPDATE November 8: A Kaufman County official that claimed ownership of a deteriorating roadway says the county will need likely need financial help to make the repairs.
Because Kaufman County did not historically service Lawson Road, not enough funds were set aside in the budget to make improvements in that area, according to John Polster, a transportation consultant for Kaufman County.
The area in question is roughly 500 feet in length.
The consultant said he reached out to the North Central Texas Council of Government to request financial assistance.
Michael Morris, the director of transportation for NCTCOG, told Consumer Justice he would review the matter upon receiving a formal request from Kaufman County.