Some legal actions have a way of lingering, but one lawsuit against the City of Killeen has been active in a Bell County district court for nearly four years, generating hundreds of pages of legal documents but no resolution.
McLean Construction, Inc., which is based in Killeen, filed suit on Feb. 23, 2018, against the City of Killeen, alleging that the city violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act (DTPA) when the city refused to pay the company in full for its work on widening Stagecoach and Trimmier roads.
In its complaint filed with the 146th Judicial District Court, McLean demanded more than $825,000, from the city.
The city filed a counter-suit against McLean Construction on March 26, 2018, saying that the company’s work on the now-crumbling thoroughfare was subpar.
“As a direct and proximate result of the failure of the work, the city experienced loss and damage to its property,” according to the City of Killeen’s answer and counterclaim. “The City of Killeen … seeks monetary relief over $1 million. The City’s damages have not yet been fully determined.”
Since the 1-mile-long widening project on Stagecoach Road was completed in 2016, the Herald has received myriad complaints from residents regarding extensive cracks and potholes along the critical artery that carries drivers from Clear Creek Road to Trimmier Road.
“Dear city, time to suck it up. Make the payment. Do the job over. Close the case. Fix the road,” wrote Killeen resident Wayne Duncan, in a letter to the editor on Jan 2. “Lay all the cards on the table, face up. Time to pay for what you asked for, then fix it right.”
Stagecoach Road used to be a small country-style road just beyond the city limits until it was expanded to five lanes in 2016.
Fast-forward five years and the road is badly in need of resurfacing.
This falls far short of the 15-year average lifespan cited by Killeen City Manager Kent Cagle that a road should be able to endure before requiring resurfacing work.
What’s happened so far?
McLean Construction, Inc., alleges that the city did not pay $825,365.21 for work on the Trimmier Road Widening Project and phase two of the Stagecoach Road Reconstruction Project. Both projects cost a total of $23.8 million — $17 million contract for the second phase of the Stagecoach Road and $6.38 million for the Trimmer Road widening.
At issue were asphalt failures that occurred after McLean’s completion of the two projects.
In its original petition filed in district court, McLean said the city withheld some of the contracted fee after the firm refused to perform repairs that it said were outside the scope of its contract.
“The City is refusing to pay McLean amounts due and owing to McLean based upon the City improperly claiming that McLean is responsible for making repairs to the asphalt paving because of the defective design of the Stagecoach Project adopted by the City,” the petition read.
The firm is also claiming $76,884.40 in withheld wages for the Trimmier Road Widening Project after asphalt cracks appeared.
Lingering in the courts
Hundreds of pages of petitions, motions, answers, notices and other legal documents have been filed with the county’s district clerk’s office over the years.
The most recent court battle was over the designation of Richard J. Hammerburg, a geotechnical engineer with a firm in Irving, as an expert witness for the City of Killeen.
The city’s attorneys on April 1, 2021, filed a document that delineated the qualifications of all the expert witnesses, including a host of engineers, they intended to call upon at trial.
Hammerburg is set to give his “professional expert opinion regarding the causes of the pavement distress and failure on those roads…”
McLean Construction on April 23, 2021, filed a motion to strike Hammerburg as an expert witness. “The designation of Mr. Hammerberg as a testifying expert and the production of his report … is not timely, and should be struck.”
A remote hearing on the motion was set for June 11, 2021, which was the last hearing that has been held in the case.
Another of the witnesses will testify that it would cost the City of Killeen more than $6 million to repave Stagecoach Road, from Highway 190 to East Trimmier Road, with 10 inches of roadway material, according to the City of Killeen’s designation of expert witnesses.
No future court dates are listed for the case in court records.