Conroe, April 10 – With a lame duck Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal whom voters soundly rejected in a landslide win for challenge Mark Keough in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election, and with incumbent Precinct 2 County Commissioner only receiving 43% of the vote, less than 90 votes ahead of challenger Greg Parker whom he’ll face in the May 22 Runoff, it’s pretty apparent that Doyal and Riley have decided to punish the citizens of Montgomery County. There are dozens of really bad things that they’re doing on the April 10, 2018, Commissioners Court agenda, but here are seven (7) bad things that Riley and Doyal are causing to happen to the good people of Montgomery County.
Bad Thing #1 – TX 249 Tollway
Riley has placed on the Commissioners Court agenda two major items that will harm the citizens of Montgomery County for many decades into the future. First, Riley wants to give SpawGlass Construction, an Austin firm, a $56 million contract to build the TX 249 Tollway that will only be 3 miles and will be one of the most expensive highway projects in American history. Second, Riley has placed on the agenda that the County government will issue revenue bonds to support the crazed tollway project.
There are a lot of reasons the TX 249 Tollway project shouldn’t go forward. There’s an important one, which this newspaper and all others have not discussed enough: traffic safety and congestion. Drivers avoid tollroads like the plague. As a result, frontage roads become congested and become mobility and safety hazards. The National Transportation Safety Board has conducted at least two studies that have concluded that tollroads don’t reduce congestion; tollroad cause congestion. Furthermore, tollroads make it far more difficult for emergency vehicles to travel in the areas where they’re located.
Tollroads take up space where free roads would have brought mobility and easier traffic movement. In this instance, the Texas Department of Transportation’s Victor Vandergriff made clear to the Commissioners Court on December 19, 2017, that the State of Texas would build a free road, if Riley and Doyal didn’t push the tollroad on the citizens of Montgomery County.
Bad Thing #2 – NetData Waste
Despite promising that NetData, the failed court database that JPs James Metts and Wayne Mack have forced on four of the five JP courts, thereby costing taxpayers over $880,000 per year in lost collections, was free, Mack is insisting that the taxpayers now start paying government dollars to the NetData providers. The program was supposed to be free as an incentive for the County government to use the terrible collection services of Graves Humphries Stahl, an outside law firm that is doing nothing to collect fees and fines for the courts.
Now to add to the injury of the massive revenue losses from using the terrible collection system, Montgomery County citizens must bear the insult that they must pay over $4,000 for software that will help the failed NetData system operate more efficiently.
Bad Thing #3 – Spending without Oversight
The Commissioners Court will spend $16,271,691.50 over 86 single-spaced pages of items without any oversight or backup. There are literally millions of dollars of credit card charges.
The Commissioners Court will spend $46,741.49 on Riley’s and Doyal’s tollroad out of County general revenue funds. $14,755.68 will go to Halff Associates, Inc., the engineering firm of Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams. $27,596.10 will go to Jones & Carter, the engineering firm whose principals have joined Halff as the major contributors to Riley’s and Doyal’s criminal legal defense fund.
Bad Thing #4 – Budget Amendments
Under the Texas Local Government Code, the Commissioners Court should adopt its budget with due care after public hearings to allow citizen participation. The citizens have followed the budget, while the members of the Commissioners Court, especially Doyal and Riley, have slept. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Commissioners Court must continuously amend the budget on an “emergency” basis, in violation of the public hearing requirements of Texas law, because they failed to pass a proper budget at the inception.
There are millions of dollars of budget amendments which will receive no oversight or discussion from the freestanding Commissioners Court.
Bad Thing #5 – Library Failure
The Annual Report for the Memorial Library System is tucked away under the super-secretive “consent” agenda for a good reason. The report, required under Texas law, reveals the numerous failures of the County library system.
First, they spend only $1.2 million on books, while $7.7 goes for the bloated salaries.
Second, unlike many County library systems that operate in conjunction with school district libraries – and save millions of dollars by doing so – Montgomery County’s library bureaucracy will have none of that. Therefore, the taxpayers literally waste $9 million per year on a library system that largely duplicates the libraries of the school districts in Montgomery County.
Third, there were only 1,075,466 visitors into the library but 872,716 transactions involving children’s materials. Clearly, the libraries are children’s libraries that duplicate school district libraries. If someone were to need a real research library, they’d visit Sam Houston State University of the University of Houston.
Fourth, the total circulation of the library was 2,192,792, which means taxpayers took it on the chin to the tune of $4.50 for every single item in circulation. That’s ridiculously expensive.
Clearly, it’s time to stop duplicating school district libraries and reduce this government waste.
Bad Thing #6 – Budget Packet
The newest County bureaucracy, known as the Budget Office, has contributed nothing so far. All she’s done is cut and paste the previous year’s budget packet, except she remove the admonishment during 2017 that departments should attempt to reduce their spending by 5%.
The new Budget Director has continued Doyal’s and County Auditor Phyllis Martin’s new practice from last year in which citizens are cut out of the budget process entirely until the very last minute when it’s too late to participate in a meaningful manner (without Riley cursing and using the Lord’s name as though it were a profanity.)
Bad Thing # 7 – Animal Shelter Director Performance Review
The Commissioners Court knows nothing about running an animal shelter. There are a lot of problems in the Montgomery County Animal Shelter right now. They’ve suffered giant growth in the dog population. They’ve lost volunteers rapidly. Their volunteer retention rate is below 5%. They’ve lost fosters at a rapid clip as well. The Animal Shelter Director hides in his office and won’t interact with the public.
But why is the Commissioners Court reviewing Director Aaron Johnson and why are they conducting the review in secret? At a minimum, the Commissioners Court should delegate the performance review to the animal shelter experts on the Commissioners Court-appointed Animal Advisory Board.