Conroe, September 5 – After Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark and several citizens complained to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court about wasteful spending on the 3.6 mile $73 million (!) Tx-249 tollway, County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador ignored their concerns and voted to spend another $405,500 on the bloated project anyway at the August 22, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting.
Among the citizens who expressed their opposition to the $73 million tollroad project was local sage Bill O’Sullivan who told the Commissioners Court:
“RECENTLY THE COURT APPROVED THE COUNTY’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE 249 TOLL ROAD. THE MAIN REASON GIVEN BY THE LEADERSHIP OF THE COURT WAS WE DIDN’T WANT THE STATE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE AND RECEIVE THE PROCEEDS OF A TOLL ROAD IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY. IT IS A STRETCH TO CALL THAT STATEMENT JUST DISINGENUOUS. THE FACTS ARE THAT WE WILL ISSUE REVENUE BONDS. THOSE WILL TAKE TWENTY TO THIRTY YEARS TO PAY OFF WHICH MAKES US MERELY A COLLECTOR NOT A PARTICIPANT IN THE VENTURE. THE FACTS ARE THAT THE SECTION WHERE WE ARE INVOLVED IS LESS THAN 25% OF THIS NEWLY TOLLED ROAD IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY. FINALLY, AS I READ ABOUT REVENUE BONDS IT SAID THAT DUE TO THEIR NATURE THEY COULDN’T BE ISSUED FOR THE FULL VALUE OF THE PROJECT. THEREFORE, SOMEHOW SOME 10, 15 OR 20 PERCENT OF THE PROJECT WILL BE FINANCED A DIFFERENT WAY. WE NEED TO BE TOLD THE COUNTY’S INVOLVEMENT IN THAT PART OF THIS DEAL.
“THE ALTERNATIVE WAS HAVING THE STATE DO IT. IF THE STATE DOES NOT USE BONDS TO BUILD, THE SAVINGS IN INTEREST CHARGES FOR A TWENTY YEAR BOND AT 3.5% WOULD BE $33 MILLION OR $50 MILLION FOR A THIRTY YEAR BOND. IF BONDS ARE USED, THEN THE STATE BECOMES THE COLLECTOR AND PAYS FOR THEM OVER THE NEXT TWENTY TO THIRTY YEARS. WE LOSE NOTHING.
“ONE OTHER THING ON THIS BOONDOGGLE. ONCE THE ROAD PASSES INTO GRIMES COUNTY AT TODD MISSION, THE STATE WILL NO LONGER TOLL THE ROAD. FROM THERE ALL THE WAY TO COLLEGE STATION IT WILL BE FREE. WHAT’S GOING TO PAY FOR IT? IT WILL BE THE TOLLS COLLECTED BY THE STATE IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY. GRIMES COUNTY MUST THINK THAT’S HILARIOUS.
“BECAUSE OF THIS DECEPTIVE APPROACH THE REPUBLICAN PARTY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OVERWHELMINGLY PASSED A MOTION TO GET A PROPOSITION PLACED ON THE BALLOT WHICH CALLS FOR ANY TOLL ROADS FIRST BE APPROVED BY REFERENDUM. THIS IS AN EFFORT TO LET THE VOTERS SPEAK AS OPPOSED TO WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
“IN SUMMARY, RECONSIDER BEING INVOLVED IN 249. LET THE STATE DO IT. LET THE PEOPLE VOTE TO APPROVE FUTURE TOLL ROADS.”
GOP Precinct Chairman and Montgomery County Tea Party Vetting Committee Chairman John Hill Wertz, of The Woodlands, told the Commissioners Court that the approximately $80 million price tag for the 3.6 mile tollroad is at least $5 to $7 million per mile more expensive than it should be. Wertz also complained that it doesn’t make sense to build an expensive tollroad in an “unpopulated southwest part of the county.”
Wertz told the Commissioners Court that they should put the tollroad project to a vote of the people in a referendum. He also noted that the Republican Party’s County Executive Committee, comprised of all of the GOP Precinct Chairs, voted 97% to require a referendum before the tollway project proceeds.
Another Republican Precinct Chair, Reagan Reed, of Willis, noted that the CDM Smith study would have the county paying twice for the same study, because CDM Smith had already done a study with respect to the proposed tollway. CDM Smith’s Michael Copeland confirmed that fact later in the meeting when he told the Commissioners Court that CDM Smith had previously done the same study for the Harris County Toll Road Authority and that study did, in fact, include the 3.6 mile stretch in Montgomery County.
A representative of Halff Associates, the engineering firm whose regional vice president is Bobby Adams, the best friend and business partner of Doyal, confirmed that the 3.6 mile tollway project would cost at least $18 million per mile to construct!
At that point in the meeting, Clark quietly asked, “How are we paying for this $405,500,” the amount Doyal wants to pay CDM Smith to conduct the repetitive study. Doyal confirmed that general revenue tax dollars would pay for the study. Clark responded, “We’re using taxpayer dollars right now.”
Meador moved to spend $405,500 of tax funds to pay CDM Smith to do the repetitive project. Riley seconded the motion. The motion passed three (Doyal, Riley, Meador) to two (Clark and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack).