Porter, January 26 – Commissioner Jim Clark met with angry neighbors in East Montgomery County for over an hour to tell them that, at enormous expense of approximately $600,000 to the County and little or no cost to the private land owner who specifically caused the problem, Clark and his Precinct 4 staff intended to begin drainage control in the Allendale-Greenbough area off Conroe Porter Road this coming Monday, January 30. Clark brought representatives of Binkley and Barfield engineers to explain the proposed fix. The Commissioner admitted that County Attorney J.D. Lambright has taken no action whatsoever to seek to recoup the extraordinary costs from the landowner, Jesse Gonzalez, even though Clark noted “he has clearly violated the Texas Water Code by diverting the drainage.”
For more than two years, the homeowners of the Allendale-Greenbough area off Conroe Porter Road in East Montgomery County have complained to County Commissioner Jim Clark about Gonzalez, the owner of Thunder Gun Range at 17234 FM 1314, because, both the neighbors and Commissioner Clark have alleged, he has covered up area creeks behind their homes with his monster earth moving tractors. By diverting the natural flow of drainage, Crowson and the other residents allege, Gonzalez has caused homes to flood for the first time during these past two years when they had not flooded for decades previously. Every time there’s a hard rain, these homeowners face massive erosion of their properties and water damage to their homes, as both the homeowners and county officials have acknowledged.
Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code provides: “No person may divert or impound the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion or impounding by him to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another by the overflow of the water diverted or impounded…A person whose property is injured by an overflow of water caused by an unlawful diversion or impounding has remedies at law and in equity and may recover damages occasioned by the overflow. Chapter 11 of the Water Code also provides other remedies such as the appointment of watermaster to allocate and distribute water diverted from natural streams. Section 11.0841 gives counties and other political subdivisions the right to seek redress for Water Code violations and to recover attorney fees for doing so.
In the past several months, resident Paul Crowson, a hardworking registered nurse who spends his work hours in a hospital operating room, and several of his neighbors have become “regulars” at the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, first to complain about their specific problem, and, after several months of failed attempts to get some serious county attention, to complain about Jim Clark. Clark ignored the residents until very recently after The Golden Hammer reported the problem in an early edition.
Crowson and his neighbors haven’t been as noisy or as numerous as the animal caring activists who spent years at Commissioners Court to complain about Clark and his cronies torturing and killing animals and wasting millions of tax dollars in the process at the Animal Shelter. Nevertheless, Crowson and friends have kept at it.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2017, during the first Commissioners Court meeting of the year, Crowson during a citizen comment complained that Montgomery County first didn’t pay attention at all, then agreed to spend more than $100,000 on one of Clark’s largest political contributors, Binkley and Barfield engineers, to study the problem, but had no timetable whatsoever for actually fixing the severe drainage and flooding problem. Judge Doyal cut Crowson off from completing his message exactly at three minutes, even though Doyal allows county vendors, such as his engineering buddies to drone on for many tens of minutes. Citizens don’t get to be heard but the vendors who contribute tens of thousands of dollars may speak long and hard.
After the January 10 Commissioners Court meeting adjourned, Commissioner Clark made a bee line for Crowson sitting among the plebeians in the audience. Clark confronted Crowson: “Hey Paul, that can’t be true that hundreds of messages to me have gone unanswered. No way.” Crowson explained that he and approximately 120 of his neighbors had each sent emails and letters to Clark all of which went unanswered.
Clark tried to placate his angry constituents with some wonderful news: he was meeting with his engineering political contributors from Binkley and Barfield that very evening. Crowson and his neighbors asked Clark if they could attend the meeting. Clark said “no, because it would be boring engineers talking.”
On Thursday, January 26, at 6:30 p.m., at the Allendale Baptist Church just down the road from the gun range, Clark brought an entourage of engineers from Binkley and Barfield, along with baked goods and drinks to attempt to placate the angry mob. Clark and David Hamilton, P.E., a civil engineer with Binkley and Barfield presented several options for the neighborhood but explained that the most cost effective was to construct a one hundred foot wide drainage ditch (with an additional 20 foot maintenance area) that would extend approximately 3,453 feet through the neighborhood and carry water diverted from the gun range into a drainage ditch along F.M. 1314. The ditch would have a capacity to hold water up to a 25-year flood event. Larger flood events would overflow out of the ditch into the neighborhood. The ditch would cut through several backyards and homes, expenses which the County has not considered in preparing the proposal. Binkley and Barfield has estimated the cost of construction at $500,000.
Clark told the packed room full of people that Montgomery County would commence construction on the drainage ditch on Monday, January 30, even though no arrangements have yet occurred for obtaining easements from residents or the owner of the gun range, Gonzalez, to bring the ditch through their properties. Clark admitted that he has not discussed the proposal with Gonzalez. Clark told the crowd, “We as a county don’t have anything in place to fix ponds or yards suffering from erosion. God’s in control of the water. My job is to get the water out of the ditches. Therefore, I thin what we should do is get permission to bring the new drainage ditch through the middle of the neighborhood and the gun range and put the water onto F.M. 1314., in order to put the drainage back to what it was before.” Clark explained, “I’ll pull money from whatever I need to in order to make it happen.”
Several residents in the crowd expressed doubt that they would ever see completion of the work to restore their neighborhood to the drainage that existed before Gonzalez allegedly diverted the creeks around Thunder Gun Range. Crowson, Bob Bagley, a Precinct 4 resident running for County Commissioner against Clark, and others complained during the meeting that Clark and County Attorney Lambright should act to ensure that Gonzalez is responsible for all of the County’s costs to build the drainage facility arising from his gun range.