Image: Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack likely saved taxpayers between 1 and 10 million dollars by his motion to defer a Commissioners Court endorsement of the creation of two new county courts at law at the January 12, 2021, Commissioners Court meeting.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, January 28 – Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack likely saved local taxpayers between $1 million and $10 million by his motion, at the January 12, 2021, Commissioners Court meeting, to defer endorsement of the creation of two new county courts at law, as the Board of Judges had requested by a unanimous resolution. Instead, at the Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Commissioners Court meeting, the county has gotten behind the creation of only one new court.
Commissioner Noack said, “It was very pleasant to work with the judges. I talked a lot with Judge [Tracy] Gilbert and one of the county court at law judges…Having one court that will be created and funded by January 2023 seemed to be favorable to everybody. It gives us time to be able to prepare a budget and come up with the funding for it.”
Noack made the motion to support the new court, which passed unanimously. County Court at Law Number Two Judge Claudia Laird had explained that the committee established to review the need for new courts recommended only one, and not two, new county courts at law. The new county court will have jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors and over civil lawsuits involving between $1,000 and $200,000.
State Representative Will Metcalf, Republican of Conroe, has indicated his willingness to author the legislation in the pending 87th Texas Legislature. Metcalf has gained enormous influence in the Texas Legislature due to his hard work and due to his close friendship with recently-elected Speaker of the House Dade Phelan.
County Judge Mark Keough indicated his intention to speak with State Senator Brandon Creighton, Republican of Conroe, to enlist his support in the Texas Senate.
County Budget Director Amanda Carter provided a fiscal estimate for the new court, which the Commissioners Court would need to budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins October 1, 2022. Carter has estimated the new court will cost taxpayers between $765,792.82 and $849,792.82.
During the judges’ presentation two weeks ago, Judge Laird and 418th District Judge Tracy Gilbert had estimated the cost of the new courts would each be between $550,000 and approximately $1.1 million. There was not room for two new courts, so construction of a new courtroom, which might cost taxpayers more than $1 million or even construction of a new court complex, the cost of which would easily exceed $10 million, came into the discussion. See https://thegoldenhammer.net/volcano-of-tax-dollar-spending-erupts-during-judges-request-to-commissioners-court-for-two-new-courts/.
Noack had argued against the creation of any new courts two weeks ago. “We pulled some numbers of our own on court operations,” Noack said. “There were 11,282 pending criminal cases in 2007 in Montgomery County, but, in 2019, we’re way down to 8,924 cases.” Gilbert tried to challenge those statistics, but Noack held fast to his analysis and urged the Commissioners Court to table the pending request for greater expenditures of taxpayer funds on county courts at law. The Commissioners Court had voted to table the proposal by a 4 to 1 vote, with County Judge Keough dissenting.
By delaying any support for a new court, Noack was able to plan the space requirements as well as the budgeting, thereby saving taxpayers between $1 million and $10 million.