Conroe, February 12 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court will hold a special meeting after the conclusion of the regular Court meeting at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, February 14, to interview and take appropriate action regarding the appointment of a Board of Directors member for the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD). Several candidates with very strong backgrounds are interviewing for the position to replace LSGCD President Richard Tramm who has served on the LSGCD Board since it began in 2001. Tramm’s term expired January 31, 2017, but he’ll continue to serve until his replacement takes the oath of office.
The LSGCD appointment by the Commissioners Court has become particularly important to Montgomery County citizens. Since 2009, LSGCD has enforced Groundwater Reduction Plans that require groundwater users to limit use of their own groundwater under the surface of private property. As a result, water users have had to purchase large quantities of surface water from the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA). The SJRA has charged exorbitant rates for its water to the City of Conroe, The Woodlands, other local municipalities, private utility companies, and other water users.
A Texas A&M study from researchers at the Bush School of Government and Public Affairs concluded that groundwater conservation and regulation in the Gulf Coast area is completely unnecessary. Nevertheless, since SJRA (and the engineers and contractors who serve as its vendors) control the LSGCD Board of Directors by a 6 to 3 margin, SJRA and LSGCD have been able to promulgate SJRA’s monopolistic practices.
Tramm has consistently voted with the interests of SJRA and against citizen interests. He has led the expansion of LSGCD’s regulations and regulatory bureaucracy for 17 years.
Montgomery County has the right to appoint two LSGCD Directors and both of County Judge Craig Doyal’s appointments have voted against citizen interests and in favor of SJRA, and the engineers and contractors who have made substantial political contributions to Doyal, Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Commissioner Mike Meador over the years. Under intense political pressure and new scrutiny from private citizens across Montgomery County, Doyal seems to have succumbed to the desire of citizens to get their water rights back.
The following are the candidates under consideration for the LSGCD appointment:
Dane Cantwell. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack recommended. Cantwell is a reserve Captain in the Precinct 3 Constable’s Office. He has a petroleum engineering degree and grew up in Missouri. Cantwell is the Chief Executive Officer of KA Energy Partners, a privately-held onshore exploration and production company, and lives in The Woodlands. Cantwell has a very strong resume but limited political connections. The Golden Hammer believes his chance of getting the appointment is less than 10%.
Randy Councill. Doyal recommended. Councill, a resident of Conroe, has lived in Montgomery County for approximately 25 years. He is the Chief Operations Officer of Telegistics, a telecom company based in Conroe. In response to what his philosophy would be on the LSGCD Board, Councill told The Golden Hammer, “Based on the information presented to the citizens of Montgomery County by the SJRA and LSGC, as a TCEQ Licensed Water Utility operator, the science and data I have seen regarding the need for the surface water facility on Lake Conroe is suspect. If appointed to the board I will challenge the current members and their decision to insure the Montgomery County taxpayers aren’t burdened further with the next phase of this project.”
Councill has been an outspoken critic of LSGCD at local Tea Party meetings. He has been involved with groundwater issues for approximately 35 years and has been involved in the utility industry in various different capacities over that period. Councill told The Golden Hammer that he doesn’t have any dealings with SJRA or the LSGCD with the exception that one of his clients has water and sewer concerns with LSGCD and has had to file a groundwater reduction plan and annual usage reports. Councill explained, “I recently got a $970 water bill and that woke me up to the terrible water problem in this community. I went to a townhall meeting that the Tea Party sponsored.” Councill has many supporters, particularly among the membership of the Texas Patriots Tea Party PAC.
Councill has the technical background that would make him a formidable force on the LSGCD Board of Directors. The Golden Hammer believes his chance of getting the appointment is approximately 25%.
Jack Curtsinger. Clark and Riley recommended. Jack Curtsinger of Conroe is well-known to Republican Party activists in Montgomery County. His wife Melanie has been actively involved in Republican Women’s clubs and numerous political campaigns in this community for decades. Curtsinger is a retired petroleum engineer and maintains his Professional Engineer license with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers as “active.” He’s a very kindhearted person. His political connections primarily through his wife make him a candidate whom citizens should take very seriously. The Golden Hammer believes Curtsinger’s chance of getting the appointment is approximately 10%.
Webb Melder. Noack and Clark recommended. Noack has announced he supports the appointment of Melder. Melder has lived in Montgomery County for 54 years and has worked in real estate and construction for just under 40 years. He graduated from Montgomery High School in 1967 and from Sam Houston State University in 1971. He was elected to the Conroe City Council in 2004 and as Mayor of Conroe in 2008. Melder retired as Mayor of Conroe in 2016.
Melder enjoys substantial support from citizens in Conroe as well as the open endorsement for the LSGCD Board position from County Commissioner James Noack. Melder has made clear his position that LSGCD’s close ties with SJRA and LSGCD’s anti-resident water policies are unacceptable. He has been a vocal opponent of LSGCD’s course of conduct. Melder has loudly encouraged the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to remove both Tramm and Hope and replace them with pro-resident representatives, so that the anti-resident majority on the LSGCD board would no longer control.
Melder’s continuing involvement as a party, or at least a witness, in the continuing litigation between the City of Conroe and the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District does raise issues whether Melder would be able to vote as a LSGCD Board member without the necessity of recusing himself from Board votes.
Melder is the frontrunner for the appointment. The Golden Hammer believes his chance of getting the appointment is approximately 34%.
Jill Savory. Meador recommended. Savory serves on the Point Aquarius MUD Board of Directors. She has an impressive resume and a very strong background in water conservation and regulation. Savory has been active in beautification efforts in Point Aquarius since she moved there in 2015. The Golden Hammer believes his chance of getting the appointment is approximately 10%.
Robert Secrest. Clark recommended. Secrest is a Lifetime Executive Committee member of the Montgomery County Fair Association. He has worked in the convenience store business and has owned Conroe Liquor Stores. The Golden Hammer believes his chance of getting the appointment is far less than 1%.
Mike Winkler. Riley recommended. Winkler works for Consolidated Property Advisors. He is a friend of Craig and Amy Doyal, Cecil Bell, Charlie Riley, among others. Winkler has been very unresponsive to efforts to discover information about him. The Golden Hammer believes his chance of getting the appointment is approximately 10%.
Doyal’s financial backers would likely prefer no appointment or a deadlock, so that Tramm may continue to serve.