Image: The Golden Ice Ax sits on the left side of the County Clerk’s table after County Attorney Jerry Don “Ice Man” Lambright (seated in back) refused to accept it graciously in front of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on February 14, 2017.
Conroe, February 14 – The Golden Hammer presented “The Golden Ice Ax” to Montgomery County Attorney Jerry Don “Ice Man” Lambright for his complete failure to administer a $100,000-plus engineering contract and to enforce the County’s legal rights regarding the Allendale-Greenbough flooding problems in that subdivision just off Conroe Porter Road (F.M. 1314) in East Montgomery County. Lambright has already cost Montgomery County $82,655.45 and, through his complete inaction, will likely cost the County government several million dollars.
The Allendale-Greenbough neighborhood began suffering drainage and flooding problems after a neighboring business used back houghs and other dirt moving equipment to block and clog several creeks adjacent to the subdivision. Under the leadership of neighborhood activist Paul Crowson, several homeowners began to complain to Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark and others within the County government about the illegal diversion of the natural drainage of the water. Homes and properties in the neighborhood experienced severe flooding, moisture, and mesquito problems that had not previously existed there.
On August 23, 2016, at the urging of Commissioner Clark and the homeowners, Montgomery County entered into a bloated $100,921.00 engineering contract with Binkley & Barfield Consulting Engineers of Houston to determine, after careful study, that water does, indeed, flow downhill and does not run uphill. Lambright, who brags that his office conducts Montgomery County’s “contract administration,” signed off on the Binkley & Barfield contract.
At a January 26, 2017, meeting with homeowners, Clark and Binkley & Barfield’s Dave Hamilton assured the packed room that construction work would begin to stop the drainage problems on January 30. They recommended construction of a 25-year flood outfall channel, approximately 100 feet in width across more than one mile of homes and properties through the neighborhood at an estimated construction expense of $496,125.00 to Montgomery County. The construction cost estimate did not include maintenance areas for the channel nor did it include the potential cost in the millions of dollars to the County for condemning private properties along the lengthy stretch of the construction.
Since January 26, no construction activity has occurred. During the meeting, the engineers and Clark presented several options to stop the flooding.
Throughout the process, Lambright has completely failed to administer the contract. Binkley & Barfield has received 82,655.45 in six payments between October 25, 2016, and January 24, 2017. For that work, the engineering firm did a small amount of surveying work, which was largely duplicative of the work of the United States Geological Survey in the area, and drew some pretty colored lines on an aerial photograph available on Google Earth.
Gravely, Lambright took no action to enforce the County’s legal rights against the private landowner who diverted the drainage and caused the flooding and the enormous expense of remediation to the County. Under Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code it is illegal to divert the natural drainage or impound water. The statute gives a private remedy to local governments and others to seek redress from the person who caused the diversion or impoundment.
At the January 26 public meeting, Commissioner Clark confirmed that Lambright had taken no action, not even sending a demand letter, to seek reimbursement of the potentially millions of dollars the County will expend to fix this major problem.
Lambright has sat on his hands and done nothing. The “Ice Man,” given that name for his wasteful purchase with $4,114 of public funds for an ice machine that holds 523 pounds of ice for his private office, will likely cost the County millions of dollars. Lambright spends enormous time going to social events almost every night and often during the middle of the work day. Instead, he should spend that time doing the job for which the taxpayers pay him a salary of $196,164, the highest salary of any elected official in all of Texas (even more than the Governor and the Texas Attorney General each receive in salary).
Lambright refused to accept the Golden Ice Ax. He sat on his hands and did nothing…just as he seems to do most of the time, unless County Judge Craig Doyal is asking for a private legal opinion to the detriment of County citizens.