Image: Troy Stuckey, the “citizen” who didn’t identify his connection to Commissioner Charlie Riley, County Judge Craig Doyal, or the paid vendors of the Decimation of Hope Highway, when he spoke on May 23 to the Commissioners Court in favor of the $73 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 extension spending debacle.
Conroe, May 24 – Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal has had a tough few days, but he had one minor victory in the May 23, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting after he and Halff Associates, Inc., James Baker made a nicely-staged presentation about the Decimation of Hope Highway, also known as the $73 million Tx-249 extension at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County. The 3.6 mile road, one of the most expensive highways that anyone will have ever constructed in American history, at a cost of more than $20 million per mile (!), has become the center piece of Doyal’s and Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley’s efforts to return the investments of their primary constituents, the out-of-County engineers and vendors who give them massive contributions for their legal defense funds and their campaign funds.
Halff Associates, Inc. (“Halff Ass.”), is a major constituent and contributor to Doyal and Riley. Halff Ass. has received more than $2 million to act as the “project manager” on the construction project, which is precisely the job that a County Commissioner and the County Engineer should do. Halff Ass., however, is the company of the Bobby Adams, its regional vice president, who is a business partner and the best friend of Doyal. Adams regularly helps Doyal run his political campaigns, leaders Doyal’s legal defense fund, and contributes both to Doyal and Riley mightily, as do other Halff Ass. employees.
Another vendor on the Decimation of Hope Highway Project, Land Tech Surveyors, was going to act as the chair of Doyal’s upcoming fundraiser, as Doyal had appointed Cathy D’Arche, Land Tech’s public relations director, as the chair for the event. After The Golden Hammer complained about that, Doyal replaced D’Arche with Maris Blair, who represents a different County vendor.
Stuckey begins our staged presentation
During the citizen comments portion of the meeting, Troy Stuckey, got up to tell the Commissioners Court how much he supports the construction of the Tx-249 extension for $73 million over a 3.6 mile stretch. Stuckey didn’t identify himself. Who is he?
Troy Stuckey is a former employee of Jones & Carter engineers, who are a major vendor and contractor for the Decimation of Hope Highway! Jones & Carter has a $1,599,500 contract for alleged services for the Decimation of Hope Highway. Stuckey is one of the owners of Stuckey Contract Services. Even better, Stuckey is married to Linda Stuckey, who was Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley’s Campaign Treasurer in the 2014 electoral campaign. Stuckey is the same man whom Riley tried to appoint to the Montgomery County Ethics Committee but whose appointment County Attorney J.D. Lambright successfully blocked for conflict-of-interest reasons.
Doyal, Riley, and Halff Ass. didn’t fool anyone with Stuckey’s obviously-staged presentation.
Nevertheless, Stuckey did make one interesting comment. He noted that the Harris County Toll Road Authority built a 20.9 mile stretch of the Sam Houston Toll Road for $58 million. In other words, Harris County built their urban toll road for $2.77 million per mile. But Montgomery County, under Doyal’s and Riley’s leadership proposes to build the 3.6 mile Decimation of Hope Highway for $20.27 million per mile, a factor of 10 difference!
Even Stuckey’s staged comment put his foot in Doyal’s and Riley’s mouths.
Montgomery County Toll Road portion of Commissioners Court meeting
At the end of the Commissioners Court meeting, Doyal called the “Toll Road Authority” meeting to order. He made a mistake and said “All members of the Court are present…” Doyal obviously confused the Commissioners Court meeting with the Toll Road Authority meeting since the members of both organizations are identical. The Toll Road Authority pretends to “borrow” the $12.6 million of general tax revenue they’ve spent on the 3.6 mile toll road.
Doyal then proceeded to call upon Halff Ass.’ engineer James Baker to answer some questions. (Bobby Adams apparently fears showing up in the Commissioners Court, because everyone knows he’d be there to back up his business partner Doyal. He used to be a regular but hasn’t returned to Commissioners Court after The Golden Hammer published a nice photograph of Adams and his dark-suited engineering friends.)
Doyal asked Halff Ass.’ Baker whether the outdated 2013 study showed that the Decimation of Hope Highway would turn a “profit.” In other words, Doyal and Riley intend to keep taxing Montgomery County citizens with their toll road forever even after it’s paid off. Baker, of course, obediently said, “Yes.” The problem is that even Rich Muller, the attorney who is another Decimation of Hope Highway vendor, has noted that the 2013 study is terribly out of date. Furthermore, the 2013 study made several assumptions that will never happen.
Initially, it’s important to note that the “2013 study” was done in 2014. Doyal and Halff Ass. probably forgot.
In order to try to justify the economics of the $100 million they want Montgomery County to spend on this project – which TxDOT would fund and build even without Montgomery County’s participation – Doyal and his Commissioners Court colleagues, in a March 2014 CDM Smith study they commissioned to support the project, have relied upon economic projections of the toll revenue for that 3.6 miles that include the following assumptions, among others:
1.The Woodlands Parkway Extension, which Montgomery County voters rejected in a May 2015 bond referendum, “is assumed to be constructed and fully operational by the year 2023
2. The Harris County Toll Road Authority, NOT the Montgomery County government or the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority, will set toll rates.
3. A large system of toll lanes will be constructed on IH 45.
4. The toll road authorities will conduct “effective” advertising and promotion to make you want to use toll roads.
5. Motor fuel prices will not “significantly exceed the overall rate of inflation.”
6. “No local, regional or national emergency will arise which would abnormally restrict the use of motor vehicles or substantially alter economic activity or freedom of mobility.”
According to Commissioner Charlie Riley, he has agreed not to proceed with The Woodlands Parkway Extension. Therefore, assumption 1 likely won’t happen. Assumption 3 will be a fiscal disaster for Texas drivers. Assumption 4 is offensive government propaganda reminiscent of George Orwell’s classic “1984.” Assumption 5 is questionable, given the extent to which the OPEC nations are inflating oil prices. Assumption 6 is ominous.
Assuming that Doyal, Riley, and Meador get their way and ram through a $100 million expenditure for the 3.6 mile (!) tollroad at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County, and somehow miraculously complete the road project by the beginning of 2018, their own frighteningly aggressive projections from the study they commissioned show the following revenue. The Golden Hammer has added a discount analysis based upon a conservative 3.75% discount rate (Wall Street Journal Prime Rate as of December 15, 2016).
Year Annual Revenue Net Revenue After Harris Cty Discounted
Takes Its Share Cumulative
2018 $1,237,000 $1,150,410
2019 $4,592,000 $4,270,560
2020 $6,434,000 $5,983,620
2021 $7,786,000 $7,240,980
2022 $8,907,000 $8,283,510
2023 $10,675,000 $9,927,750
2024 $12,343,000 $11,478,990
2025 $14,063,000 $13,078,590
2026 $15,200,000 $14,136,000
2027 $16,307,000 $15,165,510
2028 $17,494,000 $16,269,420
2029 $18,767,000 $17,453,310
2030 $20,133,000 $18,723,690 $104,467,198
Those projections are not realistic. A twenty percent (20%) reduction in the revenue stream would require four additional years to break even on the construction of the 3.6 miles of road. Even a 20% reduction in the projection seems low, in light of the unlikely assumptions of the study and the failure of other projections of the Commissioners Court on other toll revenue projects, such as the largely unused IH 45-SH242 toll flyover.
The final zinger before the vote
After Halff Ass.’ Baker answered Doyal’s ridiculous questions with even more ridiculous answers, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack interfered with the carefully-rehearsed production and dared to ask a different question than the ones Baker expected.
Noack: “Have toll roads in Texas ever failed to meet their revenue projections?”
Halff Ass.’ Baker: “Yes.”
Since Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador chose to stay in the Commissioners Court this meeting, Doyal and Riley finally had their majority to vote for a $43,650 change order for Geotest Engineering to conduct some additional services for this completely unnecessary expenditure.
Assistant County Attorney B.D. Griffin reminded the Court that this same motion had died on a 2 to 2 vote only two weeks ago.
With Meador still there, Doyal and Riley got their way. On a 3 to 2 vote, only Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark voted against the wasteful expenditure that does nothing for Montgomery County mobility other than add to the congestion.