Conroe, February 21 – Fierce conservative Republican warrior Reagan Reed led the Montgomery County Republican Party Executive Committee to pass a resolution calling for the removal of the State Highway 242 flyover tolls immediately. An overwhelming vote of 30 in favor to 13 against was the final action of the committee of the County’s Republican Precinct Chairs last night, Tuesday, February 20, 2018, in a special meeting that 25% of the Precinct Chairs had called to present the resolution under a Bylaws provision of the County GOP. That vote should send a strong
Reed refused to back down even after several “establishment” pro-spending precinct chairs, such as Jodi Ruonavar of East Montgomery County and Jim Schulze of Conroe, sought to prolong removal of the tolls to approximately 25 years from now by an amendment they proposed that would keep the tolls on the flyovers to finance other road projects.
The meeting began with a briefing from State Representative Mark Keough’s Chief of Staff, Jason Millsaps, who explained that the County government has no obligation to spend more than $12.6 million to construct a third flyover on the northbound side of Interstate 45 to connect to the SH 242 eastbound if and when the County stops tolling the two current flyovers at that intersection under the 2005 Pass-Through Toll Agreement between Montgomery County and the Texas Department of Transportation. Instead, the County Commissioners Court should negotiated a new arrangement under which TxDOT funds at least 80% of the third flyover construction costs.
Schulze tried to argue that the County had a firm commitment to TxDOT and to the federal government to build the third flyover, even though the written agreement between the County and TxDOT indicates otherwise. As Millsaps explained, by ending the tolls on the two existing flyovers and terminating the agreement with TxDOT, the County government would likely spend approximately $9.5 million less on the third flyover, when construction, because TxDOT would chip in an 80% share of the funds from state gas and fuel taxes the citizens of this County have already paid.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark urged the Republican Precinct Chairs to pass the Reed resolution, saying, “We shouldn’t stop doing business just because it’s election season. When a tollroad is paid for, it’s time to stop taxing the people.” Clark received thunderous applause after making that statement.
Jim Clark: “When a tollroad is paid for, it’s time to stop taxing the people.”
When Schulze tried to amend the resolution to keep the tolls on the flyovers for another approximately quarter of a century, Reed explained, “The amendment guts the entire resolution because what we’re wanting to do is to send a message to the County Commissioners that we support the Republican Party Platform which tells them to take the tolls off once the road is paid for.”
Ruonavar then tried to force the vote on the resolution by secret ballot. Ruonavar has close ties to the Davenport Ring which seeks to conduct all business outside of the light of day. Ruonavar’s proposal to vote in secret died on a 16 in favor to 24 against vote.
Precinct Chairman John Wertz of Precinct 69 in Commissioners Precinct 2 argued that Reed’s resolution was entirely consistently with Plank Number 211 of the Republican Party Platform which calls for removing tolls once debt on a tollroad is retired. Wertz noted that the bond debt on the flyovers was defeased in January, 2018.
The most emotional plea for removal of the SH 242 flyover tolls came from Precinct 75 Chairman Larry Rogers who lives in Windsor Hills, a retirement community. Rogers noted that many of the people who live west of the flyover on SH 242 are on fixed income as retirees or college students. “Every there is on a fixed income, so it’s hard to use the tollroad financially.”
After the 30 to 13 vote in favor of Reed’s resolution, County Republican Chairman Wally Wilkerson immediately adjourned the meeting.