Image: Heroic Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack, who called for a referendum on the TX 249 Tollway under Chapter 284 of the Texas Transportation Code, the arcane provision under which Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and lame duck County Judge Craig Doyal are seeking to force through the unpopular tollroad.
GIANT BREAKING NEWS!
The Woodlands, April 9 – Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack has called for a referendum on the TX 249 Tollway under Chapter 284 of the Texas Transportation Code, the arcane provision under which Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and lame duck County Judge Craig Doyal are seeking to force through the unpopular approximately $85 million, 3 mile, tollroad, more generally known as the Decimation of Hope Highway. Noack’s work on this issue has been nothing short of heroic.
Noack has called for a petition to push the construction of the 249 Tollway to a vote. The Commissioners Court under the guise of the so-called Montgomery County Toll Road Authority (MCTRA) will vote to award the construction contract during its scheduled 10 a.m. session on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, and begin the process of issuing at least $56 million in revenue bonds without voter approval.
There seems to be some controversy inside the County government, as several confidential sources have confirmed. Even though the documents under which County taxpayers “loaned” the MCTRA to pay the $25.3 million (!!!) in expenditures the County government has already paid out for the Decimation of Hope Highway. Yes, that says $25.3 million, not $13 million. After Riley and Doyal lobbied the Texas Department of Transportation to build the Decimation of Hope Highway as a tollroad, even though TxDOT would otherwise have built the road as a free road, TxDOT provided a grant for some of the up front costs of construction. County taxpayers loaned $10.5 million in general revenue, plus another $3.2 million from the infamous SH 242 flyover tolls, for a total of $13.7 million of County taxpayer funds used on this horrific project. TxDOT also provided a $13 million grant.
Despite Doyal’s repeated statements in numerous meetings of the Commissioners Court meetings that he would ensure the general revenue fund received payment from the issuance of revenue bonds when that occurred, now Doyal is seeking to avoid taking that action, because there have been discussions in secret that the revenue and traffic from the Decimation of Hope Highway might not support the amount of the bonds, if they include repayment of the County government for this debacle.
In a conversation with MCTRA Attorney Richard Muller, he confirmed to Commissioner Noack that the MCTRA will use its statutory authority under Transportation Code Chapter 284 to issue revenue bonds which, according to the Code, may be authorized without an election. If an election is not held, notice of intention to issue the bonds must be given as provided by state law.
However, the authority to issue revenue bonds is subject to the right of referendum. If a written petition is signed by at least 10 percent of qualified voters whose names appear as property taxpayers on the most recently approved tax roll then the governing body, MCTRA, may not authorize the expenditure or finally award the contract, unless the Decimation of Hope Highway receives a majority of the votes received in a referendum.
“I am preparing to do all I can to force this to a vote should MCTRA cite Transportation Code 284 to issue this debt. This is my call to action to make sure the voices of taxpayers in Montgomery County are heard,” said Commissioner Noack. “I will need everyone’s support in order to make this happen.”
“With over 91% of GOP primary voters voting in favor of Proposition 2, which called for voter approval before any tollroad construction or financing occurs, I hope they’ll stand with me and support a referendum like they want,” Noack said. “As soon as there is notice of something to protest then we can start the process. Based on my preliminary conversations with legal authorities, we’ll have approximately 60 days to petition for the referendum before the debt issuance occurs. The petition will require 10% of registered voters who are property owners.”
During the MCTRA’s scheduled Tuesday session, Commissioner Noack is calling for a deferral of action item A, which seeks to award the contract for the construction of the 249 Tollway.
“I am adamantly opposed to approving this item so prematurely,” said Commissioner Noack. “Why is the toll road authority in such a rush to award the contract when we haven’t even received or accepted the final traffic and revenue study which proves the project is toll viable?”
Noack added, “In addition, in order for a purchase order to be opened or to issue a notice to proceed to the vendor, the county auditor must certify funds to award the contract. MCTRA does not have the nearly $56 million required to certify these funds so neither a complete purchase order or notice to proceed can be issued.”
Just over 91 percent of Republican Primary voters in Montgomery County supported proposition 2 which stated that no governmental entity should ever construct or fund construction of toll roads without voter approval. Voters in Precinct 2, where the toll road is proposed to be constructed, led the way representing nearly 1/3 of all voters countywide in support of proposition 2.
“It’s time for the voters voice to be heard and I will lead the fight to make it happen,” Commissioner Noack said.