Image: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough exhibited strong and positive leadership during the May 28, 2019, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
Conroe, June 4 – Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts showed strong leadership during the May 28, 2019, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
SH 242 flyover tolls come to an end!
Obviously, the giant event of the meeting was the unanimous vote of the Commissioners Court to remove the State Highway 242 flyover tolls. On April 9, Keough and his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps had argued for removal of the tolls and raised the question why the Commissioners Court had not taken the actions with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to remove those tolls prior to that time.
It came out during the April 9 meeting and the immediate aftermath of it that none of the members of the Commissioners Court had contacted TxDOT to have the state agency take over the maintenance and expense for operation of the flyovers since January, 2018, when County taxpayers paid off the bond debt for those road features, even though County taxpayers pay lobbyist Rob Eissler $4,000 per month to communicate with TxDOT. On April 18, this newspaper and Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley independently confirmed with TxDOT that TxDOT would take over the flyover maintenance for the flyovers, which TxDOT already owned as state assets.
During the May 28 Commissioners Court meeting, Riley sought to remove the flyover tolls but to take the time necessary to negotiate a “transition” agreement with TxDOT. Noack, however, would hear nothing of such a proposal. Noack wanted the flyover tolls removed “tonight” as he demanded on behalf of the taxpayers.
Eventually, the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to remove the flyover tolls immediately. Immediately after the meeting, Millsaps confirmed with the Harris County Toll Road Authority and with TxDOT that they agreed to end the tolls as of midnight May 28.
It was a great victory for citizen activists, for Keough, and for Millsaps. Keough receives a 500 point bonus for his ratings for the May 28 meeting. Noack urged the immediately removal of the tolls and receives a 250 point bonus for his intransigence on behalf of the beleaguered taxpayers of high-taxing Montgomery County.
It was a major vote, easily the most significant vote of the calendar year and during Keough’s term since he became County Judge on January 1. 25 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Metts leads on David Memorial Drive
There were two other very positive acts during the May 28 Commissioners Court meeting. One of them came from Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts.
Metts negotiated an engineering contract with Bleyl Engineering, a renowned local engineering firm under the leadership of John Bleyl, P.E., to complete the engineering work necessary for the County government’s portion of the David Memorial Drive Extension.
The Extension is important both for mobility and for public safety reasons, as David Memorial’s connection to State Highway 242 would provide traffic ease for emergency vehicles traveling to, from, and around Methodist Hospital, particularly during floods and other emergencies. Even though County voters had approved $2 million for David Memorial Drive in the 2015 bond referendum, the project had foundered.
Under the leadership of Metts, Shenandoah Mayor Ritch Wheeler, and the Shenandoah City Council, the project appears to be moving forward finally.
Metts receives a 100 point bonus for his leadership on this important matter. It was a major vote to approve the engineering for David Memorial Drive. 25 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Keough stands for Constitutional rights
The other very positive action during the May 28 meeting was Keough’s. Sheriff Rand Henderson proposed installation of a fixed license plate reader along the Interstate 45 North frontage road in a multi-use agreement with TxDOT. The reader would read license plates of everyone.
Keough objected to the use of such a reader without any sort of alleged violation by a traffic-law offender. Henderson, who claims he is a Constitutionalist and has often spoken about such issues, stood by the proposal.
The Commissioners Court voted four (Meador, Riley, Noack, Metts) to one (Keough) to approve the fixed license plate reader. Keough stood his ground and clearly stood for the Constitution and the rights of all Montgomery County citizens. He deserves a 400 point bonus in ratings representing the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed 4 to 1.
The Golden Hammer‘s rating system follows the Platform of the Republican Party of Texas.
The Golden Hammer‘s ratings measure Commissioners Court votes that affect spending in comparison to the provisions of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Points are good. The number of points depends upon the amount of money involved in each vote.
The Commissioners Court, all of whom claim to be Republicans, violated the Republican Party Platform on almost every vote during the March 26 meeting. They violated Plank 144 in particular, which provides:
“144. Government Spending: Government Spending is out of control at the federal, state, and local levels, and action is needed.”
The editorial staff of this newspaper sincerely hopes that Plank 144 is simple enough that even the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court might understand it.
Commissioners Court meeting, May 28, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.
Votes #1, 2, and 3 – Discussed above. unanimously. They voted themselves a giant increase in benefits.
Vote #4 – The Commissioners Court is playing games with budget amendments. The amendments included enormous draw-downs from off-budget “slush funds”:
- Commissioner Riley will pull $172,827.91 from his slush fund for “professional services”;
- Commissioner Riley will $10,000 for park maintenance;
- Commissioner James Metts, Precinct 4, will pull $686.10 from his slush fund for “supplies”;
- The Animal Shelter is pulling $12,403.80 from its slush fund for “professional services”;
- Risk Management is pulling $781.70 of slush funds for “safety program” with the explanation from Michael Howard, “Oh…I believe I was supposed to let you know that we have $781 in carryover which we would like to apply to line 74251”;
- Commissioner Mike Meador will pull $300,000.00 even for “capital outlays”.
A “No” vote was appropriate. Major vote. 25 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #5 to 18 – Purchasing items totaling $978,000. Many of the contracts are missing portions or not there at all. How can the Commissioners Court members vote on spending items where the contracts aren’t even in front of them?! A “no” vote was appropriate. 5 points each. Passed unanimously.
Vote #19 – County Judge Keough sought to move some funds from his Supplies and Operations account in order to hire an administrative assistant to replace Amanda Whittington who retired, but who will continue to draw salary budget funds for another several weeks as she collect accumulated comp and vacation time. A “no” vote was appropriate. 10 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #20 – After Gearn Offshore, Inc., defaulted on its tax abatement agreement three Commissioners Court meetings ago, and begged for forgiveness two meetings ago, now Gearn Offshore wants to terminate the remaining year of its tax abatement agreement without paying the back taxes it saved over the past six years. That’s crazy. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote was appropriate. Passed three (Riley, Meador, Metts) to two (Noack, Keough).
Vote #21 – Payment of Accounts. Total payments of $12,224,699.62 on 85 pages of spending items without any meaningful review. No deliberation, oversight, or even discussion. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #22 – Payroll change requests. No deliberation, review, or oversight. Blindness. 10 points. “No” vote appropriate.
Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, May 28, 2019:
KEOUGH 1,000/240. Grade A+.
MEADOR 50/240. Grade F.
RILEY 50/240. Grade F.
NOACK 325/240. Grade A+.
METTS 150/240. Grade D.
The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
KEOUGH 3,953/3,591. Grade A+.
MEADOR -147/3,903. Grade F.
RILEY -1,917/3,903. Grade F.
NOACK 2,478/3,903. Grade D.
METTS 718/3,591. Grade F.
The citizens must remain vigilant.