Conroe, March 20 – Lame duck Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal will urge the Commissioners Court to approve a half a million dollar contract for Halff Associates, Inc., the engineering firm where his best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams is the regional Vice President, at the Tuesday, March 20, 2018, meeting. The Halff contract includes the exorbitant price of $464,500.00 for right-of-way acquisition services paid at substantial hourly rates of 49 parcels of land for the widening of F.M. 1097 from Anderson Drive to Lake Conroe. The County government is hopeful that the Texas Department of Transportation will use some of the citizens’ tax dollars to reimburse Montgomery County for some of the Halff expenditures and right-of-way fees.
Until August, 2017, Doyal and Adams were business partners and co-owners of WS&G, L.L.C., an contracting service firm. Doyal failed to file conflict-of-interest disclosures with respect to Adams when Doyal urged the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to give Halff a $2 million contract for the project management of the $73 million to $85 million, 3 mile, TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway. Instead of recusing himself from Commissioners Court votes involving Adams’ engineering firm, Doyal has consistently urged the County government to give numerous contracts to Halff, including the right-of-way acquisition contract coming before the Commissioners Court on March 20.
Doyal and Adams dissolved WS&G in 2017 but remain co-owners of a different company, Superall Environmental.
It is reasonable to question why an engineering firm, charging engineer project manager prices, is necessary for right-of-way acquisition at all. There are numerous right-of-way acquisition companies in the Montgomery County market for those services which charge considerably lower prices than those Halff will garner under the no-bid arrangement Doyal and the County Purchasing Department, under his direction, have established.
The contract price includes:
- $289,100 for “negotiation services” for 49 parcels of property;
- $87,200 for “relocation”;
- $88,200 for title and closing services, at a price of $1,800.00 per property.
In actuality, if the County utilized the services of a land man (or land lady), the County could easily spend about one fifth of the contract price that Doyal and his Purchasing Department are proposing. The support services including payment of senior project managers at $160 per hour, Right of Way Agents at $130 per hour, Relocation Agents at $130 per hour, a Senior Title Specialist at $130 per hour, a Title Specialist at $90 per hour, and secretarial support at $75 per hour. It’s serious: the County government is going to pay Halff Associates, Inc., $75 per hour for secretarial services.
Right of Way Agents normally charge substantially lower fees in the range of $60 to $80 per hour. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that Halff is one of the firms that worked to set up Doyal’s criminal legal defense fund and to hire Houston criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin. Halff and Adams have contributed many thousands of dollars to Doyal’s unsuccessful campaign and to his criminal legal defense.
It appears that, in return, the taxpayers of Montgomery County will pay a substantial markup for the right-of-way acquisition costs without any effort by the County government to put those services out for competitive bids.