Conroe, January 29 – Thanks to the urging of Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and over the protest of Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador, the County Commissioners Court will conduct public interviews of five nominees for the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) Board of Directors position at a workshop after the regular Commissioners Court Meeting on Tuesday, February 14, 2017. The term of LSGCD President Richard Tramm who has served on its board since its 2001 inception will expire on January 31, although Tramm will continue to serve until his successor takes the oath of office. Noack proposed the procedure for interviewing LSGCD candidates at the January 24 Commissioners Court meeting. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark seconded the motion.
Under the procedure each of the five members of the Commissioners Court may nominate one finalist for the interviews. At this juncture, the five members have listed the following names as their potential nominees:
County Judge Craig Doyal: Randy Councill
Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador: Jill Savory
Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley: Jack Curtsinger
Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack: Webb Melder
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark: Jack Curtsinger
LSGCD has established regulations that limit the use of groundwater and has forced many water users to purchase surface water at very high prices from the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA). Currently, LSGCD Board votes have consistently been 6-3 in favor of continuing the regulatory policies that has made water far more expensive for Montgomery County residents, real estate developers, utility companies, municipal utility districts, and municipalities. The City of Conroe is presently involved in lawsuits with each of LSGCD and SJRA over pricing and regulations. Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham has argued that LSGCD’s policies have “created a $10 million per year water problem” for Montgomery County taxpayers.
The Montgomery County Commissioners Court has two appointments to the LSGCD Board, currently Porter SUD President Richard Tramm, who also serves as LSGCD’s President and Gregg Hope, son of longtime community leader Ruben Hope. Tramm and Hope consistently vote against the interests of Montgomery County residents and in favor of LSGCD’s regulations which are favorable to the SJRA. In other words, they are two of the six anti-resident votes. The current LSGCD Board makeup follows:
-Richard Tramm, President, term expires 1.31.2017, appointed by County Commissioners Court. Tramm is the President of Porter SUD. He votes for more regulation and in favor of policies favorable to the high SJRA water pricing.
-Gregg Hope, term expires 1.31.2019, appointed by County Commissioners Court. Hope works for a telecommunications company in Conroe. He votes for more regulation and in favor of policies favorable to the high SJRA water pricing.
-Rick Moffatt, Secretary, term expires 1.31.2019, appointed by MUDs east of I-45. Moffatt is the General Manager of Southern Montgomery County MUD, which serves several communities in south Montgomery County east of I-45. He votes for more regulation and in favor of policies favorable to the high SJRA water pricing.
-Jim Stinson, Vice President, term expires 1.31.2019, appointed by Woodlands Joint Powers Agency (a collection of MUDs serving The Woodlands). Stinson is the Vice President of WJPA. He votes for more regulation and in favor of policies favorable to the high SJRA water pricing.
-John Bleyl, term expires 1.31.2017, appointed by City of Conroe. Bleyl is a longtime civil engineer in this community. He votes against more regulation and is pro-resident.
-Scott Weisinger, term expires 1.31.2017, appointed by all Montgomery County municipalities other than Conroe. Weisinger is President of a groundwater drilling, pumping, and service company. He votes against more regulation and is pro-resident.
-Jace Houston, term expires 1.31.2017. SJRA appointed. Houston is Executive Director of SJRA. He votes for more regulation and in favor of policies favorable to the high SJRA water pricing.
-Roy McCoy, Jr., term expires 1.31.2019. Appointed by MUDs west of I-45. McCoy serves as President of MUD #8. He votes against more regulation and is pro-resident.
-W.B. Wood, Treasurer, term expires 1.31.2019. Appointed by Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District. He votes for more regulation and in favor of policies favorable to the high SJRA water pricing.
If no replacement for Tramm is found, then Tramm would stay in office indefinitely until his successor takes the oath of office, a scenario which might operate quite favorably for County Judge Craig Doyal as well as the engineer special interests who back Doyal and enjoy substantial economic benefits from SJRA contracts.
At present, here’s a brief introduction to the likely LSGCD nominees:
Dane Cantwell. Noack recommended. Cantwell is a reserve Captain in the Precinct 3 Constable’s Office. He has a petroleum engineering degree and grew up in Missouri. Cantwell is the Chief Executive Officer of KA Energy Partners, a privately-held onshore exploration and production company, and lives in The Woodlands.
Randy Councill. Doyal recommended. Councill has lived in Montgomery County for approximately 25 years. He is the Chief Operations Officer of Teligistics, a telecom provider based in Conroe. In response to what his philosophy would be on the LSGCD Board, Councill told The Golden Hammer, “Based on the information presented to the citizens of Montgomery County by the SJRA and LSGC, as a TCEQ Licensed Water Utility operator, the science and data I have seen regarding the need for the surface water facility on Lake Conroe is suspect. If appointed to the board I will challenge the current members and their decision to insure the Montgomery County taxpayers aren’t burdened further with the next phase of this project.”
Councill has been involved with groundwater issues for approximately 35 years and has been involved in the utility industry in various different capacities over that period. Councill told The Golden Hammer that he doesn’t have any dealings with SJRA or the LSGCD with the exception that one of his clients has water and sewer concerns with LSGCD and has had to file a groundwater reduction plan and annual usage reports. Councill explained, “I recently got a $970 water bill and that woke me up to the terrible water problem in this community. I went to a townhall meeting that the Tea Party sponsored.”
Councill did not apply for the Board appointment and does not know who nominated him. He claims not to have had any dealings with County Judge Craig Doyal.
Over this weekend, a controversy involving Councill arose when a source provided documents to The Golden Hammer which revealed that Councill and his wife lived in a MUD home established by The Woodlands Corporation, so that its occupants could vote in MUD elections and for the Woodlands Road Utility District #1. Councill and his wife were two of the three original voters who elected the WRUD Board of Directors that soon began to issue substantial bonds and levy taxes for road development in The Woodlands. Councill told The Golden Hammer that The Woodlands Corporation’s Bob Gustavsen asked the Councills to vote in the January 18, 1992, election, and they did. The Councills were in their twenties and had sought a residence with low rent. While this situation is somewhat troubling, particularly since the WRUD’s actions afterwards created a spiral of debt and taxation (without representation), Councill has many supporters, particularly among the membership of the Texas Patriots Tea Party PAC who believe that he has acted independently of developers and water engineers during the 25-year period since that time.
Councill should fully explain his involvement with the WRUD. More importantly, Councill should tell citizens of this community about his actions since that 1992 election, which such actions hopefully more accurately reflect his philosophy of conduct as a mature adult.
The other troubling aspect of Councill’s nomination to the LSGCD Board is that it came from the mouth of Craig Doyal, the deeply troubled Montgomery County Judge as well as a current member of the WRUD Board of Directors.
Councill has the technical background that would make him a formidable force on the LSGCD Board of Directors. The interview process needs to focus on whether he would use his background and ability for the citizens or against them. Given that the RUD vote was 25 years ago, we should give Councill an opportunity to make his case in the Commissioners Court interviews.
Jack Curtsinger. Clark and Riley recommended. Jack Curtsinger of Conroe is well-known to Republican Party activists in Montgomery County. His wife Melanie has been actively involved in Republican Women’s clubs and numerous political campaigns in this community for decades. Curtsinger is a retired petroleum engineer and maintains his Professional Engineer license with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers as “active.”
Webb Melder. Noack and Clark recommended. Noack has announced he supports the appointment of Melder. Melder has lived in Montgomery County for 54 years and has worked in real estate and construction for just under 40 years. He graduated from Montgomery High School in 1967 and from Sam Houston State University in 1971. He was elected to the Conroe City Council in 2004 and as Mayor of Conroe in 2008. Melder retired as Mayor of Conroe in 2016.
Melder enjoys substantial support from citizens in Conroe as well as the open endorsement for the LSGCD Board position from County Commissioner James Noack. Melder has made clear his position that LSGCD’s close ties with SJRA and LSGCD’s anti-resident water policies are unacceptable. He has been a vocal opponent of LSGCD’s course of conduct. Melder has loudly encouraged the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to remove both Tramm and Hope and replace them with pro-resident representatives, so that the anti-resident majority on the LSGCD board would no longer control.
Melder’s continuing involvement as a party, or at least a witness, in the continuing litigation between the City of Conroe and the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District does raise issues whether Melder would be able to vote as a LSGCD Board member without the necessity of recusing himself from Board votes.
Jill Savory. Meador recommended. Kelli Cook, a renowned political activist who seemingly appears everywhere (!), endorsed Savory at the January 24, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting. Savory serves on the Point Aquarius MUD Board of Directors. Savory has been active in beautification efforts in Point Aquarius since she moved there in 2015.
Robert Secrest. Clark recommended. Secrest is a Lifetime Executive Committee member of the Montgomery County Fair Association. He has worked in the convenience store business and has owned Conroe Liquor Stores.
Mike Winkler. Riley recommended. Winkler works for Consolidated Property Advisors. He is a friend of Craig and Amy Doyal, Cecil Bell, Charlie Riley, among others.
Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham, who has been deeply involved in water issues since he joined the Council in June, 2016, discussed the nominees with The Golden Hammer earlier today. Ham expressed his happiness that the entire pool of candidates to replace Tramm is “particularly strong.” Ham added that he knows every nominee on the list but believes that Melder and Councill are the leading candidates.
The paucity of information regarding the nominees is more than disconcerting. While Melder and Councill are the most controversial, they also seem to possess the strongest credentials. The Golden Hammer intends to interview the candidates and provide a better profile to the public during coming days. Frankly, it’s fun to read about people and to get a better understanding of the personalities and aspirations. Hopefully, The Golden Hammer will be able to deliver that information to you.
If any citizen has information on any of the nominees, The Golden Hammer would appreciate that your providing it to us at: