Conroe, May 28 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court will hold a showdown in the morning of May 28, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. over the State High 242 flyover tolls and over several spending items. After Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” argued for removal of the flyover tolls at the April 9 meeting and made a presentation with his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps, which made clear the County would have little, if any liability for those flyover roads after transfer of them to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) after removing the tolls, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley have had to scramble to explain why they didn’t spend the past 16 months determining whether TxDOT would take the flyovers’ maintence from the County government.
As this newspaper reported on April 18 after receiving confirmation from sources inside of the state agency, TxDOT has made clear that, if Montgomery County removes the flyover tolls, TxDOT will take over responsibility for the flyover maintenance expenses, as the contract between TxDOT and the County makes very clear. County taxpayers paid off the flyover construction debt in January, 2018. Judge Keough asked the pointed question on April 9 why no one had investigated whether TxDOT would assume those expenses if the County government removed the tolls.
Now, after TxDOT has confirmed the assumption of the maintenance responsibilities to all concerned, Riley has placed an agenda on the meeting agenda to remove the flyover tolls.
The Commissioners Court will also consider and act upon proposals from three different County Departments to change their budgets without increasing the cost to the taxpayers:
- County Judge Keough seeks 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.
- 284th District Judge Kristin Bays seeks to increase the compensation for one of her Court Coordinators and for her Briefing Attorney Ray Johnson, while taking the funds from other accounts within her budget.
- Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, Matthew Beasley, also seeks to change some compensation structures within his County Department, also at no cost to the taxpayers.
The Commissioners Court will consider an appropriate method of selecting a replacement for Mark Mooney, the County Engineer who has decided to retire officially. The Commissioners will also to award a $396,509.80 contract to Bleyl Engineering to perform the engineering work on the David Memorial Drive extension.
The Commissioners will vote blindly to spend $12,224,699.62 on 85 pages of spending items without any meaningful review.
Finally, the Commissioners will draw on their off-budget slush funds at a frightening speed during the meeting:
- 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”.
Will Mr. Howard receive a reprimand for providing actual information along with the transfer of funds from the Risk Management slush fund?
Why do the law enforcement departments and courts all provide information for their budget transfers while all of the other departments, particularly the Commissioners, seek to obfuscate all citizen vigilance?