Image: Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal (left) trying to explain why he wants to continue charging tolls on the State Highway 242 flyovers even though the taxpayers have paid the debt on those road facilities at the Texas Patriots PAC candidate debate on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Mark Keough (right), the State Representative challenging as an advocate for reform for County Judge, raised the issue during the debate.
Conroe, February 6 – Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal spouted nonsense to cling to the State Highway 242 flyover tolls in response to his challenger Mark Keough’s question during the Tuesday, January 23, 2018, candidate debate, which the Texas Patriots PAC sponsored. Montgomery County taxpayers, through the County government, paid off the debt on January 18, 2018, after Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack proposed defeasance of approximately $21.8 million of bonds during the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget deliberations.
During the Texas Patriots PAC candidate debate, each of the candidates for Montgomery County Judge in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election had the opportunity to ask the other candidate a question. Doyal began with a silly question, “What’s your favorite movie?”
Keough, who has emphasized that he’ll fight for taxpayer rights during the electoral debates, answered, “Rambo.”
Keough then posed a far more serious question to Doyal, “Now that the tollroad for the bridges on State Highway 242 is paid off, are you going to keep taxing us on that road?”
Doyal answered, “It’s not a tax; it’s a fee. It’s not paid off, because we still have a commitment to maintain the facility.”
Keough: “Now that the tollroad for the bridges on State Highway 242 is paid off, are you going to keep taxing us on that road?”
Doyal: “It’s not a tax; it’s a fee. It’s not paid off, because we still have a commitment to maintain the facility.”
Doyal’s answer certainly enough doesn’t make any sense. The County government has a commitment to maintain every road in Montgomery County. Doyal’s answer raises the question whether he intends to start tolling every single road in the County as a tax raising device.
Doyal’s answer raises the question whether he intends to start tolling every single road in the County as a tax raising device.
A portion of the flyovers are in Commissioners Precinct 2 which already has a $7.978 million budget for road and bridge maintenance. During Fiscal Year 2017, which ended on September 30, 2017, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley had not even spent that entire allocated budget and had $$587,777.46 of unspent funds carried over into the next Fiscal Year.
A portion of the flyovers are in Commissioner Precinct 4 which already has a $8.097 million budget for road and bridge maintenance. During Fiscal Year 2017, which ended on September 30, 2017, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Jim Clark had not even spent that entire allocated budget and had $1,145,933.05. of unspent funds carried over into the next Fiscal Year.
The Golden Hammer spoke with representatives of three of the four County Commissioners Offices who, on condition of anonymity, estimated that the annual maintenance and inspection fees for both flyovers would be approximately a maximum of $40,000 per year.
In other words, for maintenance expenses of approximately $40,000 per year, Doyal wants to continue to toll (tax) Montgomery County taxpayers well over $1 million per year.
Over the past weekend, Commissioner Clark called for removing the tolls from the State Highway 242 flyovers now that the Montgomery County government defeased the bond debt. As a result of the bond debt defeasances Commissioner Noack had proposed from funds from the Pass-Through Toll Revenue received from the state, the County government paid $6.370 million from the debt service fund and completely defeased the Series 2009, Series 2010, and Series 2012 Bonds that financed the SH 242 flyovers.
On January 25, 2018, all of the debt associated with the SH 242 flyover project was paid off.
During calendar year 2017, the flyover tolls totaled $1,233,736.20, or an average of $102,811.35 per month. In 2015, when the County government had projected the revenue for the tollroad during that time period, the projections were approximately $194,028 per month for calendar year 2017. Therefore, the actual toll revenue was approximately $92,000 per month less than the engineering projections. The tolls are $0.50 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and $0.25 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Clark also made another important point about the SH 242 situation in comparison with the controversial TX 249 Tollway which Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley are pushing the County government to build rather than allowing the Texas Department of Transportation to build the road instead. TxDOT’s Commissioner Victor Vandergriff told the Commissioners Court on December 19, 2017, that TxDOT would build the TX 249 road as a free farm-to-market road if the Montgomery County government didn’t built the road as a tollroad.
After considerable pressure from Governor Greg Abbott and state lawmakers, Vandergriff is resigning from TxDOT under a cloud of personal scandal (for using state funds for his personal business expenses) primarily for his pro-tollroads stance, which Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and the Republican leadership in the Texas Senate has vehemently opposed.
Doyal and Riley want to build the TX 249 Tollway as a tollroad so that they can funnel large amounts of funds to their favored political contributors and criminal legal defense fund contributors, including Halff Associates engineers, Jones & Carter engineers, and others. Doyal and Riley, along with Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador have already funneled more than $13 million of taxpayer general revenue funds into the TX 249 Tollway project.
One of the arguments Doyal and Riley have attempted to make, however, is that by Montgomery County building the TX 249 Tollway, the County government could control when to remove the tolls from that road after the debt is paid, if ever. Therefore, Doyal’s and Riley’s refusal to remove tolls from the SH 242 flyovers suggests that they don’t really ever intend to remove tolls from TX 249 either.
Clark concurred: “Our county government should prove that they’ll actually remove tolls when projects are paid. There’s no reason to continue taxing the public with these SH 242 toll facilities, since we’ve paid off the debt.”