Image: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” fought for the citizens of Montgomery County on April 9 to remove the SH 242 flyover tolls, but he faced intransigent Commissioners on the Commissioners Court.
Conroe, May 7 – At the April 9, 2019, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, County Judge Mark Keough attempted to remove the SH 242 flyover tolls and alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection of State Highway 242 and Interstate 45. Commissioners Charlie Riley, James Metts, and Mike Meador vehemently fought against the suggestion, because they consider tolls a source of “revenue,” even though the taxpayers paid the debt on those tollroads in January, 2018.
Keough said, “The opportunity to alleviate traffic at 242, one of our most travelled intersections in the entire county, is before us. It affects 3 Commissioners Precincts. The debt for the flyover has already been paid for since 2018.”
In response, the Commissioners Court members would hear none of that sensible proposal and voted it down two (Keough, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack) to three (Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador). Keough noted that only three percent (3%) of the traffic that goes through the Interstate 45-SH 242 intersection uses the flyovers, based upon car count studies. In other words, traffic specifically seeks to avoid using the flyovers, because the County government has continued to toll them.
Keough also argued, “Part of this whole deal is that the people want it off, so we should take it [the tolls] off.” Keough said, “I ran on this. I ran on the fact that I would do exactly what the people asked us to do…and that we represent them.”
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, April 9, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.
Vote #1 – Removal of the SH 242 flyover tolls. Keough bravely proceeded to do the people’s will in the face of hyperpolitical criticism from all four of his colleagues. Keough receives a 500 point bonus for bravery. Major vote. 25 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Failed two (Keough, Noack) to three (Meador, Metts, Riley).
During the discussion in the Commissioners Court, Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts began the expression of fear over the potential cost of flyover maintenance. Metts said, “If you get something that is an oversize load that destroys that flyover…”
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador continued with the disaster-mongering, “Then we’re on the hook.”
Metts continued, “…then Precinct 4 is the one that’s going to be out for the major amount of money…I don’t want to be stuck with a huge something that we cannot pay over here in Precinct 4. It’s my duty to look after them, not only Precinct 4, but the rest of the County. I want some simple answers from the state and I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”
Riley then said, “We have county roads that we maintain. We do not maintain state-built highways. I’m sure that I-10 wasn’t expecting a barge to hit that bridge down there either, and it’s been shut down for two months…You cannot afford to maintain that.”
The Most Stupid Comment In The History of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court: In discussing maintenance costs for the flyovers at State Highway 242 and Interstate 45 in Conroe, Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner said, “”We have county roads that we maintain. We do not maintain state-built highways. I’m sure that I-10 wasn’t expecting a barge to hit that bridge down there either, and it’s been shut down for two months…You cannot afford to maintain that.”
The flyovers are approximately one hundred (100) feet in the air. Barge traffic along Interstate 45 would seem likely to be rare.
Riley receives a 500 point deduction for sheer stupidity.
Votes #2 to 10 – Various Purchasing decisions on consent calendar. These issues need to be the subject of open discussion. Under the circumstances, a “No” vote is appropriate. Each vote is worth 10 points and yet they voted unanimously to spend the citizens’ money without deliberation.
Vote #11 – 284th District Judge Kristin Bays donated approximately $2,800 of furniture to the Courtroom of her Court. She made a great gesture and showed real leadership and public spirit. The Commissioners Court voted to approve Judge Bays’ wonderful gesture. This article doesn’t rate elected servants other than the five members of the Commissioners Court. They each receive 1 point for voting “Yes” to accept Judge Bays’ generosity. Passed unanimously.
Vote #12 – The Commissioners Court voted unanimously in favor of a land lease agreement for 1.696 acres at the Montgomery County Airport for DCR Development, LLC, a company of Stephen Ratcliff, a regular political contributor to Commissioner Meador and other members of the Commissioners Court. The land lease rate will be $18,469 per year for the first five years of the lease, which seems like a pretty sweet deal. While the lease has standard terms, it should have included a personal guarantee by Ratcliff and the rental amount should have been substantially higher for County property planned for a hangar. The lease rate will increase to market values in the sixth year. In other words, the Commissioners Court is giving Ratcliff a very favorable deal. 10 points. “No” vote appropriate both fiscally and ethically. Passed unanimously.
Vote #13 – The Commissioners Court blindly approved spending $10,606,035.36 without oversight, discussion, deliberation, or even eyeballing. The payments included $4,050 to Graves Humphries for technology, which James Metts had assured everyone would be free. The Graves Humphries contract is losing millions of dollars to County taxpayers. That’s disgusting. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #14 – The Commissioners Court approved a $165,000 change order to an engineering contract with Bleyl Interests for additional engineering services for the Walden Road widening in Meador’s Precinct. There was no oversight whatsoever of the price. The County government just accepted the price quotation. 10 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #15 – The Commissioners Court approved a purchase of a M6S-111SHDC Tractor for $58,542.45 and a KB2200 Boom Mower for $68,323.85, for a total of $126,866.31 from Landsdowne-Moody Company, for Commissioners Precinct 2. That’s actually a good price for the Kubota Tractor but the County overpaid several thousand dollars for the Terrain King Boom Mower, if only they had checked prices on eBay and Alibaba for the same new equipment. 10 points. “No” vote appropriate, because this equipment duplicates other equipment the County government already owns. Passed unanimously.
Vote #16 – The Commissioners Court voted to accept the low bidder for the reconstruction and widening of Firehouse Road! It’s nice to see a bidding process, even though there were only two bidders. “Yes” vote appropriate. 10 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #17 – The Commissioners Court blindly voted to accept a contract for power washing. “No” vote appropriate. 10 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #18 – The Commissioners Court voted to allow Commissioner Noack to hire an additional administrative assistant for $45,630 taken from his Precinct 3 “slush fund” meaning the action will increase next year’s budget substantially. Noack has championed opposing middle-of-the-year budget increases for staffing. Sad to see he took this action. “No” vote appropriate. 5 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #19 – Noack appointed himself, Riley, their respective Chiefs of Staff (Besong and Berger), Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo, Budget Director Amanda Carter, Building Director Tim Stewart, and IT Co-Director Chuck Cobb to the Facilities Committee. In other words, there will be little, if any, true oversight and budget planning on the Facilities Planning Committee. Major vote. 25 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #20 – The Commissioners Court blindly approved a Commissioner Precinct 4 staffing change funded from a non-existent account. 10 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #21 – Commissioner Noack moved an IT issue to the open agenda which had been set for an executive session. He receives a 100 point bonus for that action. The issue was to appoint a temporary employee, a licensed peace officer, in the IT department to coordinate the Internet Crimes Against Children database management and act as a liaison with law enforcement agencies. It’s a temporary position funded from contingency. Since it’s a law enforcement funding issue, the actual unanimous vote in favor of the action is not rated.
Dennis Tibbs, Ginger Russell, and Calvin Russell all commented on the terrible Commissioners Court vote not to remove the SH 242 tolls.
Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, April 9, 2019:
KEOUGH 536/231. Grade A+.
MEADOR 11/231. Grade F.
RILEY -489/231. Grade F.
NOACK 136/231. Grade F.
METTS 11/231. Grade F.
The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
KEOUGH 2,912/2,773. Grade A+.
MEADOR -268/3,085. Grade F.
RILEY -2,038/3,085. Grade F.
NOACK 1,832/3,085. Grade F.
METTS 527/2,773. Grade F.
The citizens must remain vigilant.