Poor Library management subject of only contested vote at July 30 Commissioners Court meeting

Poor Library management subject of only contested vote at July 30 Commissioners Court meeting

Image: Montgomery County Library Director Jerilynne Williams appeared before the July 30, 2019, Commissioners Court to ask for funds to reinstate a Branch Manager position for the Tullis Library in New Caney, even though the Library had operated just fine without anyone in the position for over one year.

Conroe, September 9 – The only contested vote during the July 30, 2019, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court came over the issue of whether to reinstate a Branch Manager position for the Tullis Library in New Caney, even though the Library had operated just fine without anyone in the position for over one year. The Big Government coalition of Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts voted for the reinstatement and expenditure of $15,388.32 from the Contingency Fund for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2019, which ends September 30. Meanwhile, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack voted against the proposal.

Very few county governments even have a public library system. It’s one of the areas far beyond the statutory mission of a county government. The poor management of the Library system by the County government illustrates why counties should stay away from libraries.

Montgomery County’s library system costs the taxpayers $9,867,583 per year with $8,602,979 of those expenditures sunk into salaries and benefits for the aging library system which has utterly failed to keep up with modern usage patterns. Spending 87.18% of the Library budget on salaries and benefits is completely ridiculous and reflects the fact that the Library system operates as though it were still in the 1970s.

Library Director Jerilynne Williams seems far more focused on maintaining a large budget than on bringing the Library into the modern era. The Commissioners Court eliminated the Branch Manager position in February, 2019. Williams, however, urged the Commissioners Court to force taxpayers to re-fund a position without which the Library has operated just fine for a long time.

Ratings explained

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, July 30, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.

The votes

Vote #1 – Reinstate Memorial Library Branch Manager. It wasn’t a lot of money in relative terms, but, once again, the Commissioners Court covered up the terrible management practices of Williams, who has failed to manage the Memorial Library as a modern 21st century library. Major vote. 25 points. Proper vote was “No.” Passed 3 (Riley, Meador, Metts) to 2 (Keough, Noack).

Bizarre Justice Court votes

Vote #2 – The Commissioners Court voted to approve spending $5,000 out of the Justice of the Peace Technology Fund for JP Precincts 2 (Spikes) and 3 (Beasley). No member of the Commissioners Court provided any oversight with respect to whether the pricing for these items was reasonable. They just blindly approved the expenditures. 5 points. “No” vote appropriate under the circumstances. Passed unanimously.

Squandering millions of County tax dollars without scrutiny or discussion

Vote #3 – The Commissioners Court spent over $2.3 million on purchasing decisions. Without discussion, they approved an engineering testing contract for the McCaleb Road/Fish Creek Thoroughfare overpass and a contract for preliminary engineering services for over $1.06 million for the widening of US 59 to the Harris County Line. The latter and very lucrative contract went to LJA Engineering, the engineering firm which contributes mightily to the Commissioners Court members and also regularly takes Court members on hunting and fishing trips. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate for each of 3 votes. Fundamentally, the problem with these votes is that the Commissioners Court accepts the pricing under these contracts blindly without oversight or review.

Payroll changes

Vote #4 – Payroll change requests. No discussion, no deliberation, no analysis. “No” vote appropriate. 5 points. Passed unanimously.

Vote #5 – The Commissioners Court appointed George Lindahl and Gina Yohn to the newly-reconstituted CPS Board. Yohn is a popular children’s swimming instructor in the Montgomery area. Lindahl has been in the oil and gas business for over four decades and has a substantial involvement in nonprofit charity work, including a past stint as Chairman of the Board of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Both of these individuals are excellent choices for the CPS Board. Judge Keough nominated both of them. 50 point bonus to Keough for turning the CPS Board around expeditiously after the Terri Jaggers “Orphan-Gate” debacle. 10 points for “Yes” vote. Passed unanimously.

Budget amendments without oversight and one small, but worrisome, expenditure at the end of the list

Vote #6 – The Commissioners Court approved thirty-seven (37) budget amendments totaling $229,914.93. There was one amendment for $1,000 to purchase hardware for the ERP project out of the Information Technology Department. That seems worrisome. With the Commissioners Court spending more than $16 million on the entire ERP contract, it seems more than strange that they have to pull $1,000 out of the IT Department for hardware. The Commissioners Court still does not comply with the Texas Local Government Code for these very opaque amendments. 10 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.

Payment of Accounts

$15,640,438.10 paid over 111 single-spaced pages of payments with no oversight or discussion from the Commissioners Court. Payments to Wavemedia, a fiber optic cable company, are a good sign that the County government is moving away from Phonoscope at least at its central hub. The County government continues to squander about $1,000,000 in poor Justice Court collections and, to add injury to injury, paid Graves Humphries law firm $23,415.76 for their terrible work. $19,644.18 to John Holzwarth, the engineer who duplicates the work of the salaried Montgomery County Engineer. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.

Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, July 30, 2019:

KEOUGH 85/155. Grade F.

MEADOR 10/155. Grade F.

RILEY 100/155. Grade F.

NOACK 35/155. Grade F.

METTS 10/155. Grade F.

The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.

KEOUGH 4,868/4,261. Grade A+.

MEADOR -642/4,574. Grade F.

RILEY -2,412/4,574. Grade F.

NOACK 2,588/4,574. Grade F.

METTS -167/4,261. Grade F.

The citizens must remain vigilant.

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