Montgomery County commissioners remove County Judge Mark Keough as chairman of countywide facilities master-plan committee

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Montgomery County commissioners removed County Judge Mark Keough as chairman of the countywide facilities master-plan committee in a 4-1 vote March 26, replacing him with commissioners James Noack and Charlie Riley as co-chairmen.

This comes concerning an assessment of all county-owned buildings by Houston-based architecture firm PGAL.

Keough, the lone vote against the March 26 motion, said he asked to postpone the movement on signing an agreement with PGAL for a $35,000 Montgomery County facilities master plan after being appointed committee chairman in February. He said he found the proposal would not touch the county’s priority needs after meeting with stakeholders.

But the commissioners wanted to move forward with the agreement right away in time for upcoming budget sessions, and those other priorities are addressed in prior proposals, Commissioner James Noack said.

“First, at the time of the meeting, we had not met with department heads or any elected officials and haven’t been out on this one month after coming into office; it seemed to me I needed to address stakeholders and find out their feelings—we’ve only had one committee meeting,” Keough said. “Secondly, I met with a number of those stakeholders—the sheriff, forensics, some judges—we have needs that are not going to be touched by this proposal. These needs are the forensic center, the west county jail annex, the sheriff’s substation on Rayford Road in Precinct 3. … Those are priorities.”

Keough advocated for more time to look into what should go into the master-plan proposal.

“We only had one month; we only had one meeting—I’m asking you to leave me on this to work on it, and I believe we’ll come to a better place,” Keough said. “They said once we do this, they still have time to get it [filed]in 90 days, which leaves us in time for the budget [deadline]if we decided to do it.”

“If we go the direction discussed at this meeting, we’re talking hundreds and hundreds of millions worth of bond [money],” Keough continued. “In my judgement as county judge, it would behoove me to continue to ask questions. I’m not anti-PGAL, I’m not anti-spending the money, but I think at the end of the day, I appreciate the opportunity. I adamantly oppose moving forward like this. I don’t think it’s good for the court, it doesn’t bring unity.”

Noack said the PGAL proposal includes a basic service level of assessment of all the county-owned buildings.

“The sheriff’s department already has a master plan being completed by HDR [engineering], of which PGAL and HDR will work together to make sure that’s coordinated with that master plan they will bring back to court,” Noack said. “The forensic issue is already being done by PGAL, and it would have been redundant to include in our proposal for which we’ve already paid to have that proposal done.”

Noack said it is important to move forward now in order to have the master plan proposal before the county budget sessions for 2020 begin in July.

“Lastly, we need to move forward on this now because as we move toward the budget hearing, which will be in just over three months, this proposal has a 90-day completion, so if you kick this out 90 days, you’ll see we can have a facilities master plan in place before the budget hearing, so we’ll have a better idea of how to allocate finite resources of the county,” Noack said. “I think it’s an excellent proposal. When the court put you as chair of this committee, it was to move forward, not to decide unilaterally you were going to pause without communicating to the court.”

In other news March 26, commissioners:

  • Unanimously approved a deputy bailiff position for Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Judge Matt Beasley with an annual salary of $55,307
  • Unanimously recognized the 2019 Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Resolution for the Montgomery County Walk Across Texas Challenge, an eight-week walking program
  • Unanimously resolved to support the Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act in the Texas Legislature in honor of J.D. Lambright, former Montgomery County attorney

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Jules Rogers
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jules Rogers has been covering community journalism and urban trade news since 2014. She moved to Houston in June 2018 to become an editor with Community Impact Newspaper after four years of reporting for various newspapers affiliated with the Portland Tribune in Oregon, including two years at the Portland Business Tribune. Before that, Jules spent time reporting for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Southern Oregon. Her favorite beats to cover are business, economic development and urban planning.
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