Montgomery searches for 2M missing gallons of water, considers downtown growth

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The city of Montgomery is trying to find approximately 2 million missing gallons of water and to settle on a plan for downtown growth.

At a regular meeting Aug. 28, Montgomery City Council heard a report from Michael Williams, vice president of operations for water provider Gulf Utility Service. Williams said water accountability is down to 82%, 13% lower than the city’s usual average of 95%.

“We’re just trying to check all avenues to try and find this leak,” Williams said.

Where is the water?

This is the second month in a row water accountability has gone down. In June, Williams reported 89% water accountability, with 1.359 million gallons missing. Although the city previously thought the loss could be due to water theft, Williams said it was unlikely individuals could take such a large amount of water. Williams said the plan is to continue to monitor for anything strange with the pumps.

City Administrator Richard Tramm said his advice would be to send workers into areas where water could leak out with no one noticing such as the wooded areas around the city.

Council Member Rebecca Huss said the loss has cost the city approximately $10,000. Council Member John Champagne said it is “totally unacceptable” that there are no leads on where the leak is.

“Because I promise you,” Champagne said, “that if I said the $10,000 was going to come out of the salaries of everyone responsible, we’d see all hands on deck.”

Designing downtown

Council also approved a $15,393 funding agreement between the Montgomery Economic Development Corporation and Texas A&M University’s Texas Target Communities Program. The program will allow two studio classes of senior architectural students to develop and design projects for the city.

“The goal of this is to provide the city with a basket of ideas—design ideas—that the city can then say, ‘Hey, we like this, we don’t like this, and we like this,’” Assistant to the City Administrator Dave McCorquodale said. “You take those ideas to a design firm and essentially short-circuit a $50,000 or $75,000 design process for about $15,000.”

McCorquodale said the university is also designing the city’s downtown master plan. Council Member John Bickford said he was concerned about how realistic implementing any of the projects would be considering the other areas of development the city wanted to focus on, such as street improvements.

“I think we’re on a path, and I don’t know where the end is. I think the end is a very expensive next step, and we’re going to walk ourselves into this thing,” Bickford said. “I don’t think it’s bad; I think the timing might be off for the rest of the funding for the grander plan is.”

The vote was split between Champagne, Bickford, Huss and Council Member T.J. Wilkerson. Mayor Sarah Countryman broke the tie by approving the partnership.

Other news

  • No citizens spoke at the public hearing for the 2019-20 tax rate. Tramm said the city is planning on adopted a $0.4000 rate, the same as last year. The next public hearing is Sept. 3.
  • The Baha Road rehabilitation project is on hold as the city attempts to find additional sources of funding. Bickford recommended the city use some of its own funds to at least begin work on the road.
  • The city considered acquiring two streets—the right of way at College Street and Huffman Street. Council recommended Tramm go forward with the College Street acquisition, but require the owner of Huffman bring the road up to city standards before the city takes it over.

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Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now covers the Conroe Independent School District, Montgomery City Council and transportation.
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