Montgomery County Commissioners Court places $280 million bond on November ballot

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Montgomery County Commissioners Court approved a $280 million road bond referendum to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot during a special session Aug. 24.

Bond funds would be divided by precinct, with Precinct 3 receiving $84 million, Precinct 4 receiving $68 million and Precincts 1 and 2 each receiving $64 million.

The bond proposal does not include the extension of Woodlands Parkway from FM 2978 to Hwy. 249, which was heavily opposed in The Woodlands as part of the $350 million bond referendum voted down by residents in May.

The decision to approve the new bond package was reached after Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 commissioner Charlie Riley came to an agreement with The Woodlands-based Texas Patriots Political Action Committee on the framework of the proposal, county officials said.

Riley said he removed the Woodlands Parkway extension from the list of projects and is instead focusing on an expansion of Keenan Cutoff Road.

“I have prioritized Keenan Cutoff Road over Woodlands Parkway because of the two new schools that Montgomery ISD will build on that road,” Riley said. “That road cannot wait for those two schools.”

Additionally, the expansion and realignment of Robinson Road has been removed from the bond project list by Precinct 3 commissioner James Noack. In exchange, Noack is including a $14.55 million expansion of Woodlands Parkway between I-45 and Grogans Mill. The expansion widens the parkway from three to four lanes and includes a dedicated turn lane, according to precinct 3.

The Texas Patriots PAC vocally opposed the $350 million bond referendum during the May election as well as a $200 million bond proposal in 2011. The PAC also supported Rob Harmon for Precinct 2 commissioner over Charlie Riley, and Mark Bosma for Montgomery County judge over Doyal during the 2014 elections.

Julie Turner, Texas Patriot PAC president, said the organization supported the November bond referendum because of the removal of the Woodlands Parkway extension and a new county strategy being implemented to fund maintenance projects.

“This is what the PAC would suggest so it worked out,” Turner said. “If they don’t want our support they can do whatever they want.”

Another criticism levied by opponents of the May bond referendum was the use of bond funds for maintenance and rehabilitation projects. To address the criticism, county commissioners placed $4 million in a new Road and Bridge Fund in the 2016 budget—which commissioners will vote on Sept. 2.

Starting with the 2017-18 budget, Commissioner’s Court will allocate 10.19 percent of all property tax revenue received by the county to the fund each year for road and bridge maintenance, Montgomery County officials said.

Precinct 1 commissioner Mike Meador was the only commissioner to criticize the partnership with the PAC. However he voted in favor of the bond referendum’s placement on the Nov. 3 ballot.

“I am disappointed in how it was done—a small group of people from a special interest group serving as a bond committee and dictating to some of the court, not me, how much each precinct would receive and what work was to be done,” Meador said. “With no input from anybody in the county except for this one group, it seems like a dangerous path that the court has taken. That defies equal representation.”

County officials said Commissioners Court is also planning a 2018 road bond referendum of at least $70 million. The two bond proposals total the same $350 million figure proposed in May, but the three years between the two referendums will provide commissioners more time to evaluate effects of a floundering oil market, Doyal said.

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