Tamina community faces challenges as area expands


In almost the blink of an eye, bustling strip centers and new construction at I-45 and Tamina Road lead east to a historic unincorporated community encroached upon by the booming growth in south Montgomery County.

The glimmering office buildings of The Woodlands Town Center to the west can be seen from the community of Tamina across the tops of the pine trees, but the contradictions between the two areas have never been more pronounced.

Tamina has been fighting for public sewer service for nearly 15 years—something residents say would help the community flourish and grow like the surrounding municipalities.

Tamina community faces challenges as area expandsShirley Grimes serves as the executive director of the Tamina Community Center and has lived in the community for more than 40 years. She said although many residents do not wish to be annexed, they want basic services in the community.

“[Tamina residents] shouldn’t have to give up their community for progress,” Grimes said. “They want to keep their identity. People don’t want the community to be dissolved and just become street signs. They’re afraid Tamina would become just a word and there would be nothing to remind people where it was.”

Surrounded by prosperity

About 200 people live in Tamina, which is bordered by the cities of Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North, across I-45 from The Woodlands. Many have lived in the community for decades and watched south Montgomery County transform from the rural fringes of Houston to a thriving area home to numerous company headquarters and million-dollar homes.

Seventy-two-year-old James Leveston, president of the Old Tamina Water Supply Corporation, has lived in Tamina his entire life like many who are second- and third-generation residents.

“When we came down here, there was no Woodlands, no Shenandoah, no Oak Ridge—nothing but Tamina,” he said. “As time went on progress ate us up, and we are just trying to struggle to survive here in Tamina now.”

Tamina was founded after the Civil War in the 1870s when the Houston and Great Northern Railroad line was built through Montgomery County. The area was part of the vast 3,000 acres owned by the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company in the early 1900s and was home to a post office, mill, general stores and a school.

Today, there are still several businesses in the community—tree service companies, day cares, an after-school program and the community center—but the lack of basic services, such as public sewer, has been a hindrance to progress.

“We are surrounded by so much prosperity and wealth, but we can’t get sewer services in our predominately black community,” Leveston said. “I can’t comprehend it.”

Instead of a public sewer system, a majority of the homes and businesses in Tamina operate on older septic systems or a more expensive aerobic system. An aerobic system—which has to be pumped out once a year—purifies a home’s wastewater through a tank and flushes it out through the sprinkler system. A septic system needs to be pumped out every six months.

“Most people don’t have enough property or enough money to get the aerobic system—that’s why people want to get on the [public]sewer [system],” Grimes said.

Leveston said Tamina residents no longer want to live in conditions similar to those in third-world countries, especially with all of the nearby wealth in the community’s backyard.

“There is no growth, period, if we can’t get a sewer system in,” he said.

Fighting for progress

The initiative to install public sewer began in the early 2000s after the community was awarded a Community Development Block Grant for $250,000, Leveston said. Tamina tried partnering with neighboring Oak Ridge North to install a sewer system and had a loan approved by the Texas Water Development Board to finish the project. However, an agreement could not be met between the two entities because of a loan condition requiring Tamina to give up its water rights or certificate of convenience and necessity.

Most recently, Tamina received a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to put in the sewer line if a nearby municipality could provide sewage treatment services. The community tried to work with Shenandoah officials to come up with a plan for sewer service.

“Shenandoah was supposed to run pipes down Tamina Road from David Memorial to Johnson Lane,” Leveston said. “We made an agreement with them that we would get the sewer system in and buy services from [the city].”

However, Shenandoah did not accept the agreement because terms of the USDA loan would prohibit the city from annexing the area until the loan is paid off, which is expected to take 40 years.

“[That land] could end up being extremely valuable to the city,” Shenandoah City Attorney William Ferebee said. “I don’t think any responsible [city council]would agree. You’d by tying up the next 20 city councils.”

New developments in Shenandoah near Tamina Road and David Memorial Drive have brought sewer service closer to Tamina, which does not sit well with some in the community.

“[Residents] are puzzled to see that Shenandoah and the hotel were able to put sewer in about halfway down Tamina Road and stop,” Grimes said. “It’s mind-boggling—if they can bring it that far into the community, why not bring it all the way down? It shouldn’t be a major task.”

Leveston said Tamina will take Shenandoah to court in an attempt to make the city honor its commitment. The community cannot move forward with the project or put it out for bid using the USDA grant money until the situation is resolved.

“We’re trying to go down every avenue we can,” Leveston said.

Tamina’s future

Much of Tamina sits within Shenandoah’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or unincorporated land outside the city’s boundaries in which a city can exercise authority. Shenandoah does not have annexation powers since it is a general law city with approximately 2,300 residents. However, that could change in the coming years as residents could be eligible to vote on becoming a home rule city if the population reaches 5,000, making the city hesitant about providing the wastewater services in the Tamina area.

Grimes said most Tamina residents want to remain in the community and hope sewer service will be installed in the future.

“Habitat [for Humanity]could come in and families could get homes built in the area,” Grimes said. “They could build nice affordable housing, but they have to have [public]sewer—they can’t put down the aerobic system. All we are asking for is that we have the necessities so we can have everything we need in our community to flourish and grow.”

Tamina community faces challenges as area expands

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  1. Basic health and community services are social justice issues and should be available to all. The citizens of Tamina are citizens of this county. Who and where are their representatives?

    D. Laws

    • As someone who lives in close proximity to this community, I will say that this “community” is rife with drugs and prostitution, the likes of which would not be tolerated outside this area. I read this article with a growing feeling of bile in my throat as I read the words “identity” and that “They’re afraid Tamina would become just a word and there would be nothing to remind people where it was.” The greatest disservice to this community is; the police don’t force people that live in dilapidated and decrepit homes to leave and demolish a house that is obviously a safety hazard for everyone around it. Just a few weeks ago, there was a string a break-ins and theft in our neighborhood, guess where the perp lived…Tamina.
      The greater question is; what are you willing to sacrifice for an identity steeped in drugs? Why would you want this identity in the first place, but even more, why would you want to maintain and hold on to this the past? Why wouldn’t you leave that awful place and start fresh?
      What’s really happening here is the author is obviously biased, and the people living in Tamina want free services, much like what they receive already. They want the communities around them to pay for their “identity.” I for one, refuse to do so. Having city sewage versus a septic system is NOT a basic human right, otherwise the federal government must subsidize much of the nation. I feel for the people living there, and hope they see the wisdom in allowing the community be torn down.

      • It is SO easy to blame the victims of society for their illnesses, poverty, crime, and living conditions, rather than to get to the root of the problem.

        First, Marie Leonard is to be commended for having the fortitude to even tell this story. This is a story that troubles the conscience of those who are doing well, and care little for those who have not developed to their position of doing well. The story is also an embarrassing one to the very successful surrounding towns, and an embarrassment to Montgomery County.

        Second, those who have not walked in the shoes of those who carry generational curses, historic frustrations, lack connections to those with resources, and continue to endure racial discrimination from those unwilling to help more, find it easy to throw stones at those who continue to seek help for self improvement.

        Third, crime is often an issue for those who don’t know how to develop their moral fortitude, are not connected to positive role models, live in anger and frustration, and find it easier to take from others, including those who hurt as much as they do.

        When former Governor Ronald Reagan met with a key leader of the Los Angeles riots some years ago, he asked the leader (without any news media present) what the leader wanted in life. When the leader saw that Governor Reagan was genuinely interested in his future, he shared his heart.

        Without trying to do a “program make-over” of this young man, Governor Reagan quietly shared the young man’s story with those with resources. They reached out to the young man with an open understanding of his felt needs (Maslow?). They used their resources without strings attached. Soon, this young man was enrolled in college, went on to get a university degree, began to share the frustrations of young, African American men in his community who were like him, and was taught how to use the American free enterprise system to develop his latent talents.

        It didn’t take long for this particular former gang member, criminal, and riot leader to write a book. He was offered a professorship at a prestigious university after earning his doctorate, and was asked to speak to others in education and economics. He traveled to Africa and other countries and discovered that he lived in one of the best countries in the world—a country that was not perfect, nor a country that had rushed to solve its racial discrimination against African Americans, but a country still in development, with some willing to reach out to help individuals like him.

        Along the way of this young man’s development, some of his former gang members became concerned, and continually tried to get him to help them with their criminal plans to “pay the white man back” for slavery, segregation, racism, and being unwilling to help them get a piece of the action of American enterprise. The young man listened to them, but explained he was too busy with his education, enjoying his better living conditions, and learning how to succeed in “this white man’s world” to give leadership. A few understood, listened, and began to follow his new path. Unfortunately, many others were so entrenched in their negative way of life that they could not see how they could ever achieve any “success” without money from drugs, prostitution, and other criminal activity. Some in this group went to prison; some died; and others are hopelessly homeless or barely surviving.

        I wonder how many of those in Tamina would continue to commit crime if just a few people in The Woodlands would befriend them, showing them how to be successful in school and in positive talent development, and made the investment to build Tamina into a successful, planned community—with proper sanitation that could draw in development money?

        We have all made mistakes in our past. It was a mistake to turn warriors from Africa into slaves, taking away their culture and language, and using many as breeding creatures to ensure the production of more cheap labor without any say-so regarding their future. It was a mistake to give slaves freedom without the resources for their development. It was a mistake for those with power over slaves and former slaves to hang thousands of them from trees just because of anger and frustration from those who could no longer legally control them. It was a mistake for the federal government to pull out federal troops after the Civil War just so a presidential election could be ensured without more delay, and not provide for the protection of slaves and former slaves from the anger of southern whites who saw blacks as the reason for their diminished income and control of their way of prosperous living provided by slavery.

        It was wrong for those in control of education, economics, and personal development to keep proper education, good-paying jobs, decent housing, and a better future away from former slaves and their descendants, allowing anger and bitterness to smolder and develop violent criminals we continue to see in many of our communities. Such bitterness and anger has caused such criminal minds to take out their frustrations on members of their own society who often don’t have the resources to fight back.

        It was a mistake for those in power to keep resources away from communities developed by the children of former slaves until those with power forced such communities to fold, allowing those with resources to grab up the land for little to no cash investment. It was a mistake for those with resources to again make millions, and perhaps, billions, from land owned by the children of former slaves without sharing such resources with those who had tried to developed towns where they could be safe and allowed to develop economic enterprises for the benefit of their children.

        However, we can no longer allow ourselves to blame the victims for their current conditions. We can no longer withhold resources from other historically disadvantaged Americans who just want partnerships with their fellow Americans who have acquired much because they had access to information and resources for success without the chains of their past holding them back from acquiring the success in The Woodlands and surrounding areas.

        What a great opportunity we have to turn Tamina into a thriving sub-township that could show the world how some successful Americans made it possible for some lesser successful Americans save a small portion of their history preserved for future generations, and acquire just a little bit of the American Dream!

        • Where to start,
          I read the first part of your dissertation and could not finish, especially when you say; “ It was a mistake for those with resources to again make millions, and perhaps, billions, from land owned by the children of former slaves without sharing such resources with those who had tried to developed towns where they could be safe and allowed to develop economic enterprises for the benefit of their children.” You’re joking right?
          I will say that it is obvious you neither live in this area, nor understand how to bring your fellow man out of depravity.
          First, it is completely unfair for the surrounding area, which is already overburdened by MUD taxes, to pay for city sewage. To which, it is not “unjust” or “unfair” for Tamina resident to use septic over city sewage. One of the “wealthiest” neighborhoods, White Oak Estates, which is within a couple of miles of Tamina, uses septic in the back half of the community. This neighborhood pays an exponentially larger amount of taxes, and should therefore be served first if anything, with city sewage.
          Second, making justifications for those that are unwilling to help themselves is silly. “Give a man to fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” Apply this to your life my friend.
          I suggest applying for a position with the Bernie Sanders campaign, I hear he needs all the help he can get….

  2. I have to wonder why the USDA loan could not contain a provision that, if Tamina is annexed during the life of the loan, the annexing party is required to either pay off or assume the loan. After all, the annexing party is getting the resulting asset(s).

Marie Leonard
Marie came to Community Impact Newspaper in June 2011 after starting her career at a daily newspaper in East Texas. She worked as a reporter and editor for the Cy-Fair edition for nearly 5 years covering Harris County, Cy-Fair ISD, and local development and transportation news. She then moved to The Woodlands edition and covered local politics and development news in the master-planned community before being promoted to managing editor for the South Houston editions in July 2017.
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