Broken water lines, front yard digging: High-speed internet company Tachus meets with public about ongoing construction in Montgomery County

Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack led a town hall meeting on March 23 about ongoing work by Tachus in south Montgomery County. (Screenshot via Facebook)
Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack led a town hall meeting on March 23 about ongoing work by Tachus in south Montgomery County. (Screenshot via Facebook)

Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack led a town hall meeting on March 23 about ongoing work by Tachus in south Montgomery County. (Screenshot via Facebook)

The message on March 23 to Montgomery County residents concerned about a telecommunications company digging on their properties was that the company has the right to work within rights of way on private properties to install services. However, the Precinct 3 town hall meeting yielded a general agreement between residents, the government and the company, Tachus, that improving communication could ease the process for all involved.

A town hall meeting held at the South County Community Center and broadcast on Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack's Facebook page provided a forum for county officials and Tachus to talk about the construction project that Tachus officials said will provide The Woodlands area with fiberoptic broadband internet.

According to its website, the company is working on installation in the villages of Cochran's Crossing and Panther Creek.

Carter Old, Tachus president and chief financial officer, said the company is spending $45 million to install fiberoptic internet in The Woodlands, where the company is also located. In the company's first two years, it has passed about 20,000 homes, including 15,000 in Lake Conroe area as well as homes the eastern part of Montgomery County in Oakhurst, Old said.

However, the construction process has resulted in complaints from residents about a lack of notice for construction work in their front yards as well as damage to water, gas and sewer lines and personal property damage to sprinkler systems and lawns. County officials said damage has included several major water line breaks over the past year, but there are few options available to government to restrict a utility company operating within the law.


“We have gone through just about every available tool in our arsenal,” Noack said. “A county and a city’s arsenal when it comes to dealing with a telecommunications provider is very small.”

Noack said the state Legislature has given telecommunications providers unrestricted access in rights of way in some utility easements.

“They can go in there and put their line when they want, where they want and how they want; there’s no regulatory authority that’s really on top of them,” he said.

County Attorney B.D. Griffin said under state law, telecommunications companies are not required to notify or gain county approval for work within the right of way with the caveat "not to inconvenience the public."

Noack said the county and The Woodlands Township have had conversations with Tachus to try to work out a solution that allows the company to deliver services while maintaining communication.

“Know at the end of the day I’m on your side ... but we’ve got to find a way in which we can get this in the ground in a more efficient manner and where everyone can be happy,” he said.

Several residents who spoke at the meeting or in comments on the Facebook livestream cited frustration that they were not notified of the construction work on their property or that the subcontractors had left trash behind. Although the company said door hangers are placed at residences, some residents who spoke or commented at the meeting said they had not received them.

Among the ideas suggested were posting a notice at community entrances visible from the roadway or maintaining a running list of in-progress projects on the company website.

Tachus officials said they were willing to work with the community and government in continuing to improve communications. Construction manager James Turner said every construction crew has a supervisor on-site who can respond to concerns from residents if they occur. The company conducts an investigation whenever an underground service line is damaged, Turner said.

“We are not a company that says ‘Not our problem,’ cross our arms, and we’re going to go tear everything up,” Tachus CEO Hal Brumfield said.

However, he acknowledged damage does sometimes occur as a result of construction, both to utility lines and other types of underground structures.

“Unfortunately when you do underground construction ... they may hit your sprinkler lines. We force our contractors to repair those. We don’t have to, but again, it’s not the right thing to do.”

Brumfield said at the close of the meeting the company requires contractors to fix issues such as broken sprinkler systems within 48 hours but that residents must contact them to notify them of issues.

Jim Stinson, general manager of The Woodlands Water Agency, spoke from the audience at the meeting on the frequency of broken water lines within The Woodlands area.

"There are some big challenges to overcome. ... The number of breaks we're experiencing with the current construction program far exceeds what we typically see," Stinson said.

Noack said information about where to report issues to Tachus will be publicly posted by the end of the week.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


MOST RECENT

Bailey Rae, performing at Dosey Doe Big Barn on June 19, was nominated for several awards in 2020. (Courtesy Bailey Rae)
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Rock the Row: Where to see live music in The Woodlands area this June and July

Here are some recent concert announcements for venues around The Woodlands area, including the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

The Firework Extravaganza will begin at 9:30 p.m. July 4 (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)
Celebrate dad, see Fourth of July fireworks: 12 things to do in The Woodlands area this June and July

Events in The Woodlands area in June and July include celebrations for Father's Day and the Fourth of July.

The Woodlands Township board of directors will meet June 17. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Woodlands to resume incorporation planning sessions June 17

After a break of more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Woodlands Township will resume its incorporation planning meetings June 17.

ShareTea opened in Metropark Square in early June. (Courtesy ShareTea)
ShareTea now open in Metropark Square

ShareTea opened June 7 at the Metropark Square in The Woodlands.

Avanti Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar opened a second location. (Courtesy Avanti Italian Kitchen)
Avanti Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar opens second location in The Woodlands

The new location comes after the original location receive positive reception from the Creekside community.

The Shenandoah City Council approved a resolution regarding an updated thoroughfare plan June 9. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shenandoah City Council weighs in on Montgomery County's 2021 thoroughfare plan

Among the projects opposed by the council is an I-45 overpass from Vision Park Drive.

Taco Bueno sells tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and more unique items, including the Muchaco, a taco made with a soft pita-like shell. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Taco Bueno coming to Katy and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Sen. Brandon Creighton announced his re-election campaign for Texas Senate District 4 on June 10. (Courtesy Brandon Creighton)
'Unfinished business remains': Brandon Creighton aims at re-election for Texas Senate District 4

Creighton announced his plans to run for re-election to serve his third term for the 88th Texas Legislature.

Q&A: Dirk Lange, president and CEO of KBI Biopharma, talks about biotech growth in The Woodlands

KBI Biopharma began operating at its site in The Woodlands in 2017 and has more than doubled in size to 60 employees in the last several years.

Economist Elliot Eisenberg spoke about the economic recovery post-pandemic, saying this year's GDP growth will be the best since the 1950s. (Brooke Ontiveros/Community Impact Newspaper)
Economist explains housing demand, price booms in Texas, Greater Houston area

Eisenberg explained why home prices are rising at a June 9 Greater Houston Builders Association luncheon.

Officials with the Harris County Justice Administration Department said they identified racial disparities in citations and use of force by law enforcement, among other areas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County identifies racial disparities in use of force, citations from law enforcement agencies

Analysis in the report included racial demographics in instances of consent search, contraband discovery, traffic stops that led to arrests, types of citations or warnings, and use of force.