The Woodlands board delays decision on law enforcement model

The Woodlands Township board of directors will continue to discuss law enforcement costs at its Dec. 11 meeting.

The Woodlands Township board of directors will continue to discuss law enforcement costs at its Dec. 11 meeting.

The Woodlands Township board of directors had planned to decide Oct. 23 which law enforcement model to use in its ongoing incorporation study but deferred the decision to Dec. 11.

Board of directors members said the figures presented by The Novak Consulting Group regarding operating costs for the three law enforcement models raised additional questions they needed time to consider.

After reviewing the cost projections, board Vice Chairman John McMullan said he felt more time was needed before the board makes a decision, and the board should not feel pressured to make decisions in time for the Dec. 11 meeting.

“I was expecting [costs] to be high; I wasn’t expecting them to be as high as they turned out,” McMullan said at the Oct. 23 meeting.

The Novak Consulting Group on Oct. 17 outlined the costs associated with three different models for law enforcement under incorporation. The three options are: an independent police department that does not contract any services to the county; a hybrid model, including both a local department and some county services; and the current model—continuing to contract for all law enforcement services.

The full-service law enforcement model would require a new city’s police department to handle all of the tasks and responsibilities currently covered through contracts with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office.

According to the Novak study, a full-service operating model would cost $15.5 million in new net operating costs in the fourth year after incorporation, a hybrid department would cost $10.8 in new net operating costs and the contract model would represent $2.8 in new net operating costs.

Although the contract model would provide the same services as are currently provided through county contracts, it would also require the city to have a city marshal, as a general law city, officials have said.

McMullan said the board also needs to understand the capital costs outlined in the study, which projected about a $30 million one-time cost for a police building in the full-service model. However, Chairman Gordy Bunch said Oct. 17 that the township has the right to use a 16,000-square-foot building being used by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, and that could defer some of those costs. The Novak study recommends an 86,000-square-foot police headquarters if the full-service model is chosen.

“I don’t think this board has had enough discussion on this issue,” McMullan said of the various costs.

Director Bruce Rieser also suggested deferring the item with questions submitted in advance.

“I believe the complexity of having a city in two different counties and the fact that just because everybody does it that way doesn’t mean that’s the way we should go about this,” he said. "There's no rush to get this done tonight."

Julia Novak, president of The Novak Consulting Group, said the board deferring the decision to Dec. 11 does not present any issues.

"If you're not feeling ready to make the decision, we don't want to push you to do that," Novak said.

Board members have said the decision to put incorporation on the November 2020 ballot would need to be made in May, but an incorporation vote does not need to be made in 2020.
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.


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