MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX – During this election cycle, candidates have raised issues regarding the representation of Montgomery County in organizations such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC), which is responsible for dividing up federal, state, and grant funds for road projects in the region. So, the Montgomery County Gazette took a deeper look.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council is a regional organization which consists of representatives from each County and major City in the Houston-Galveston region. In working together, the HGAC works to create solutions to regional mobility, environmental, and public service problem which create cohesiveness between the counties and cities in the region.
Montgomery County has a position on two important boards at HGAC with regards to mobility, the Transportation Policy Council (TPC) and the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). The Advisory Committee does the legwork of reviewing current regional mobility plans and making recommendations to the Transportation Policy Council, who discusses and makes the ultimate decision on projects, directions, and funding.
Transportation Policy Council
Two members of Commissioners Court are selected to sit on the TPC, one primary and one alternate. Since January 1, 2020, County Judge Mark Keough has been the primary representative and Pct. 4 Commissioner James Metts has been the alternate.
In 2019, current County Judge Mark Keough served as the alternate for the HGAC TPC meetings, and only attended one meeting that year. Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, as the primary representative, attended six of the eleven meetings in 2019; meaning Montgomery County was unrepresented in four meetings.
Beginning in 2020, Keough became the primary representative for Montgomery County on the Transportation Policy Council while Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts became the alternate. According to attendance records, Keough only appeared at four of the virtual meetings during the year. However, one attendance vote taken on November 20, 2020 had Keough’s Executive Assistant Jason Millsaps answer on behalf of Keough.
In 2021, Keough is also only noted as attending four TPC virtual meetings. One of which he was only available in the “Chat” box at the meeting. Precinct 4 Commissioner Metts did not attend any of the meetings as the alternate in 2020 or 2021. There has only been one meeting so far in 2022 on February 4th, and neither Keough nor Metts were in attendance.
In the last three years, Montgomery County has been represented at HGAC’s Transportation Policy Council meetings only 15 out of 33 meetings, or only 45% of the time.
Transportation Advisory Committee
County Engineer Jeff Johnson and Engineer Brian Clark sit on the TAC as primary and alternate, respectively. Their job on the committee is to make recommendations to the Transportation Policy Council.
In 2019, Jeff Johnson attended one meeting of the TAC and Brian Clark attended a separate meeting; meaning Montgomery County was only represented on that board for two out of ten meetings.
Starting in 2020, the attendance record drastically improved for Johnson and Clark, with one or both of them attending seven out of ten meetings. In 2021, Johnson and Clark both attended ten out of the eleven meetings that year.
Montgomery County is currently being represented at committee meetings to push projects for our region, however, when it’s time to vote on those projects and their funding, neither County Judge Keough or Pct. 4 Commissioner James Metts (as the alternate) are maintaining a presence at the Transportation Policy Council meetings.
Having Montgomery County represented on both councils is critical to ensure that Montgomery County interests are adequately heard and funded. By not attending the meetings, Keough essentially forfeits the vote of Montgomery County on projects and funding for mobility. When other jurisdictions vote to spend HGAC money on their projects, it reduces the overall money available from HGAC. So, all policy council meetings are important to ensure funds are allocated evenly across all parts of the region.
Given Montgomery County’s status as a rapidly growing county, missing out on possible opportunities to advance our current infrastructure shifts the burden back to the taxpayers.