AP NEWS

Woodlands delays this week’s incorporation meeting; extends task force indefinitely

March 26, 2019

The Woodlands Township will be continuing the ongoing incorporation studies indefinitely after the township’s Board of Directors approved on Thursday, March 21, extending the term of the three-person subcommittee until the final incorporation report is delivered to the public.

“We don’t know if this could take years,” said township Director John Anthony Brown during discussion of the agenda item.

The approval of extending the term of the three-person task force was a unanimous 6-0 vote; Director Brian Boniface was not present at the meeting.

Township Board Chairman Gordy Bunch made the original motion to extend the task force indefinitely, citing the need to continue to work on gathering as much data and analysis as possible. Earlier this year, Bunch and other board members quashed rumors that the incorporation decision may be put before voters in 2019, saying that no vote would occur before November of 2020.

“(The motion) Extends the task force until completion and deliver to the public of our plan,” Bunch said.

The task force is composed of Bunch as well as directors Ann Snyder and Bruce Rieser. The original task force included Director John McMullan, but he asked to be replaced on the committee in early December and was replaced by Rieser on Dec. 5, 2018. The task force members are the first people to see incorporation planning reports when they are submitted by consultants or others gathering the information.

In other action, the township board also approved the cancellation of the Wednesday, March 27, incorporation planning meeting that was originally scheduled for 6 p.m. The board will still host its regular meeting, although the time of that meeting has been changed from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. since there will be no incorporation planning meeting.

The next incorporation planning session is scheduled for mid-April, but only after Bunch and others have a chance to meet with Montgomery County Commissioners to discuss how to possibly proceed with a contract for law enforcement services if the township does incorporate.

The main reason for the cancellation of this week’s meeting, Bunch said, was because of the death of County Attorney J.D. Lambright, whose services and funeral led to the cancellation of a commissioner’s court meeting to revisit the law enforcement issue.

“We’re trying to do this (incorporation) as careful as possible,” Bunch told those in attendance on March 21.

Bunch did not go into details, however, of the status of the last remaining consultant for the incorporation study. The lone consulting group contributing to the process is the Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio. That firm saw their contract temporarily extended for the first three months of 2019 at the Dec. 5 township board meeting, however no agreement has been reached yet on extending their work contract beyond the March.

As the meeting drew to a close, Bunch and Snyder chided two residents — Francis “Frank” Dargavage and former township board member Mike Bass — both of whom made comments critical of the incorporation process during the meeting’s public comment portion.

Bass, who has been a frequent critic of the process, had lamented the fact the incorporation agenda topics were at the end of the meeting, not the beginning when more people are present. Dargavage recycled many of his prior accusations he has made during other meetings, accusing the board of acting in a nefarious and misleading manner in regard to the studies by falsely claiming the township could be annexed in the near future by Houston or Conroe.

Snyder said she disagreed with Bass about the placement or timing of the agenda items, stressing that many other people and issues were up for discussion aside from the incorporation issues and those topics were equally, if not more, important.

Bunch said he thought it was ironic neither Bass nor Dargavage were present at the end of the meeting to hear about the issues they were complaining about.

“Mr. Dargavage made assertions that are factually inaccurate,” Bunch added. “We have never claimed annexation as a reason for incorporation.”

Bunch then listed several reasons for the incorporation studies beginning in late 2017, including the effort to extend The Woodlands Parkway at the county level, as well as flooding from the 2016 Tax Day and Memorial Day floods, as well as the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.

jeff.forward@chron.com