By: Jessica Shorten
CONROE, TX – Precinct 3 Commissioner Noack introduced a measure to terminate all transition agreements between The Woodlands Township and Montgomery County following the failure of the incorporation proposition on the ballot this year.
Commissioner Noack moved to terminate the transition agreements during the November 9, 2021 Commissioners Court meeting after discussing the item in an extensive executive session with legal counsel. County Judge Mark Keough initially moved the item to the open meeting from the consent agenda. However, Keough then announced he wanted to discuss the termination of the agreements between The Woodlands Township and Montgomery County in Executive Session.
“I have questions, and as I think about it, I have legal questions about this,” stated Keough.
The transition agreements in question were negotiated and signed by members of The Woodlands Township Board of Directors and members of the Commissioners Court in the event of a vote to incorporate The Woodlands Township into a city. The transition agreements outlined a multi-year plan for the transition of services such as law enforcement and road maintenance to ensure The Woodlands a smooth transition from county services to city services.
When The Woodlands Township voted to put incorporation on the ballot for the first time in August of this year, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack was one of the first to publicly oppose the measure. Noack took on speaking engagements and advocated against the incorporation of The Woodlands. During an event hosted by The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce, Noack even insinuated his office would no longer provide any services to the citizens of The Woodlands if they voted to incorporate, leaving it all up to the city.
During the August 13, 2021 board meeting, Board Chairman Gordy Bunch stated, “We either want to stand up and be counted, and there’s a 128,000 of us worth a collective $22 billion that are not getting the untold amount of federal taxes this community pays back to this local community. We can argue about the timing, we can argue about the benefits and the pros and the cons, but we have certainly been told…they just told us we don’t exist, they don’t acknowledge The Woodlands as a place.”
The vote to incorporate failed as 68% of residents voted against the measure at this time. However, the move to terminate all the transition agreements between the Township and Montgomery County was not supported by members of the Board, with Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs speaking to the Court on the matter on November 9, 2021.
“The way that I understand this would be that this agreement, which was unanimously supported by [Commissioners’ Court] as well as The Township is in force until December 31, 2024,” stated Board Director Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. “So, I don’t think it’s appropriate for this body to violate the terms of that agreement, and I just want to express that publicly.”
According to the County Attorney’s Office, the county can terminate the transition agreements with a 60-day notice and proper procedure. If The Woodlands Township choses to put incorporation back on the ballot at a future date, the transition agreements need to be renegotiated with new terms.
Dr. Sekula-Gibbs also cited an agreement signed by Board Chairman Gordy Bunch and County Judge Mark Keough, who was in support of the termination, regarding the members of the Commissioners’ Court. The agreement read in part, “the County does not advocate for or against proposed incorporation and maintains that the decision to incorporate rests with the voters,” although Commissioner Noack actively violated those terms of the agreement.
Based on clarification from the County Attorney’s office, the motion to terminate the agreements actually triggered the 60-day notice to The Woodlands Township and did not immediately go into effect. The Woodlands Township now has the opportunity to respond.
These transition agreements have no effect on the current contract for Montgomery County to provide law enforcement services to The Woodlands Township.