Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ed Chance Commissioner Precinct 3, Montgomery County Texas

At the office of Ed Chance on a recent workday, I experienced a meeting worth sharing. The commissioner gave some key insights into his precinct's operation and his own personal aspirations in this job. You would not know his deep commitment to the community and enthusiasm by just a casual meeting, but talk to him for a while and one finds a very informed person who is not afraid to step out in front of the pack to get the job done, and a person driving change. It is readily apparent to the informed observer that he is a family man of distinction, serving the community in every practical way.

Arriving here in 1967, he set his roots into equipment and road-related work. Years later, he would use the knowledge acquired in that work to serve the county. In 1986, an opportunity came along to serve the county's residents when a vacancy in precinct 3 opened. The commissioner's job became available, and someone needed to fill it until the next election. So he was asked if he had interest in that job. He then was appointed to the position; the rest is history. In the election of November 1986, he became a public servant for two years, re-elected in 1988 and has been elected to the position every four years since. He likes being in this job, living in close proximity to his grown children, all who have found residence and employment here. Retirement is not an option. He arrives at work early and leaves late; keeps a rigorous schedule; often travels to Austin to participate in state issues, and is generally a person with an urgent mission in front of him. There is no time to retire and much to do.

His focus starts where the tire meets the road, the mobility of people in and around his precinct. He has managed to establish a very modern network of automated traffic lights in South Montgomery County. Understanding cost vs benefit, he has also established the first Texas county red light camera ticketing system. That accomplishment involved a significant effort, which included the convincing of the state legislature. He first collected data on the roads of his precinct and then presented the data to the state as evidence of the benefits that could be derived from using cameras on the county roads. The initial project in our area has been successful. “We do not make any money on it. Financially, it is a wash." As a result of his efforts, he became the first to deploy the cameras under the auspices of county government in Texas. Asked about his successes with this technology, he said, "Well I have some excellent staff here". Next on his agenda is to utilize these cameras for speed control, to keep the traffic consistently moving on our main arteries.

He is on the county rail committee and other committees charged to look at various alternatives to transport people within the county and regionally. If we were to have a mass transit rail service, "it would require an entirely new right-of-way and track system, a high cost project". The existing rail system is just too congested to utilize for public transportation. He was quick to point out that a new service has been made available to county residents for point pick-up and drop-off. Added park and ride services will also help transport people efficiently in the county. One of the issues here is that the park and rides fill up within about two months after opening. There is a very large demand for this bus service to Houston. The Conroe park and ride service will be re-instituted within the next month.

Mr. Chance and I reviewed videos of two of the available road technologies - x-ray road scanning and a new road surface. Look for a future article on these technologies and his description of their future in our county. His pet automobile traffic management system Northstar will also be described in the technology article. Northstar has its own web page. Click here to access it.

There will be continued road expansions to handle the growth of south county. Taking the heavy load off of the Woodlands Parkway by providing east/west alternatives is one of his primary objectives. That will be accomplished by more traffic lanes, automated traffic lights, optimized timing of lights, and additional turning lanes.

Road maintenance is a very big issue for precinct 3. Some of the roads in The Woodlands, specifically in Grogan's Mill Village, have far exceeded their life expectancy. Look for a considerable need to repair or resurface these roads within the next eight years. That is where the new surface and road analysis technologies will likely play a big role in our precinct.

Another area of responsibility is the recycling Center. The original reason for this center was to take the trash off of our roads. “If you don’t have a place to throw it away, it will end up on the roads.” Recycling has given residents an alternative to the dumping of unwanted items on county property. It has also reduced the amount of material going into our landfill disposal sites. We have met all our objectives with this effort. Our center provides recycled paint, and various materials that people just did not want but others find useful; we dispose of toxic materials; we send computers and other electronic equipment (made of toxic materials) to companies under contract to recycle them. If residents want some freshly mulched tree wood, we have that here for free as well. Clicking here can access the recycling center’s web page.

A third area of responsibility is the Spring Creek Greenway. Mr. Chance has been heavily involved in this project. He got into the program early, partnering with his counterpart across the creek in Harris County. Part of it is right next door to the commissioner’s office. Look for an article on this in the future. Link to the Greenway project.

Last year, the county annex was moved to a new building named in honor of him, the Ed Chance Courthouse Annex on Lake Front Circle off of Grogan’s Mill Road.

Ed Chance will continue to be a pioneer in Montgomery County, and we will all benefit from his efforts. As I was leaving his office, a "mountain" of data was delivered to him to review for a planning activity. References:

  1. Montgomery County Precinct Official Web Site
  2. Montgomery County Northstar System

Related Articles published in July 2008: