Conroe - Montgomery Edition | January 2021

2021 CONROE MONTGOMERY EDITION

ONLII NE AT

A N N U A L C O M M U N I T Y G U I D E

VOLUME 6, ISSUE 10  JAN. 21FEB. 17, 2021

SPONSORED BY • Lone Star College • University of St. Thomas

TOP STORY TO WATCH IN 2021

Texas is rolling out its vaccine distribution in a decentralized, phased approach, pending vaccine availability.

PHASED APPROACH

PHASE 1:

PHASE 2:

PHASE 3:

BEGAN IN LATE DECEMBER

MAY BEGIN IN SPRING

TO BEGIN AS MORE VACCINES BECOME AVAILABLE • Additional populations left out in Phase 1 to ensure equitable access across geography and facilities • Large number of doses available; supply likely to meet demand

• Vulnerable and front-line populations, including health care workers, rst responders, those age 65 and older, those with at least one chronic medical condition and pregnant women • Vaccine supply is limited

• Widespread availability to public, with children likely last in line • Supply may exceed demand

SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

COMMUNITY INFO

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THE DEMAND SHOWS TWO THINGS: .... MONTGOMERY COUNTY CAN HANDLE VACCINATIONS AS THEY COME IN ... AND TWO, IT DOES SHOW ADESIRE FROMOUR CITIZENS, OUR HEALTH CAREWORKERS, OUR FIRST RESPONDERS TOBE VACCINATED.” CHRIS PERKINS, SENIOR PLANNER AT MONTGOMERY COUNTY OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

DINING LISTINGS TRANSPORTATION

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EDUCATION

EVA VIGHCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

MontgomeryCountypoised for COVID19vaccine rollout BY EVA VIGH

GOVERNMENT

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ve major drive-thru sites, and o- cials said they have the supplies and logistics down pat. There is now just one crucial element left: the vaccines themselves. “The states don’t have enough vac- cines being shipped to them from the federal government. It’s just sim- ply not as large a supply out there,” said Chris Perkins, senior planner at the Montgomery County Oce of

Homeland Security and Emergency Management, at a Jan. 12 Commission- ers Court meeting. As of Jan. 12, the county has received about 26,000 doses of the Pzer and Moderna vaccines, Perkins said. But when the mass supply of doses arrive— which is still up in the air—there will likely be an initial rush. “When we are able to open these CONTINUED ON 18

Widespread COVID-19 vaccine avail- ability could begin this spring, accord- ing to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and Montgomery County is gearing up for what ocials anticipate will be an initial frenzy of high demand and limited doses. The county has developed a distri- bution plan that could vaccinate up to 5,000 individuals per day through

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

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Conroe Family Medicine 7.4 miles from The Woodlands Clinic

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

THIS ISSUE

CONTENTS IMPACTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

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Now Open, Coming Soon &more

FROMCHRISSY: As we head into a new year, we have included our Annual Community Guide inside this issue. The guide includes top stories to follow in the upcoming year along with recently opened and coming-soon businesses; key community data for Conroe, Montgomery and Willis; transportation updates and more. We love hearing from our readers, so if you have a story idea or feedback for us, please let us know what you might be wondering about in the community. Chrissy Leggett, GENERALMANAGER

MARKET TEAM GENERAL MANAGER Chrissy Leggett, cleggett@communityimpact.com EDITOR Anna Lotz SENIOR REPORTER Eva Vigh REPORTER Adriana Rezal GRAPHIC DESIGNER Ethan Pham ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Debbie Pfeer

ANNUAL COMMUNITY GUIDE

COMMUNITY SNAPSHOT 9 Conroe, Montgomery, Willis at a glance

METRO LEADERSHIP PUBLISHER Jason Culpepper MANAGING EDITOR Matt Stephens ARTPRODUCTIONMANAGER Aubrey Galloway CORPORATE LEADERSHIP PUBLISHERS AND FOUNDERS John and Jennifer Garrett GROUP PUBLISHER Traci Rodriguez EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Warner John and Jennifer Garrett began Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 in Pugerville, TX. The company’s mission is to build communities of informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team. Today we operate across ve metropolitan areas, providing hyperlocal, nonpartisan news produced by our full-time journalists in each community we serve. BECOMEA#COMMUNITYPATRON CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derek Sullivan SALES DIRECTOR Tess Coverman WHOWE ARE

FROMANNA: Happy New Year! I love the beginning of a new year because it’s a fresh start and a new adventure. While this year may not be much dierent than last, there is much to look forward to in 2021 in the ever-growing Conroe and Montgomery area. The county’s thoroughfare plan wrapping up and legislative redistricting taking place at the state and county levels are two big stories to follow. Anna Lotz, EDITOR

SHOPPING&DINING 10 Locally owned eateries and shops that opened in 2020 or are coming soon TRANSPORTATION 13 County transportation plan nishes EDUCATION 15 Conroe ISD rezoning on the table GOVERNMENT 17 New groundwater rules abolish previous restrictions

THIS ISSUE BY THE NUMBERS

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Local sources

New businesses

Cities

school rezoning

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DINING FEATURE GuadalaHarry’s Bar & Grill REAL ESTATE Residential market data IMPACT DEALS

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

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Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

COMPILED BY EVA VIGH

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NOWOPEN 1 Millennium Physicians opened an oce in Conroe on Jan. 4, according to Marketing Coordinator Corinne Beyer. The clinic is located at 506 Medical Center Blvd., Ste. 100, Conroe, at the HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe campus. Services oered at this location include medical oncology and hematology, ra- diation oncology, pulmonology, labora- tory, diagnostic imaging and an infusion treatment area. 281-569-2130. www.millenniumphysicians.com 2 Chipotle Mexican Grill opened a restaurant Dec. 16 at 20165 Eva St., Montgomery. This location features a drive-thru pickup lane. Chipotle oers make-your-own burritos, burrito bowls, salads and tacos with various meat op- tions. 936-521-1199. www.chipotle.com 3 Broth & Brine Dedicated Craft Kitch- en , a gluten-free restaurant, opened in December at the TransMed Health and Wellness Center at 2510 S. Loop 336 W., Ste. 125, Conroe. Broth & Brine is a Med- iterranean-based restaurant with several odes to Texas included in the menu. Dish- es include foods from Spain, Italy, Turkey and North Africa. Main entrees are called Boards and average $15. Small plates 1488

COMING SOON 7 Harvest Market will open at 1488

called Bites average about $8. 936-441-8997. www.brothandbrine.co 4 De’ja Vu Beautiful Consignments held a grand opening at 13080 Hwy. 105, Conroe, on Jan. 9. The retail business oers clothing and apparel, specializing in teen girls and women’s clothing. In addition to a range of clothing sizes, the business oers accessories such as hand- bags, shoes and jewelry. 936-242-1415. www.facebook.com/dejavuconroe 5 Montgomery-based business Chan- dler’s Event Venue held a grand opening open house event at 304 Caroline St., Montgomery, on Jan. 10. In addition to providing event space for weddings, the venue also books events such as rehearsal dinners, showers and corporate dinners. 832-799-7688. www.facebook. com/chandlersmontgomerytx 6 Partners In Primary Care , a se- nior-focused primary care medical group practice, held a virtual grand opening Jan. 12. The health facility oers primary care services, such as checkups and lab tests, to seniors age 65 and older and is located at 381 S. Loop 336 W., Ste. 900, Conroe. 936-703-1827. https://partnersinprimarycare.com/hous- ton-tx/store_locator/conroe

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2295 Woodforest Parkway, Montgomery, in late January, according to company representatives. The “grocerant” will feature a full dining experience as well as a grocery store with foods from around the world. The two-level grocerant will also feature made-to-order food, a bar, curbside pickup, and indoor and outdoor seating for dining. Harvest Market also oers its trolley, which provides a travel- ing grocery story to local neighborhoods. www.hmgrocerant.com 8 Woodforest National Bank held a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 15 for its mixed-use business center in down- town Conroe at 400 W. Davis St. The prior building on the site was originally constructed in 1962 and had been home to one of Woodforest’s most tenured branches, which opened in 1996, accord- ing to a news release from Liz Grimm PR. The center is set to open in the rst quarter of 2022. www.woodforest.com 9 Blue Epiphany Winery , a 15-acre vineyard and winery located on Bryant Road in Conroe, is opening a second tasting room in downtown Conroe at 336 N. Main St. The projected soft opening is 242

Chandler’s Event Venue

COURTESY CHANDLER’S EVENT VENUE

late January or early February, and the tasting room will feature Blue Epiphany wines. The winery was founded in 2017 and oers red and white wines, mead, and oils and vinegars, according to the company website. 281-967-9799. www.blue-epiphany.com RELOCATIONS 10 Lizzy Boutique Salon relocated Jan. 10 to 308 Caroline St., Montgomery. The boutique has stylists for color and haircut appointments and a licensed mas- sage therapist, as well as clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories for sale. www.lizzyboutiquesalon.com

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COUNTY Montgomery County commissioners begin discussion to add 2 courts in 2021

BY ANDREW CHRISTMAN

Peace noted the creation of new courts is not immediate, as a new court has to be approved by the Texas Legislature. If approved, it would be created in September, and funding for the court would begin as early as September or as late as January 2023. County Judge Mark Keough ques- tioned where the new courts would go if approved. County Court at Law 2 Judge Claudia Laird said the old Child Protective Services court, which acts as an overow court and where the Commissioners Court used to meet, could act as a space for the new court. “As for the second court, I do not know where you would put it,” Laird said. “I think this lends itself to a larger conversation we have been having with you about the inadequa- cies of the courthouse complex for growth, space and security.” Commissioners unanimously voted to defer a decision but are anticipated to discuss again Jan. 26.

The Montgomery County commis- sioners began talks to add two more courts at law to lower the average number of cases seen per court during a Jan. 12 meeting. According to Chad Peace, Mont- gomery County Oce of Court Administration director, the last court at law was created in 2007. “Since that time, annual case lings have risen 26.2% and the population has increased 32.4%, or 177,000 people,” Peace said. Peace presented demographic information comparing Montgom- ery County to Denton, Fort Bend, Williamson and Cameron counties. Despite having a lower population than Denton and Fort Bend counties, Montgomery County’s case count is second only to Denton. “We had 17,381 [cases]; that is second only to Denton County, who had 18,262 ... for scal year 2019,” Peace said. “This count also includes our probate, mental health, juvenile

Commissioner James Metts speaks in support of creating two courts at law for Montgomery County. (Screenshot via Montgomery County livestream)

“If we add two courts at law, Montgomery County would be at 2,483 cases per [court],” Peace said. “This recommended option would provide both relief to our [county courts at law] and also prepares us for our continued growth trends that we see here in Montgomery County.”

and family cases.” Peace added Denton County currently has eight courts at law, compared to Montgomery County’s ve, which allows it to better distrib- ute cases and average 2,283 cases per court. Each Montgomery County court averages 3,476 cases.

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

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COMMUNITY SNAPSHOT

Data and analysis on local communities

COMPILED BY ANNA LOTZ

EVA VIGHCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

EVA VIGHCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

EVA VIGHCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

CONROE

MONTGOMERY WILLIS

Incorporated in December 1904, the city of Conroe has since grown to more than 84,000 residents. The city’s growth outpaced that of Montgomery County from 2014-19.

Recognized as the birthplace of the Texas ag, the city of Montgomery saw its population more than double from 2014-19.

Located north of Conroe, the city of Willis is home to 6,500 residents. From 2014-19, the median household income grew by more than 16% in the city.

SOURCES: U.S. CENSUS BUREAU AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY 2019 FIVEYEAR ESTIMATES; CITIES OF CONROE, MONTGOMERY, WILLISCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

POPULATION CHANGE

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME $46,109 $69,077 2014 2019

EDUCATION LEVEL High school diploma or higher achieved 80.7%

Montgomery County 17.44% 37.69% 146.48% 8.49% Five-year change

96.9%

68.1%

$43,125 $71,953 $36,069 $41,912

2014 2019 2014 2019

Bachelor’s degree or higher achieved

26.3%

25.5%

5.1%

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

Retailers, restaurants that opened in 2020 or are coming in 2021

SHOPPING&DINING

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713-224-3426 1403 Spring Cypress Rd Spring

Average entrees: $ Up to $9.99 $$ $10-$19.99

$$$ $20 or more

B Breakfast/brunch H Happy hour

K Kids menu

ASIAN 10 Teriyaki Madness 381 S. Loop 336 W., Ste. 1100, Conroe 936-267-2918 www.teriyakimadness.com $$ MEXICAN 11 Mezcal Cantina Mexican Kitchen 535 Woodland Square Blvd., Conroe 936-224-7964 www.mezcalcantina.net $$ H K SHOPPING CLOTHING& JEWELRY 12 Between 2 Sisters 14348 Liberty St., Montgomery 281-259-7134 COMING 2021 13 Conroe’s Diamonds & Watches 1416 N. Loop 336 W., Ste. C, Conroe 936-756-0300 https://conroediamonds.com 14 Giovanni’s Bridal House 18001 Hwy. 105 W., Ste. 103, Montgomery

6 GuadalaHarry’s Bar & Grill 12947 Lake Conroe Hills Drive, Willis 936-701-5168 https://m.facebook.com/guadalaharrys/ $$ K ITALIAN 7 Marsalas Italian Grill 100 Scarborough Drive, Stes. A3-A4, Conroe 936-703-3263 www.marsalasgrill.com $$ SEAFOOD 8 The Landshark Bar & Grill 600 Margaritaville Parkway, Montgomery 936-448-3000 www.margaritavilleresortlakeconroetexas. com $$ K COFFEE &TEA 9 Luv Coee 820 Pine Market Ave., Ste. 100,

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DINING AMERICAN 1 Broth & Brine Dedicated Craft Kitchen 2510 S. Loop 336 W., Conroe 936-441-8997 www.brothandbrine.co $ B H K 2 Honor Cafe 103 N. Thompson St., Ste. 101, Conroe 936-286-8081 www.facebook.com/honorcafeconroe/ $$ B K 3 The Hoppy Kitchen 705 Galveston St., Conroe 936-333-3450 www.hoppykitchen.com $$ 4 Sugar Britches Cafe 2400 FM 1488, Ste. 100, Conroe 832-823-6464 www.facebook.com/sugarbritchescafetx/ $$ B

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

2 0 2 1 S P E C I A L E D I T I O N

936-283-1138 www.facebook.com/Giovannis.Bridal- House 15 Open Arms Boutique 3501 N. Frazier St., Conroe 713-483-8261 https://openarmsboutique.com HEALTH&WELLNESS 16 CKNaturals Dispensary 15865 Hwy. 105 W., Ste. 3, Montgomery 361-649-7766 https://cknaturalsdispensary.com 17 Good Life Nutrition 12621 Hwy. 105 W., Conroe 936-391-1374 www.facebook.com/goodlifenutrition105 18 Tiger Den Nutrition 715 W. Davis St., Ste. A, Conroe 936-494-1421 www.facebook.com/tigerdennutrition HOME GOODS 19 Mattress by Appointment of Conroe 3401 W. Davis St., Ste. G, Conroe 281-839-8369 https://mattressbyappointment.com/loca- tions/tx/conroe 20 Montgomery Woodwrights 18249 Keenan Cuto Road, Montgomery 936-236-6808 https://montgomerywood.com

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The Hoppy Kitchen

COURTESY THE HOPPY KITCHEN

RESALE 21 Hidden Treasures Resale & Consign- ment 19380 Hwy. 105 W., Ste. 511, Montgomery 936-448-8155 http://hiddentreasuresresaleconsignment. com 22 Twice as Nice Resale & Consignment 10248 Commerce Row, Montgomery 936-582-5321 www.twiceasniceresaleconsignment.com FOOD&DRINKS 23 Galavant’s Coee 205 Metcalf St., Conroe 936-828-9266 www.facebook.com/galavantscoee 24 Snacktime Express 18413 Hwy. 105, Ste. B, Montgomery 877-976-2257 https://www.snacktimeexpress.com

Baja Sur opened Dec. 1 in Creekside Park West.

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tequila-centric craft cocktails. 832-761-5199. www.bajasurfreshmex.com $$ H K

Tex-Mex restaurant Baja Sur Fresh Mex + Tequila Bar opened its doors Dec. 1 at 26435 Kuykendahl Road, Tomball. Baja Sur is a concept from restaurateurs John Amato and Jason Daly, the owners of J. Henry’s Draught House & Kitchen in Houston and Craft 96 Draught House + Kitchen in League City. The restaurant oers handcrafted, chef-inspired takes on traditional Tex- Mex cuisine and a selection of unique,

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATION

Updates on key transportation stories

2 0 2 1 S P E C I A L E D I T I O N

PROJECT TO FOLLOW IN 2021

TOP TRANSPORTATION STORY OF 2021

Newcounty transportation priorities coming this year

LAKE CONROE

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BY VANESSA HOLT & EVA VIGH

information and meeting details as of press time from Robert Walker, commissioner for Precinct 1, which covers most of the Lake Conroe area. In a statement from Precinct 3 ocials, they did not speculate on whether a road bond will be forth- coming in 2021 but said the precinct works within its budget to complete as many projects as possible. “There always will be discussion regarding how to best fund road and bridge projects. The most pressing needs are projects that improve safety and mobility within the precinct and our communities,” said Andrew DuBois, the project manager for Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack. Looking big picture, state funding for transportation projects will likely be limited as the state faces a $950 million budget shortfall this legislative session.

roadways, east-west and north- south connectivity, and highway accessibility. Roads in Conroe, Montgomery and Willis that were highlighted in the 2016 plan include Hwy. 105, FM 1097 and Hwy. 75. Projects may be submitted for funding consideration through the Houston-Galveston Area Council, which will be soliciting items for its Transportation Improvement Program in September. The TIP is a nancial plan of transportation projects approved to receive federal funding over the next four years. Megan Siercks, senior project manager at BGE, said at an Oct. 13 Commissioners Court meeting that stakeholder meetings would need to be held in each precinct with 10-15 members from each community, followed by additional community meetings in early 2021. Community Impact Newspaper did not receive

With the last Montgomery County mobility projects funded by a 2015 road bond underway and updates still pending for the county’s Major Thoroughfare Plan, area ocials are looking to shape a new set of trans- portation priorities in 2021. The Montgomery County Major Thoroughfare Plan, last updated in 2016 and originally scheduled for revision in 2020, was pushed back to the summer of 2021 as a result of COVID-19-related delays. However, ocials said before that gets o the ground, the county’s four precincts will need to hold a series of commu- nity meetings this spring. According to Brown and Gay Engineers, the company updating the thoroughfare plan through a $125,000 contract with the county, the update to the 2016 plan will include an analysis of major

1097

LAKE CONROE HILLS DR.

N

ANDERSON RD.

Second widening of FM 1097 to begin With the widening of FM 1097 70% complete between I-45 and Anderson Road in Willis, a second segment of the project is slated to get underway in the rst quarter, according to Texas Department of Transportation information as of Dec. 31. The project will widen FM 1097 from two lanes to four lanes with a continuous left turn lane between Anderson Road and Lake Conroe Hills Drive. The rst project segment is set to wrap up in the third quarter of 2021. Timeline: fourth quarter 2018-third quarter 2021 (Segment 1), rst quarter 2021-third quarter 2021 (Segment 2) Cost: $15.71 million (Segment 1), $14.69 million (Segment 2) Funding sources: TxDOT, federal

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13

CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

Kindness is a gift that each of us is born with. And when we share it, the goodness that’s released is amazing. Our human connection is important to our well-being, but it’s essential when we’re sick and hurting. For decades, we’ve been proud to bring world-class medical and academic excellence to our communities. But we also know that treating every patient with kindness, empathy, and respect is key to healing. Humankindness is what we call this strength. It has stood the trials of life and the test of time, and it leads us forward every day. Learn more at stlukeshealth.org . thepower of human connection. Never underestimate

14

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

EDUCATION

Education news to follow

2 0 2 1 S P E C I A L E D I T I O N

LOOKING AHEAD: AQ&A WITH BOB POPINSKI

TOP EDUCATION STORIES OF 2021

Conroe ISD rezoning plans shaping up for 202122 school year

REZONINGPLAN

Hope Elementary is set to open in August, spurring a rezoning process to reduce overcrowding at neighboring campuses.

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with

Austin Elementary San Jacinto Elementary Creighton Elementary Patterson Elementary Anderson Elementary Milam Elementary Hope Elementary

CURRENT ZONING

COMMITTEERECOMMENDED REZONING

BY BEN THOMPSON

105

Conroe ISD’s latest rezoning process in the Caney Creek High School feeder zone may shift nearly 1,000 elemen- tary school students to new campuses for the start of the 2021-22 school year. The attendance boundary initiative began last fall with the aim to reduce enrollment and provide space for future growth at several existing elementary schools. The process was also spurred by the expected August opening of Ruben W. Hope Jr. Elemen- tary School, a new $35.08 million campus for students in pre-K through 4th grade, included in the district’s 2019 bond package. According to district information, three elementary schools within the Caney Creek zone were near or over

105

Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th Legislative session, which began Jan. 12. WHAT ARE SOME OF RAISE YOUR HAND’S LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES? “Our rst and foremost [priority] is to make sure public education is funded fully, especially during the time of COVID[-19]. I lived through the 2011 budget cuts with public education when [the state] cut $5.4 billion from school districts. ... It really took about 10 years to recover from the Great Recession and what occurred in 2011, so we’re hoping that we can get through this session without cutting public education at all and hopefully actually investing more in programs that are making a dierence. ... First and foremost, we’re going to protect and be vocal about protecting some of the programs that are near and dear to Raise Your Hand’s heart, which is full-day prekindergarten. That was passed during House Bill 3 [in 2019]. ... A fairly big issue this session is, ‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?’ … Broadband access is going to be another issue.” ARE YOU SEEING SCHOOL DISTRICTS ACROSS THE STATE FALL SHORT OF ENROLLMENT PROJECTIONS? “I think it’s denitely happening in a lot of urban and major suburban districts. I know the Texas School Alliance, which is an association of 40 or so of the larger districts in the state, did a survey, and I think, on average, it was about a 4% enrollment decline. So a lot of these larger districts are having the same issues, and they’re trying to gure out just the stability of going into next semester. … We actually base our funding on average daily attendance, so if the kids aren’t in the seat, they’re not getting credit for that per-student funding.” WHAT ARE THE LONGTERM CONCERNS ABOUT STUDENTS WHO MAY NOT BE SHOWING UP DURING THE PANDEMIC? “... A school district’s perspective is, ‘We’re going to hopefully nd all of these students and get them back to the system. And then, what targeted interventions are we going to need to help them catch up? … Once you get those kids back in the classroom, how do you ramp it up? Do you extend the day? Do you extend the school year?’”

3083

3083

242

242

N

SOURCE: CONROE ISDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

capacity as of December 2020. “We are projected to have over 4,000 students in this feeder by 2025 with a capacity—when we open Hope—of 4,175. So when we bring this campus online, certainly, we will have the room to support the student enrollment,” Deputy Superintendent Chris Hines said Dec. 15. The recommended plan would

Montgomery ISD gathering input for district goals seed Hope Elementary with nearly 400 students zoned to Milam and San Jacinto elementaries while shifting nearly 600 current students zoned to Austin, Creighton and Patterson ele- mentaries between those campuses and Milam Elementary. The rezoning scenario was antici- pated to receive nal approval Jan. 19 after press time.

Remote learning plans for 202122 uncertain

BY EVA VIGH

SHIFT IN LEARNING More students are opting to attend in person learning.

Since fall 2020, districts have operated a hybrid model oering in-person and remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. Although Conroe, Montgomery andWillis ISDs are continuing to oer some form of online learning this school year, the districts have not formalized plans for the 2021-22 school year. “There are situations where stu- dents or immediate family members have medical issues that make remote learning necessary,” WISD Director of Communications Jamie Fails said in an email. “Whether or not this continues into the fall 2021 has not yet been discussed.” District data shows that an increas- ing number of students are choosing to attend in person. For instance, 67.8% of students in CISD chose in-person learning for the rst nine weeks of school, but as of January, that number had increased to 80.4%. “We believe [students enrolled in remote learning] could continue to drop but anticipate there will be a portion of our community who will always view it as a desirable option,”

In-person learning

Fall 2020 January

BY EVA VIGH

Montgomery ISD trustees have adopted ve district goals as part of their strategic plan, which is expected to span 10 to 15 years. The goals are to improve in the following areas: academic achievement, safety, nance and operations, human capital, and communica- tions and customer service. Ocials began working on the goals in February 2020, and the district is in the process of obtaining feedback from stakeholders and the community to develop key performance indicators for each goal through a series of town hall meetings beginning in January. “It is important for us to develop this with as much stakeholder information as possible,” MISD Director of Communications Justin Marino said. The rst meeting will likely be Jan. 28 at Montgomery High School.

CONROE ISD

67.8% 80.4%

WILLIS ISD

60% 90%

MONTGOMERY ISD

85% 92%

SOURCE: LOCAL DISTRICTS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

CISD Director of Communications Sarah Blakelock said in an email. Statewide, it is unclear what the future holds for remote learning options. Remote options were made possible through waivers of existing state law, and how that might look post-pandemic may be addressed during the ongoing legislative session, according to the Texas Education Agency.

15

CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

16

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

GOVERNMENT

Updates on the biggest issues facing local entities

2 0 2 1 S P E C I A L E D I T I O N

OTHER STORIES TO FOLLOW IN 2021

TOP GOVERNMENT STORY OF 2021

OUTWITH THE OLD

New groundwater rules in Montgomery County went into eect in September.

OLDRULE

NEWRULE

• May 2021: LSGCD will provide desired future condition, or long-term aquifer goals. • Groundwater Management Area 14 will vote on DFC. • January 2022 : A nal DFC will be adopted. NEXT STEPS

• Entities are restricted to using 70% of their 2009 permitted groundwater usage. • The rule is based on the assumption that the available groundwater in Montgomery County is 64,000 acre feet per year.

• No longer requires users to reduce production by 30%. • Pumping caps based on available groundwater are no longer authorized.

A new three-in-one emergency services facility is in the works.

SOURCE: LONE STAR GROUNDWATER CONSERVATION DISTRICTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Upcoming countywide projects Two countywide projects in the works this year include the rst phase of a new forensic center, which went out for bid late last year, that may be built in the next two years near the Conroe airport. A three-in-one facility for re, emergency services management and sheri’s oce services should be completed this fall. State, counties to pursue redistricting After every decennial census, states and local jurisdictions must go through a process known as redistricting— redrawing boundaries to ensure equal representation. 2020 census results are to be reported by April 1, said Je Archer, the executive director of the Texas Legislative Council—a nonpartisan agency lending support to the Legislature—so legislators can vote to approve new maps for state House and Senate districts by the end of the legislative session May 31. With a possible delay in census reporting this year, Archer said redistricting could be pushed into a special-called session or to the Legislative Redistricting Board. Redistricting also applies to local governments, including commissioner precincts. New district boundaries must be in place by late 2021 for the March 2022 primary elections. Montgomery upgrades water lines One project that will begin in early 2021 is upgrading the city’s water line infrastructure, City Administrator Richard Tramm said. The size of the water lines that run from east to west of the city will be increased, therefore increasing capacity. Willis infrastructure upgrades to come Projects coming down the pipeline in the city of Willis include upgrading several streets and applying for grants to upgrade the utility infrastructure overall, City Manager Robert Evans said. Hotel and convention center coming to Conroe A world class hotel and convention center is in the works, Mayor Jody Czajkoski said. Details of the development have been discussed at city council meetings—with cost estimates upwards of $85 million—but the hotel brand has not been named.

Newgroundwater rules abolish previous restrictions

BY EVA VIGH

Authority to reduce their groundwa- ter usage to 70% of their 2009 totals by January 2016. This rule was based o the assumption that the total available groundwater in Montgom- ery County was 64,000 acre feet per year. An acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land one foot deep. JIM STINSON, THE WOODLANDS WATER AGENCY GENERAL MANAGER MONTGOMERY COUNTY IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF A CRITICAL DECISION ON THE FUTURE OF GROUNDWATER.” However, the city of Conroe, the LSGCD and other stakeholders led a lawsuit challenging the groundwater use regulations in 2015. After various legal proceedings, the district revoked its restrictions in 2017, authorizing an additional 30% increase in production ramped up over time from 2020-32. The new regulations went into eect in September. The district will also propose a new desired future condition, or DFC, for the Gulf Coast Aquifer System in May. A DFC is a long-term goal for the aquifer, such as to maintain aquifer levels for the next 50 years. The proposed DFC will need to be voted on by Groundwater Manage- ment Area 14, which is composed of various regional water planning groups. A nal DFC will be adopted in January 2022. “THE NEWLSGCD RULES PLACE

Immediate and long-termeects The immediate eect of the LSGCD’s new rules is entities are no longer restricted to the 70% cap. For example, the city of Montgomery will be able to increase its usage from the Jasper Aquifer from 65 million gallons of water per year to 92 million, City Administrator Richard Tramm said. “We don’t have to watch as closely the amount of water we are pumping out,” Tramm said. The change will likely not aect water rates, he said. In the long term, increased groundwater usage may lead to subsidence, or gradual sinking of the earth due to excessive pumping, said Mike Turco, the general manager of the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District. Data from the subsidence district shows land-surface elevation across Montgomery County has been trending downward, with some records dating back to 2005. In 2015, the subsidence rate stabilized in some areas when surface water was introduced as a source of water. The total subsidence in some areas of southern Montgomery County has been about half a foot per decade. “We’ve seen the amount of subsid- ence that has occurred when ground- water is not regulated,” Turco said. “The concern is with the absence of that … the [subsidence] rates will go back to what they were.” According to the LSGCD, the district is working on a subsidence study and is committed to protecting groundwater resources. Vanessa Holt and Kelly Schaer contributed to this report.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, an entity that regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County, adopted new groundwater rules in September, a change that will aect the amount of groundwater entities can pump in 2021 and beyond. Since 2016, entities that use ground- water in Montgomery County had been restricted to using 30% less than the amount they were permitted to use in 2009. The new rules abolish this restriction and allow for the gradual increase of usage until 2032. According to the LSGCD, the orig- inal restriction was based o faulty methodology that did not consider the actual hydrology of aquifers, which are underground permeable bodies of rock containing water. However, some are concerned that without the cap, Montgomery County could pump an excessive amount of groundwater, which could deplete aquifers at a faster rate. “The new LSGCD rules place Montgomery County in the crosshairs of a critical decision on the future of groundwater,” said Jim Stinson, The Woodlands Water Agency general manager. “Should groundwater be managed on a regional basis that has widespread public benets? Or is groundwater a private property commodity where everyone ... [has] pumping rights that adversely impact others?” Background In 2010, the city of Conroe and a number of other large-volume water users countywide entered into an agreement with the San Jacinto River

17

CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JANUARY 2021

TOP STORY

S P A C I N G O U T S U P P L Y The state is prioritizing more populous areas initially for vaccine distribution. Smaller, more rural areas, such as the cities of Montgomery and Willis, can expect more allotments as the supply increases. The following facilities had been allotted doses as of Jan. 14.

designated, although Lone Star Family Health Center was selected Jan. 17 . Dr. Daniel Porter, the medical direc- tor of the Lone Star Family Health Cen- ter in Conroe, said because the vaccine supply is limited, it must be distrib- uted to more populous areas rst, but more rural areas can expect additional doses as the supply increases. “The concept from the public health ocials is to put the vaccine into dense environments because you have people in closer proximity to one another,” he said. “[However], rural locations are also getting hit by [COVID-19], so it’s a tough decision.” According to the DSHS, the supply is expected to ramp up to meet the demand and ensure equitable access among geography and facility types, and the department predicts vaccine supply may even exceed demand at some point. Additionally, several vac- cines are in the pipeline, including from Johnson & Johnson and Astra- Zeneca, and expected to become available early this year. Once vaccines hit widespread avail- ability, children under age 16 will likely be last in line, health ocials said. “The question of, ‘When are we going to get approval for child immu- nization?’—I don’t have an answer,” Porter said. “The trials are ongoing to look at the safety data in children.” Demand for vaccine Having a mass vaccination plan in place is critical for Montgomery County to prove to the state it has the capabilities to mass-distribute as well as the demand for it, Perkins said. According to Perkins, the county has received about 26,000 doses of Pzer and Moderna vaccines and has fewer than 2,000 doses still on the shelves as of Jan. 10—a sign providers are quickly getting vaccines out the door as required by the state, he said. Montgomery County has received about 26,000 doses as of Jan. 10. 24,000 doses have been administered. Experts generally estimate 75% of the population should be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity; 75% of the county’s population is 455,544. SOURCES: MONTGOMERY COUNTY, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU 5YEAR AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY ESTIMATESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

MONTGOMERYCOUNTY

Montgomery County has created a mass vaccination plan to be enacted once it receives the necessary supply from the state. Each drive-thru location will be capable of administering 1,000 doses per day. DISTRIBUTION PLAN

Vaccine distribution site Approximate mass vaccination site* Veried mass vaccination site

Paramedics will be on-site to observe any immediate eects. Locations will operate under large tents.

45

WILLIS

LAKE CONROE

MONTGOMERY

CONROE

105

105

336

Lone Star Family Health Center was allocated 2,000 doses Jan. 17.

45

1314

69

242

MAGNOLIA

WOODLANDS THE

249

99

N

*Locations are approximations.

SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

drive-thru vaccination sites—one in the county’s east side, one in the west side and three along the I-45 corridor—that will each administer up to 1,000 doses per day. The provid- ers will operate as drive-thrus, with paramedics on-site to observe for any immediate eects postvaccination. One location, Lone Star Family Health Center in Conroe, has been selected as a hub and received 2,000 doses Jan. 17, according to DSHS. “Nowwe just need the vaccinations to start rolling in,” Millsaps said. The county is looking toward the state for upcoming allocations. The state, not the county, is in charge of allocating vaccines to particular pro- viders, and vaccine availability varies by region, according to the Texas Hos- pital Association. “We have very little to no input from the county level on how those

allocations are made from the state vaccine advisory panel down to the individual providers that receive the vaccine,” Perkins said. More rural areas have been allot- ted fewer or no doses in these early shipments, based o state data. As of Jan. 18, the Montgomery County Pub- lic Health District is reported to have received just 100 doses of the Mod- erna vaccine. Over two dozen local clinics, physicians oces and phar- macies in Montgomery County had received or are scheduled to receive Moderna doses, but the majority of these are clustered in The Woodlands and Conroe, with two in the city of Montgomery and one in Willis. On Jan. 10, the DSHS announced the designation of several regional “vac- cine hubs” throughout the state.Mont- gomery County was not initially one of the 18 counties to have a megasite

CONTINUED FROM 1

mass vaccination sites, there’s going to be a wait; there’s going to be appoint- ments lists; the demand for it is going to be great, and the providers are all aware of that,” said Jason Millsaps, the executive director of the homeland security and emergency management oce. “They are asking the state for multiple thousands of doses at a time.” As 2021 makes headway, the state is anticipating the vaccine supply to continue to increase, reaching rural areas that may have been passed over in the initial distribution. Distribution plan A few weeks after the state began doling out doses in December, county ocials said they sprang into action to develop a distribution plan. The county plans to have ve major

18

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