Residents ask for change in Oak Ridge North

January 12, 2010 3:47:26 AM PST
Some folks say it's big trouble in a small town -- the small town of Oak Ridge North. Residents there say they went before elected officials trying to get their town back. Oak Ridge North is north of Houston in Montgomery County and on Monday night city council chambers were packed with residents who are asking for change.

In Oak Ridge North the town motto is, "What a hometown should be." Lately some residents say they don't feel their community has been.

"If you think this has helped out property value, you're mistaken. We're a joke," said resident James Biehl.

"I talked to some realtors whose people will not come look at property here now because they say Oak Ridge North has got problems," said resident Jim Kuykendall. "Yes, we've got problems, but that's why we're here as a group of citizens. We intend to clean up those problems."

On Monday night, they expressed it, starting with a petition of more than 200 signatures to get their former city manager Paul Mendes back. Some believe he was wrongly terminated after an investigation that has not resulted in any indictment

"We are in a terrible situation because of their actions," said Kuykendall.

There is also tension regarding a comment some construed as racial by City Council Member Peter Nett at a July meeting regarding a potential park near a new subdivision.

"To say we're going to maybe check the color of their skin and see whether they are allowed to be there or not," Nett said in an audio recording at the time.

The councilman Monday night said his comments were misinterpreted.

"I said I would be appalled if anybody would ask the police department to check on people's color of their skin. I would be appalled by that," said Nett.

Council is also facing a lawsuit filed by the former city manager alleging breach of contract while a former mayor defends council's right to take action.

"In recent months and weeks, at least three council members decided that Mr. Mendes contract with the city should end. City council has the right to do that," said former Mayor Joe Michaels.

The city council tabled any action on the pending lawsuit from the former city manager. They also appointed an interim city manager.