Grants buy city of Beaumont new buses and more
The Beaumont City Council held a public hearing and approved a resolution meant to benefit the Beaumont Municipal Transit (BMT) System at its meeting Tuesday, June 24. In addition, they heard residents speak out about poor street conditions throughout the city, a concern Mayor Becky Ames was quick to address.
The council heard comments related to “a contract with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to receive Operating Assistance funds for the Beaumont Municipal Transit System for FY 2014; and application for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding; and to receive additional federal funding through TxDOT.”
The nearly $4 million in potential grant monies associated with the resolution’s approval would allow for the purchase of some new vehicles for BMT, assist in operations funding and pay for facility renovations. According to information presented to council members, approval of the resolution would authorize the city manager to present an application prepared by BMT personnel to the FTA for a grant that would help fund the labor, fringe benefits, and other expenses necessary for the operation and maintenance of BMT for fiscal year 2014. The operating assistance grant would pay for up to 50 percent of the net operating deficit, according to the city, an amount in excess of $2 million toward the $4.9 million total.
BMT is also applying for a CMAQ grant totaling $1.5 million, which would provide for the purchase of three new CNG (compressed natural gas) powered transit buses. TxDOT would provide the normal 20 percent match from the city through environmental credits, meaning there would be no actual cost to the city for the three new buses.
TxDOT is applying for FTA funds amounting to $473,397 to cover the purchase of four replacement vehicles and renovations to the transit facility. The total grant request is for $50,000 for two replacement sedans, $280,000 for two CNG paratransit vans to provide special transportation services for people with disabilities, $5,000 for two GPS systems and $138,397 for facility renovations including curb/sidewalk repair and adding fencing and a slab.
Director of Community Development Chris Boone told Council members the city “would be retiring some vehicles and keeping some vehicles in reserve. Anytime we have an accident or breakdown, we do need vehicles in reserve.”
The resolution was approved unanimously.
During public comments at the end of the meeting, two Beaumont residents stepped up to the podium to voice complaints about the conditions of city streets. The first speaker told the council she lives on Forrest Street near Simmons in Ward 3. She asked how often the city purchases vehicles for departments under their charge. She said she is curious about how often the city makes those purchases while her street goes without maintenance.
Because the query was made during public comments on an item not on the meeting agenda, council was unable to address the concerned woman’s inquiry.
Christopher Jones stepped up next and told city officials he was dismayed by the city’s attention to providing new vehicles for their various departments and their inattention to repairing streets he says have damaged his relatively new SUV. Jones said he purchased his 2013 Toyota 4-runner less than a year ago and, he believes, the terrible state of the streets is what has caused his almost-new vehicle to squeak as he drives.
Jones, a member of the Beaumont Metropolitan Council of PTA’s, told council members, “We still have – I wouldn’t even call them potholes anymore – they are actually bigger than they used to be. It looks as if it is a sinkhole.”
He reminded council members that neither he nor any other Beaumonter is compensated for repairs necessitated after driving along the damaged roads.
Although council does not address queries made during public comments for items not on the agenda, Mayor Becky Ames was able to make a statement in regard to Jones’ comments.
“I would just like to say, last week the council had an extensive work session on our street repairs and what’s happening in our infrastructure,” Ames said. “I mentioned earlier that I just went to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Every city is struggling with infrastructure and the condition of streets. I think ours is probably a little bit better than most compared to what they say. But, just to let our citizens know, the council has allocated $15 million over the next two years to put into our regular street repair. … We hear a lot about streets, and I just want to let that be known that this council takes that very seriously. I believe that the budget allocations that we’ve made for the next two years regarding streets and infrastructure is more than we’ve done in 20. It is a major, major concern for the city. We all know that that’s something we need to concentrate on, and we certainly are doing that with responsibility.”