Oil and gas money freed up for use on city streets

Oil and gas money freed up for use on city streets

Beaumont could be at least $47.8 million richer, pending the approval of an FAA exemption allowing the city to use royalty money from oil and gas underneath the Municipal Airport for city street projects.

After working closely with the FAA and TxDOT, council approved sending the waiver request to the FAA at the Tuesday, Sept. 18, City Council meeting. The reasoning behind the waiver stems from language in a law that requires all FAA improvement-grant recipients, as Beaumont has been since 2007, to spend all revenue generated by the Municipal Airport within the airport.

But with a new president comes new opportunities.

On Feb. 14, 2012, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, granting the FAA authority to “exempt a defined amount of airport revenue generated from mineral extraction activities ... if specific conditions are met,” according to the council agenda.

These exemptions include street and transportation projects, of which Beaumont is in no short supply.

City Manager Kyle Hayes said the money will go directly to such road projects, including Washington Boulevard from Interstate 10 to MLK ($29.5 million) and Seventh Street from Interstate 10 to Laurel Street ($6.5 million) — projects that have been on the books for years.

“We’ll be able to move forward with Washington first ... and Seventh Street next,” Hayes said. “The other ones are going to take some more time because they are still in the design process.”

The city’s other projects in line for the money are Old Dowlen Road from Highway 105 to Dowlen ($5 million), Northwest Parkway from Folsom to Parkdale ($6 million) and Dowlen Road from Highway 69 to Delaware ($800,000), respectively.

The city’s projects manager, Brenda Beadle, said the FAA will watch the city’s finances closely to ensure timely and accurate use of the funds.

“They would audit us every year and determine how much we’ve actually spent on those projects,” she said.

The FAA should reply within 90 days, and upon the approval of the waiver, Beadle said the city “will waive all future receipts of any grants for the next five years through the FAA.”

No member of the council showed disagreement with the prospect of new money for road projects, but Councilman Audwin Samuel did have a few words of warning for his fellow council members.

“I know a tremendous amount of money is being spent each year in the older areas of the city, but that’s pretty much normal when you have an old infrastructure in the city,” he said. “I just ask the council that they be aware of how they’re doing this so that we can continue to be fair and equitable in the future.”

In other council news, City Manager Kyle Hayes, City Attorney Tyrone Cooper and City Clerk Tina Broussard all received a raise to $15,709.69, $13,047.05 and $5,933.33 per month, respectively.

Clay Thorp can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 225, or by e-mail at clay [at] theexaminer [dot] com.