Hundreds gathered at the Event Centre in Beaumont on Thursday, Feb. 28, for the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural “State of the City” event. Featuring Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames, city, county and business leaders gathered to listen as she reviewed the city’s state of affairs for attendees.
The event, brought to fruition by Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bill Allen, was attended by 260 individuals, which Allen said created an opportunity for them to learn of the accomplishments and future endeavors of the city.
“It was an important event because of the information they were able to gather – perhaps that can help them while they’re doing what they do in their own businesses,” he said. “The other positive – you saw the crowd – they got a chance to run into some folks they may not usually run into.”
And there was no shortage of demand when it came to selling out the event, Allen said.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “We had to increase capacity four times because we had such a good response to it. No matter who it was and perhaps how conversant they are on what’s happening with the city, everybody came away with something new from when they came in the door.”
In advance of the State of the City, Ames told The Examiner,“We’re going to talk a little bit about our accomplishments and our goals and where we go from here and some of the things people may not know about our city, try to do a wide range of different things – it’s not about one particular thing. When I was putting it together, I thought, I could do about four talks from some of these topics.”
Among the topics covered by Ames was the financial status and expenditures of the city, which are in a positive state.
“We’re in excellent financial condition, which everyone can’t say,” said Ames. “That is very good because we have a lot ahead of us as far as Harvey recovery and the money that we’ll have to spend out of general fund. That’s a great thing. Also, I think people will be surprised at the work that’s already been done and some plans that we have for the future.The economic growth that we’re seeing; I think we’re going to see a slight population growth based on preliminary numbers, so that’s all positive.”
Ames informed attendees the city’s annual budget is about $265 million, with the bulk of revenues coming from sales tax, property tax and industrial payments. The city currently expends about 30 percent of it’s $125 million general fund on law enforcement, amounting to $40 million annually.
“We put a lot of emphasis on public safety. Regardless of what you may hear or read, we’re doing a really good job,” she said. “Our police department, our fire department and our EMS are doing a really great job.”
Some of the accomplishments reviewed included a 10 percent crime reduction from 2017 to 2018; three brand new fire stations built within the last five years; the city’s EMS being awarded provider of the year; an 18-percent increase in tourism related revenue and an anticipated population increase.
The population increase is expected due to expansions by refineries that are taking place within the city limits.
“Preliminary indications show the Beaumont populations will grow this year,” said Ames. “If the state demographer’s estimate holds, we’ll be at our highest (population) ever. The highest was in the 1960s at 119,000, and we’re expected to go over 120,000. That’s what the expectation is so we hope that holds.”
During the presentation, Ames also recognized the accomplishments of the Port of Beaumont that holds a number of prestigious titles.
“No. 1 strategic military output port in the nation; No. 1 exporter of crude; No. 1 exporter of liquified natural gas; No. 3 seaport with most growth as rated by Forbes magazine; and No. 5 in the nation as far as tonnage,” the Beaumont mayor said. “That’s huge.”
While the outlook for Beaumont’s future is prosperous, city officials are still working to complete Hurricane Harvey recovery, which includes bringing the city’s water intake facilities back to fully functioning following the damage done by flooding during the storm.
“I know more about our water treatment plants than I ever thought I would in my entire life,” said Ames. “Some people say, ‘Why didn’t you prepare for this? How come you couldn’t prepare when we lost our water?’ I want to tell you that what the city staff and our corporate partners did to get that water back as soon as we did was miraculous. People were coming from all over the United States, all of our elected officials, because of what happened. Our water should have been out for a couple of months, honestly.”
The city is currently moving forward with plans to raise the generators and major operating equipment at the Loeb and Lawson water facilities, as the first phase of a two-phase initiative. Funding for the first phase will come directly from the city, while the second phase will hopefully be funded by recovery dollars. All together the two-part plan comes to $65 million.
Riverfront Park, which has been closed since Hurricane Harvey, is also in the plans for recovery as city officials work to obtain funding to stabilize the bank following 75-feet being washed away by floodwaters.
All in all, Ames said there is mostly positivity for the city’s immediate future and its residents.
“Where we are today; where we try to build the infrastructure to promote partnerships in the private industry to come in...Just continuously doing new things...There’s a lot of things that are planned.”
– Jennifer Trahan