By A.C. Hall
After making a public comment at the last council meeting about the council’s recent 4 to 1 decision to approve an underground natural gas pipeline, White Settlement citizen Dana Priest was back last night to make a citizen presentation on the matter. Priest voiced strong opposition to the location of the pipeline, which is planned to run below a neighborhood instead of down the nearby Spur 341.
The crux of Priest’s issue comes from a comment made that indicated TXDOT would be against having the pipeline run down 341, something Priest says isn’t true. She stated that in conversations with her, TXDOT said they were never asked if the pipeline could run along 341 and that they likely would have approved if the request had been made.
“There was never any document of any kind found at TXDOT administrative office,” Priest told the council.
She went on to say that this meant the council voted for the pipeline location incorrectly, and that decision was made based on “wrong information” since they could have made a different decision knowing 341 was a possible location for the pipeline.
“I believe it warrants reversing that vote out and let’s do something else,” Priest said. “I just don’t think this was a fair vote.”
Priest spoke about the possibility of a gas leak, noting that since the gas at this stage hasn’t had an odor added to it nobody would know if it was leaking. She also spoke of the need for citizen input over where this pipeline is placed.
Danny Anderson, the lone council member who voted against this item, commented. He stated that his original interpretation was that Texas Midstream Gas wasn’t allowed to put the pipeline down 341, but said a new memo has clarified that they made the decision solely based on the cost and ease of construction.
“Which to me, that’s their problem,” Anderson said. “I would rather lean towards protecting the citizens and their homes.”
Project Manager Jack Bell was asked to clarify this matter, and he gave the council a rundown of the project. The original drawings showed the pipeline going down 341, but a later plan showed it in the current set up running through the neighborhood. Bell said that when he questioned why the change was made, he was told the company was not going to be able to go down 341. This comment is what led Bell to believe that there was some reason, possibly TXDOT, that Texas Midstream had decided not to go down 341. He said that he’s since come to understand what motivated the change in the plan.
“The new location was solely picked for constructability and economics,” Bell said.
Continuing, Bell said he understood the “knee-jerk reaction” to this matter, but that the project has gone through several steps of approval.
“Every one of these drawings goes through high scrutiny, not only through the federal government, but the Texas Railroad Commission,” Bell said. “Everything you see on that drawing has passed muster.”
Anderson responded to this, saying that having something pass through levels of scrutiny doesn’t guarantee it will be safe.
“Things happen. Better safe than sorry and not have it in the middle of a neighborhood,” Anderson said.
Mayor Jerry Burns got in on the conversation, saying that he was hearing a lot of talk about what people said regarding this issue, but that he wasn’t seeing anything in writing from TXDOT about if they would or wouldn’t have approved the pipeline placement along 341. After some back and forth, Priest said this was due to no one having formally requested it be put there. Burns also stated that the agreement the council made with Texas Midstream Gas to put the pipeline in the neighborhood had already been signed and executed.
Council member Steve Ott asked Priest if she would feel better if the odor was added to the gas locally so any possible leaks could immediately be noticed. She said that it would, but that her understanding was that this was something that couldn’t be done. Ott asked if City staff would at least look into the possibility.
Priest became upset as Burns spoke about the item not being an action item. Since this was only listed on the agenda as a citizen presentation, Burns said the council couldn’t take any action on it, and he was bound by the law. This information didn’t sit well with Priest.
“This is just wrong,” Priest said. “It is morally wrong.”
Eventually, City Secretary Amy Arnold advised Priest to contact her later this week and offered to aid her in getting this on a future agenda as an action item.
NASJRB JURISDICTION ISSUE ADDRESSED
Rachel Wiggins, a representative from the base, addressed the council on the next issue as the base looks to clean up a jurisdiction issue. The part of the base that is within White Settlement currently falls under White Settlement jurisdiction.
“Right now we’re seeking to basically clean up all that real estate paperwork and make the entire base concurrent jurisdiction, which means we can respond to protect our property,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins called this a clean up item, saying it is for jurisdiction enforcement purposes. Anderson asked to have it clarified that no land was being transferred, referencing uncertain times with a possible Base Realignment and Closure.
“With the BRAC around, we never know if the base is going to be here today, tomorrow, or whatever, so I just wanted to make sure that our City has still got that property in case something happens,” Anderson said.
Wiggins assured him that it was only a jurisdictional item, and that the base was not seeking any city property.
A motion to approve a letter from the council that would approve this jurisdictional change passed unanimously.
NEW STOP SIGNS COMING TO RAYMOND AVENUE
In an agenda item brought forward by Anderson and council member Elzie Clements, the council unanimously approved adding new stops signs at three intersections along Raymond Avenue. The Waynell/Raymond, Russell/Raymond, and Ralph/Raymond intersections will now become a four way stop. Currently, only the Raymond Avenue traffic has a stop sign, something that Anderson and Clements said was creating some unsafe situations. Both spoke of the dangers presented by cars that speed down the cross streets, with Clements saying he has seen it happen many times since he lives in the area.
“We need to slow them down,” Anderson said.
A discussion about the City’s lack of a full traffic ordinance was held as they looked at how to implement and enforce the new stop signs. White Settlement Police Chief Jack Ely was on hand, telling the council that currently they punish those who run stop signs by using state law. The possible benefits of having this under a city ordinance instead were discussed, and indications were made that staff members would further investigate the matter.
This was not an impediment to placing the stop signs, and the WSPD will continue to enforce them under state law. Poles for the new stop signs are already in place.
Be sure to pick up next week’s Grizzly Detail for continued council coverage!