South Padre Island, Port Isabel, Laguna Vista look at regional issues

PORT ISABEL — It’s been close to 10 years since South Padre Island, Port Isabel and Laguna Vista city officials have hosted this type of meeting.

Mayors, city managers and council members from the Laguna Madre area held a tri-city meeting Wednesday evening in Port Isabel to discuss a handful of topics.

No motions were given and no action was taken during the meeting.

However, city managers said they will determine a date for another tri-city meeting that has “more actionable discussion.”

Port Isabel Mayor Juan Jose “JJ” Zamora said it brought him a lot of joy to see everyone there together.

“We have to work together and do the best we can,” he said during the meeting. “It’s very important because this area is really growing. We have so much to do, but working together can help us cover the areas we need to.”

Topics discussed in the meeting included a potential lighting project on the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge, traffic issues on State Highway 100, opposition to LNG, collaboration on regional sports and recreational facilities with the Laguna Madre Youth Center and Laguna Madre Water District capital projects.

Causeway lighting

South Padre Island City Manager Randy Smith said city officials are currently mulling different lighting ideas for the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge.

“Very few places have a beautiful causeway like we have and it’s an opportunity for us to probably get in national magazines everywhere,” he said. “We don’t exactly know the funding yet, but we’re working on all of those mechanisms.”

In addition to making the causeway more aesthetically pleasing, Smith said improved lighting would also add a certain amount of safety to the causeway.

“We’re going to bring up ideas in the future to talk about how we can light the causeway and bring that concept that gives a real wow-factor,” Smith said. “So, when people show up to the area, there is something that’s nationally known and can put us on the map.”

Annova LNG

What appeared to be a hot topic of conversation between city officials and attendees was unanimous opposition to the construction of Annova LNG facilities and LNG’s proposed tax abatement agreement with the Cameron County Commissioners Court.

During the meeting, South Padre Island resident Tommy J. Saenz voiced his concern with the possibility of LNG’s presence in the Laguna Madre area.

“All three cities rely on tourism. LNG is a very bad pollutant for the environment and would destroy our economy and tourism,” he said. “Yes, they promise jobs, but the jobs they promise are highly specialized jobs that only a few people could fill.”

During the discussion, South Padre Island City Council member Kerry Schwartz suggested each city draft a resolution that collectively urges Cameron County commissioners to not give LNG a “free ride, tax abatement.”

“What I truly find disturbing is when you have a multibillion-dollar conglomerate coming in and they’re not going to pay their fair share. That’s sinful,” he said. We have businesses that employ more people than one of these plants do and they pay their fair share.”

Schwartz’s suggestion was met with a roar of applause from both community members and city officials.

“When these three cities face a challenge, we tend to come together to work toward overcoming that challenge, and I think that’s been the case with LNG,” Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema said during the meeting.

The Cameron County Commissioners Court will hold a regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 9 a.m., and will consider approval of Annova LNG’s tax abatement agreement.

TRI-CITY MEETING TOPICS OF DISCUSSION

TRI-CITY MEETING TOPICS

• A potential lighting project on the Queen Isabella Causeway

• Traffic issues on State Highway 100

• Opposition to LNG

• The Laguna Madre Youth Center and collaboration on regional sports and recreational facilities

• Proposed Laguna Madre Water District capital projects