Councilman George P. “Trace” Morrill made a motion to approve a resolution designating Chase Field as Beeville’s National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems facility.
The NPIAS designation will make Chase eligible to apply for and receive Federal Aviation Administration grants for improvements in the future.
In the past, Beeville Municipal Airport, just south of U.S. Highway 59 east of the city, has maintained that designation.
“TxDOT (the Texas Department of Transportation) simply wants to know what the council desires,” Interim City Manager Marvin Townsend said.
Townsend had been asked to look into that possibility during a recent meeting with TxDOT officials in Austin.
“What we’re considering doing is a step in the right direction,” Morrill said, adding that he thought it was time that the effort to change the designation of Chase as the city’s public airport facility should be considered.
Mayor Pro Tem Libby Spires seconded the motion. Mayor David Carabajal and Councilman John Fulghum joined Morrill and Spires in voting to approve the resolution. Councilman Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez was not at the meeting.
Morrill said that because the Bee Development Authority is the entity that is charged with improving the local economy, the city should include the BDA in any plans to promote business activity.
Carabajal agreed and said the city should partner with the BDA in its economic development efforts.
BDA Executive Director Joe B. Montez had commented earlier on the idea of moving the NPIAS designation to Chase, that being able to provide larger runway and parking apron facilities with more space for expansion would help to increase aircraft traffic at the former naval air station.
That traffic would come from oil companies working in the Eagle Ford Shale oil field. Montez said those companies now tend to use airports in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Laredo for their corporate jets.
Local oilman Dan A. Hughes moved his fleet of aircraft to Chase Field several years ago and put up more than $1 million to improve the main runway there. He also had a large hangar built for his planes.
“We’re very glad that this could happen,” Montez said. Although he would not speak for the BDA’s board of directors, Montez said the board members had asked him to work with the city in every way possible to make the transition happen if the council wanted to go that way.
“It will make an impact on the community and the general area,” Montez said.
The council’s resolution sends a signal to the FAA and TxDOT that the city is prepared to move in that direction.
Townsend addressed concerns that some improvements at the current airport would have to be maintained for 20 years after the city signed agreements to accept NPIAS funds in the past. He said maintaining those facilities would not be an expensive proposition.
The city recently approved an extension of a contract with a group of local aircraft owners who provide fixed base operator services, including aircraft fuel sales, at Beeville Municipal.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.