PORT ARTHUR —
Port Arthur is working against the clock trying to get a long list of dilapidated structures torn down while Hurricane Ike recovery dollars are available to fund the daughting task.
To do so, the city will utilize a recently announced $2.7 million allocation from the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission made available to reconstruct homes with damage from Hurricane Ike.
The city of Beaumont is receiving the same amount, John Hall, a consultant hired by Port Arthur to help with process, told Port Arthur City Council members.
Each city will be responsible for determining which buildings will be demolished, and the SETRPC is charged with getting the woirk done, preferably by a local contractor.
Already, Port Arthur has identified 300 housing structures that need to come down. Each will cost about $7,564 to demolish.
Hall said the city would have an estimated 18 months to accomplish the task, though their is the possibility of getting an extension.
Currently, city staff is working with the SETRP to get the 300 structures through the system.
“We have to be mindful of the ticking clock ticking,” Floyd Johnson, Port Arthur city manager, said.
Hall said 350 to 400 homeowners in Port Arthur will qualify for assistance to have their homes reconstructed.
Those participating in the program will have opportunity to rebuild in Port Arthur, or other nearby areas such as Beaumont or Orange.
“SETRPC believes at the end of the day 250 homeowners who live in Port Arthur will choose to have their houses rebuilt in Port Arthur.
Participants who decide to rebuild in Port Arthur could find themselves moving to another location within the city if their existing lots are deemed substandard.
Many of the older lots — from 50 to 100 — are smaller than the city’s current codes allow.
In those cases, the city can make available lots included in its landbank.
The city currently owns about 90 lots. About half of those are in the Westside — potentially enough for a small subdivision, Hall said.
The other half are in the area east of Houston Avenue.
Of the city’s lots, about 34 could be constructed on. The EDC has another 14 lots, which could be sold to the city at a fair market price, Hall said.
The city’s most attractive properties in its existing inventory are around the new West side Clinic. Beyond that area, lots are scattered throughout the city.
He recommended that the city create a Land Availability Program.
“I think if the city does not establish an availability program in 60 to 90 days, then I think a circumstance will develop where those homeowners who have substandard lots, the only option they will have is to move elsewhere,” Hall said.
Finding available property is not the only challenge facing the city. Lots deemed substandard would have to be insured by the city, and mowed.
Already, the city is spending excessive money on mowing private lots that are vacant for one reason or another.
The new fiscal year budget contains about $450,000 to fund the mowing expenditure.
To prevent the city from incurring even more of a mowing expenditure, Position 7 Councilman Derrick Freeman suggested the city ask adjacent landowners if they would be interested in purchasing the substandard lots at a nominal fee.
“I don’t want us to take on a bigger problem when we take on those lots,” Freeman said.