, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

July 25, 2011

Armored car among items on PA list

An armored car, rescue boat and two new fire engines are on the city of Port Arthur’s to-be-purchased list, provided the expenditures get the backing of City Council.

All three will be funded mostly by the Port Securities Grant Program. The federal program, established in 2002 to provide port security from risks associated from potential terrorists attacks, pays 75 percent of the cost while the city pays the remaining 25 percent.

Sum total for the three purchases is $1,641,920 million. The city’s 25 percent match is $546,306.

At least one councilmember said he would have trouble approving one of the expenditures — a armored vehicle for the Port Arthur Police Department’s SWAT officers.  

“I want to sit back and analyze the expenditure, but on its face it looks to be dubious. My suspicion is we are overreaching in our effort to serve and protect,” John Beard, District 5 City Councilmember, said.

Total cost of the armored vehicle is $406,940. Of that, grant funding would pay $305,205 and $101,735 would come from local funding.

Information provided by the city indicates the armored car would be used as a rescue vehicle during potential hostile situations. The equipment would also ensure the department would have the capability to offer protection from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and hostile weapons fire.

“What are we trying to do? Establish a new kind of military militia?” Beard said. “It’s overkill.”

Rod Carroll, public information officer with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said the department had an all-terrain armored vehicle obtained from surplus military equipment at no cost.

The vehicle is at Lamar Institute of Technology, where it is being fitted for an upgrade that would make it easier to drive on-road.

Right now, the vehicle goes about 30 mph, and is very difficult to drive on-road.

The Lenco B.E.A.R. armored vehicle that Port Arthur is considering purchasing is a much newer model — a modern day SWAT vehicle, Carroll said.

Larger police departments such as Dallas and Fort Worth are using them, Carroll said.

The sheriff’s department had planned to utilize its armored military vehicle for high risk warrants and hostage situations, but had only used it a couple of times that he is aware of, Carroll said.

Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince said she was in support of the expenditure, if that is what the police department recommends it needs.

“When it comes to security for the people of Port Arthur, you have to spend money,” Prince said. “Last week there was a hostage situation for four hours. I am trusting the police department and the fire department to know what it is they are doing. I do not believe those departments would waste the city’s money unless it was absolutely necessary.”

In addition to the armored car, City Council will consider purchasing two new fire engines and a rescue boat — both for the fire department.

Fire Station No. 1 and Fire Station No. 6 would each receive one of the engines. Both are to be used for municipal and industrial responses.

Cost of the fire engines is $1,162,500 to be paid from grant money and $387,500 from city funds.

The city’s fire department would also be the recipient of an emergency rescue boat, to be purchased from SeaArk Marine, Inc., of Monticello, Ark.

The new boat will replace a 21-foot aluminum hulled boat, that the fire department acquired from Coast Guard surplus equipment in 1982, and is no longer considered reliable.

The city’s cost of the new boat is $57,071. Grant funding is $174,215.

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