The Port Arthur News
On the morning immediately following adoption of Port Arthur’s 2013-2014 fiscal year budget, City Manager Floyd Johnson detailed four priority issues the city is focusing on in the coming year: wastewater treatment upgrades, street repairs, demolitions and grass cutting.
“I want to start off by saying, ‘no, they won’t be done overnight,’ but we are off to a good start with the budget we adopted,” Johnson said during the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Breakfast.
Guest speaker Johnson said 60 percent of the city’s drinking water never goes through the meter because of leaks in the water system.
Those leaks will translate into a cost of about $4.3 million this coming fiscal year.
During recent budget hearings, Johnson floated the idea of passing some of that cost on to Port Arthur water customers in the form of a $5 Readiness to Serve fee, but City Council opted to pass on the idea.
Though Johnson made the argument nothing is free, the fee was judged to be too onerous, he said.
Council did allow the allocation of $500,000 to go toward a water leak study, and is looking at grants to offset repair costs.
“Until such time we can stop the bleeding of our water, we cannot step the hit on our general fund,” Johnson said.
Though street repairs continue to be a high priority for the city, roads should not be repaved until the underlying infrastructure is performed, Johnson said.
The old Hotel Sabine in downtown Port Arthur remains high on the city’s list of buildings needing to be demolished, but as in year’s past, there is no money to accomplish the task.
“We still have not come up with funds to take it down,” Johnson said.
The city is looking at using Hurricane Ike recovery funding to demolish other buildings in a targeted downtown area.
Johnson said the city does not look its best right now. The responsibility of sprucing up should first be an example set by the city, and followed by citizens.
“We cannot ask folks to clean up their front yards and alleys without doing it ourselves,” Johnson said.
The city does plan on getting tough with residents, however.
Tires, debris, overgrown grass — all that is going to stop, Johnson said.
“I believe Port Arthur has a bright future as long as we all pool our resources and worth together,” he said.
Though Port Arthur has many challenges, the city should have $33 million in reserves at the end of the new fiscal year, Johnson said.
Port Arthur, he said, has to become the place where people want to live, recreate and raise their families.