PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

September 10, 2013

City plans for House Bill 1966

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Barely three months after District 22 State Rep. Joe Deshotel authored HB 1966, Port Arthur city officials are planning how to spend $1.2 million set aside by the city’s economic development corporation this coming fiscal year.

Effective in mid-June, the legislation allows economic development corporations such as Port Arthur’s EDC to fund infrastructure improvements for municipal area development or revitalization.

For Port Arthur, that means improvements to the city’s downtown area.

City Manager Floyd Johnson was to have outlined the city’s infrastructure plans at an EDC meeting Monday but the lack of a quorum for the full meeting necessitated him to reschedule.

In a telephone conversation Monday night, Johnson said city staff was in the preliminary planning stages of identifying which infrastructure projects should be funded this year.

Infrastructure — more than just streets — includes what goes on under the streets such as the water distribution system, and drainage.

Because of previous work performed, the downtown area’s sewer system is in pretty good shape, Johnson said.

But, the same cannot be said for roads. Several of the streets in the targeted downtown area need to be repaved, including Procter Street.

The first task is to have plans drawn up. Typically, the cost of doing the engineering design work is 12 to 15 percent of actual construction.

Johnson said he believed plans would be ready by the end of the first quarter in 2014. At that time the city will have a more comprehensive plan to share with the EDC.

“The planning and the design phase is first and foremost, and I hope to have that out for bids in the first quarter. The second quarter is where construction will start,” Johnson said.

The EDC has pledged $1.2 million for the next four years to be dedicated toward infrastructure improvements in the city’s downtown area.

While the EDC did not meet for the full night due to the loss of a quorum, they did meet long enough to hear good news concerning a substantial savings.

Joe Morrow, with First Southwest Company, said a 2003 bond issue called by the EDC to fund roads to the Medical Center of Southeast Texas is eligible to be refinanced. The EDC funded the $8 million project from Jimmy Johnson Blvd. at U.S. 69 to the Medical Center and on out to FM 365.

The new rate, at 2.53 percent, would generate a savings of about a half million, Floyd Batiste, EDC director, said.

Batiste said the EDC would reschedule a time to consider those agenda items that had not been discussed Monday, including the city manager’s report.

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