PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur

February 11, 2014

PA phases out consultant; Council nixes 12-month contract but agrees to pay Hall $8,500 per month through May

PORT ARTHUR — Austin-based consultant John Hall stood before Port Arthur’s City Council Monday to make a case for another 12-month contract, but was only partially successful.

City Council agreed  with staff’s recommendation to renew the contract through the end of May — enough time to tie up loose ends on ongoing projects.

In the three years Hall has contracted with the city of Port Arthur, about $73 million worth of projects have either come the city’s way, or are on the way, he said.

Hall was first hired in January 1, 2011, to organize and manage the Port Arthur Environmental Justice Initiative, and most recently has worked to secure Round II Hurricane Recovery funding to pay for demolitions in the city.

Along the way, Hall has helped to bring the $1.2 million Westside Health Clinic to Port Arthur, developed plans to train local residents for local jobs and is in the process of working to bring $38 to $44 million in hurricane recovery funds to the area for housing reconstruction, among other projects.

Many of those are completed, and others in the works, Hall told Port Arthur City Council members Monday during workshop session to determine whether his future services are warranted.

In the new partial-year contract Hall will make a flat $8,500 per month for his services.

Interim City Manager John Comeaux, said Hall’s contract could be extended past May, if there was reason to do so.

Hall was to have worked closely with city staff this last year to help them reach a point where his services were no longer needed.

Some Council members questioned whether he had done that Monday.

“You were supposed to train staff so they could continue your efforts,” District 1 City Councilman Raymond Scott Jr., said.

Hall said he had worked with city staff, but felt they were not ready to fully take on the projects he has spearheaded.

“You have a very competent staff but it has not been possible to transfer to staff the things I have accumulated in terms of knowledge, contacts,” Hall said.

Hall singled out the Lawrence Baker, the city’s code enforcement director, and his staff for problems communicating with the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, the group responsible for managing Round II Hurricane Ike funding.

“I know there are problems; I don’t  know the basis of those problems,” he said.

Darlene Pierre, who works directly under Lawrence as a demolition supervisor, disagreed with Hall’s characterization, and stated it was her demolition program file the state is using as a model for other cities.

Fact is, she said, the code enforcement staff did not talk to SETRPC Director Shaun Davis.

“We really did not talk to Shaun Davis. If Mr. Hall did not talk to him, we could not,” Pierre said. “When I met John Hall he said he did not know anything about demolition, Shaun Davis did not either.”

Pierre said it was her opinion that city staff could complete the projects without Hall’s assistance.

Port Arthur businessman Roosevelt Petry, a member of the city’s Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals, said he had met with Davis recently.

“I met with Shaun Davis three weeks ago and he did not mention Mr. Hall’s name,” Petry said. “Shaun told us there was no problem between staff and his organization. He did not mention a need for a liaison.”

Petry said he was not opposed to offering Hall a short-term contract to tie up any loose ends, but balked at anything more than that.

Ron Burton, Port Arthur’s director of development services, said city staff did not have the contacts with federal agencies, like Hall does, but has been very active in the process.

For work performed during the 2013 contract period, Hall has received $127,278. Another $8,151 payment is pending for the month of December.

Council tabled the payment of the December payment, pending further review.

E-mail: skoonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews

 

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