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City Council hopes to abbreviate meetings



By Sherry Koonce

The News staff writer

Port Arthur City Council members have a busy agenda Tuesday that includes forming a committee to determine how best to shorten meetings.

The City Council meets on a regular basis every other week, this meeting beginning at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall, 444 Fourth St. Normally, the group alternates their meeting times — one week scheduled in the day, the next at night.

It’s not so much the time of day that has the City Council concerned as it is the number of hours passing from start of business to close. Where most other area cities conduct city business in two to three hours, it can take all day, or well into the night, before city business concludes and Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince proclaims, “We are adjourned.”

“Eight to 12 hours is just too long,” Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, said at a recent work session.

In an attempt to streamline the meetings, the City Council will create an advisory committee to review procedures or protocol relating to presentations, proclamations, speakers and debates at the meetings.

In other matters, the City Council will consider rescinding an ordinance that would have allowed the transfer of the old fire station building and lot at Memorial Boulevard and 32nd Street to The Breeze radio station.

Operating as the Truth and Education Corporation, the public radio station has been the subject of controversy since the city’s mayor requested that State Representative Joe Deshotel seek an opinion from the state’s attorney general regarding some broadcasts that have a political tone.

In an earlier June interview, Prince said because the city pays for the station’s electricity and water, and does not charge for office space, city officials believed that made the station a municipal function. As such, the city could be liable for any political statements broadcast on the station.

On July 1, the City Council voted to give the station 120 days to move from their second floor office space.

In other matters the City Council will discuss high fuel costs, both in what’s left of the current year budget and in the 2008-2009 fiscal year budget that city officials are drafting this month.

“I believe the additional fuel cost will be a little more than a million above what was previously budgeted,” Steve Fitzgibbons, city manager, said.

The added fuel cost expenditure applies of all city vehicles, he said.

City Council will also consider the sale of 18 acres off Lake Arthur Drive for $60,000. Along with the adjoining 11 acres, the purchaser, Hassan Shomalzaeh, plans to develop the property into a residential area.

Among other agenda items, the City Council will consider an agreement with Noble Energy to partially pay for concrete paving on 90th St.

The company’s use of the street has damaged the roadbed, Fitzgibbons said. Total cost to strengthen the road is $263,000. Noble representatives have agree to pay $175,000 of the expenditure. The city will pay the $88,000 difference.

Contact this reporter at skoonce@panews.com.