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Blanton reports Gustav evacuation successful





By Sherry Koonce

The News staff writer

With one eye looking back, and another looking warily ahead, Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton report to the city council that the Hurricane Gustav evacuation was successful.

“We pretty much dodged the bullet on Gustav,” Blanton said.

Blanton reported to the council Tuesday that the area had learned much since Hurricane Rita struck three years ago.

Evacuation preparations are much better organized now, he said.

The Gustav evacuation illustrated the importance of special needs persons going first because in nearby Terrebone Parish, La., there were some deaths recorded among the special needs people who had no way to evacuate.

“Overall, we were very pleased, the evacuation went very orderly,” he said.

Blanton said the city is eligible for a 75 percent reimbursement for any hurricane evacuation-related expenses through FEMA.

In other hurricane-related business, the City Council voted to renew emergency contracts with local business to provide recovery services in the event of another direct hit from a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Effective through Dec. 2009, the emergency contracts are with JBS Packing, Inc., Market Basket, DRD Pat Hotel D/B/A Holiday Inn – Park Central, Derrick Oil Company, American Legion Post 7, Ramada Inn of Port Arthur, and Triangle Waste Solutions.

City Councilmembers also entertained a second public hearing to consider adoption of the 2008-2009 fiscal year budget.

The county’s 2008 proposed tax rate of 76 cents is the same as the 2007 rate. The proposed rate is 10 cents below the 86 cent rollback rate, but seven cents above the effective tax rate.

Though the tax rate is the same as last year, increased property values will cause most taxpayers to pay more in city property taxes.

The City Council will vote on the tax rate at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 23.

Contact this reporter at skoonce@panews.com.