PA looking at busy 2010 full of upgrades for city

Published 5:20 pm Thursday, December 31, 2009

By Sherry Koonce

The News staff writer

It’s been a busy year for the city of Port Arthur, and with the infusion of funds not previously available, the pace is only going to get faster in 2010.

“We’re going to have to take advantage of these opportunities. We don’t know when they’ll come back around again,” Becky Underhill, CO-city manager, said.

From hurricane recovery funds to industrial agreement payments and federal stimulus money, the city is going into 2010 with deeper pockets than any in recent history.

During 2009 Port Arthur experienced growth in revenue received from industries in the form of in lieu of tax contracts. The added money allowed the city to implement programs that had long been considered out of reach because of monetary constraints.

In 2009, Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince launched the “One Block at a Time” program which utilizes city staff and community volunteers to clean the city. The effort dovetails with the Neighborhood Stabilization Grant Program which brought $2.2 million to Port Arthur coffers to help eliminate blight. The money will be used in 2010 to purchase abandoned property, demolish structures on the property and provide the property to developers for new housing.

The city has requested an additional $22 million in NSP Round 2 to expand the effort.

Another $15 million was received through the American Relief and Recovery Act for wastewater improvements through the Texas Water Development Board.

Contracts have been awarded and construction is expected to begin by February 2010.

Other stimulus money was granted the city including, $541,000 for City Hall energy efficiency upgrades, $564,089 for Homeless and Rapid Rehousing, $368,807 for Community Development Block Grant supplemental funding, and $2.32 million for Transit Capital funds.

Port Arthur was also awarded $1.15 million in stimulus funds from the Department of Justice, Integrated Community Oriented Policing Program. The grant will be used to pay the salaries of six new police officers for a three year period.

During this past year the city was awarded funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development for hurricane recovery efforts.

In Round 1 hurricane funding, $9.5 million was awarded Port Arthur for home repairs, new construction and demolition of residential structures receiving hurricane damage.

Another $13 million was received for infrastructure improvements. Round 2 funding is expected to be around $10.6 million and will be used for additional infrastructure improvements.

In addition to the grant funding, the city reaped the economic spin-off from industrial expansions in the form of retail, housing and commercial activity.

In spite of a nationwide economic downturn Motiva moved forward with the company’s $7 billion project expansion project. When complete, the effort will double the refinery’s daily capacity to 600,000 barrels of processing, making Motiva the largest refinery in the country and among the top 10 in the world.

As Port Arthur goes into 2010, 6,500 people are anticipated to be working on the expansion. The project’s local economic impact is estimated to be $17 billion, bringing three new hotels in 2009, and others in the works for 2010.

With the influx of people, new restaurants opened during the year including Cheddar’s, Sertino’s, Chick-fil-A, and King Buffet. Conn’s also opened its doors at a new larger location.

Housing has also been impacted with increased housing starts and the completion of 9th Avenue Station,, a 272-unit apartment community.

Port Arthur during 2009 embarked on “Operation Time Machine,” a joint effort between the city’s police department, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies to decrease violent crime in the city.

On the horizon is a project to widen Texas 365 from U.S. 69 to Spur 93.

Other capital improvements funded from a 2009 bond election will continue into 2010. Those projects include installation of electronic read water meters, expansion of the city’s police station, and Recreation Center on Ninth Avenue and the relocation of Fire Station No. 6.

The city also plans to continue efforts started in 2009 to redevelop and revitalize downtown.

“We are excited about what has happened in 2009 and are looking forward to a wonderful prosperous year in 2010,” Prince said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox