Culvert staging draws residents safety concerns

Published 5:43 am Monday, June 8, 2015

Now that the school bell has rung signalling summer vacation, some residents along Stillwell Boulevard in Port Arthur are worried for the safety of neighborhood children.

Of concern is a stockpile of culverts stacked in the median of the road not far from Gulfway Drive. Put there last October, the culverts are meant for a storm drainage project that would alleviate flooding issues, but an unforseen delay has resulted in the materials being there much longer than the residents bargained for.

“Get rid of it, move it. Just what are they going to do with all of them. The kids will be playing on them things now that school is out,” Cuthers Richardson, 61, said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Richardson lives with his 79-year-old mother, Erma Balque, in the house that is a stone’s throw away from the big concrete pile.

His sister, Dorothy Scott, 64, of Port Arthur is often over at their mother’s house, and has seen enough children hopping to and fro on the culverts to worry somebody is going to the emergency room.

“The city needs to get that stuff up. It ain’t right o have it here that long around this neighborhood,” Scott said. “Those children playing there, if they fall, they are going to get hurt.”

Not only is the stockpile unsafe, it is unsightly, overgrown and a good place to harbor snakes, Lilly Williams, 67, said.

She’s so worried about the threat that she’s put a “For Sale” sign in her yard.

“I don’t like it at all. It has been so stressful. The lady across the street said she’s seen a homeless man sleeping in them,” Williams said. “And, now school is about to be out, so the kids will be in them.”

Williams said she would understand if the city were actually working on the project, but they are not, and she’s not sure why.

Jimmie Johnson, Port Arthur Director of Utility Operations, said he is aware of the neighborhood residents’ concerns, and that the city is looking for a solution.

The delay, he said, occurred when a nearby watermain broke on the same line. Because the waterline is old, and relatively large, it will have to be replaced and will require a specialized company to make the repairs.

Replacing the waterline needs to be accomplished before the storm drainage project, Johnson said.

As part of the waterline project, Inserta valves will have to be installed for about $193,000. The valves will prevent water customers from having their service interrupted.

“Otherwise we would have to cut off water on a 24-inch wateline. That would be a great impact to those customers,” Johnson said.

He estimated the storm drain project would be completed by November or December, going several months past its original July date.

District 5 Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis said the city is looking at moving the culverts to the nearby old water treatment plant that is no longer in use.

To do so will cost more money, Johnson said.

Another possibility is to fence the culverts off, so that no one will have access to them.

The challenge, Johnson said, is to be fiscally responsible and complete projects on time, but also take into account citizens’ concerns.

Regardless of what the city does, 64-year-old Bessie Green, who lives in the 1900 block of Stilwell, said their is something the neighborhood citizens can do to help ensure their children’s safety.

“Parents just need to supervise their children and keep them out of there,” Green said.