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PA plans retreat to discuss city issues

Port Arthur City Councilmembers will discuss a full slate of issues important to the city Friday in an all-day retreat designed to coincide with the budget making process.
Scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center, 3401 Cultural Center Drive, Port Arthur, the retreat could continue on into Saturday if there is not enough time Friday to discuss all of the agenda items.
“This will give the manager and our staff direction for the coming years; the things Council will want us to work on as a group,” City Manager Bryan McDougal said.
Heading the list is three agenda items requested by Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince including, discussion of how to more effectively respond to citizens’ complaints;  responsibilities of the city council and the city manager as outlined in the city’s charter; and the Open Meetings Act.
“This is a good opportunity to not only address the issues important to the city of Port Arthur residents, but also is a good time to educate new council members,” Prince said.
Other topics to be discussed include the city’s demographics and population; budgeting and finance; downtown and revitalization; transportation and roads; Pleasure Island; utilities and capital improvement plan; parks and recreation; housing and solid waste.
McDougal said the city needs to get a handle on the amount of money contributed from the general fund to pay for water and sewer utility fund expenditures.
Typically, the cost of providing water and sewer utilities to city customers should not be an expense to the general fund. Rather, it should pay for itself through generated revenue.
That’s not been the case for Port Arthur for a number of years.
According to McDougal, the water and sewer fund owes about $30 million to the city’s general fund.
Not only does that practice jeopardize the city’s credit rating, it also takes money away from other areas such as streets and roads, McDougal said.
The city is poised to receive a substantial increase in water revenue from new customer Chenier, which is expected to buy upwards to 5,500 gallons per minute when the new liquefied natural gas facility is full up and running.
McDougal said the city also needs to discuss Pleasure Island, and how to generate more revenue there.
“We need to look for ways to grow tourism there, more residential, or both,” he said.
The future of the island’s golf course and an underutilized marina are also topics the Council needs to address, McDougal said.
McDougal said he has met with each of the Councilmembers separately after he started with the city in January, but believes a day spent talking about city issues in detail will provide a good road map for the city’s future.
“My hope is we will come out of there with some good direction. I want to encourage the councilmembers to think big,” McDougal said.
E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com
Twitter: skooncePANews