PA EDC wants to spend $5 million on city streets

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Port Arthur’s Economic Development Corporation is ready to spend a portion of its budget on city streets and building houses in a targeted area of downtown, provided the city and voters give the plan the go-ahead.

Both expenditures would go before voters in May if Port Arthur’s City Council agrees to pursue the city improvement plan and have it placed on the ballot.

At the EDC’s regular meeting Monday, Director Floyd Batiste said the EDC is prepared to spend one-eighth of the half cent it gets from sales tax revenue for city streets maintenance.

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“I have heard the cry from citizens, heard the cry of Council to fix the streets,” Batiste said.

The EDC has proposed setting aside the streets allotment for a period of four years. Depending on how much sales tax is generated in the city, the EDC’s contribution to city streets would be about $4.5 to $5 million over the four-year period.

EDC board member Richard Wycoff said while he was in favor of fixing streets, due diligence should be done before a contractor is hired.

Procter Street, he said, was improved about four years ago, and is now caving in.

EDC board member Harold Doucet said he thought helping the city fix Port Arthur roads was a good thing, and that the city should be in a better financial position within the next four years.

“We want to be part of doing it, and doing it right,” he said.

If the measure goes on the ballot and passes, the city would control the money set aside by the EDC, Batiste said.

In addition to streets, the EDC is also considering spending $300,000 to $400,000 a year on an affordable housing project designed to bring people to the downtown area.

“We have done a lot of work trying to revitalize this part of town, but our biggest concern in economic development is rooftops,” Batiste said.

The EDC is proposing to fund construction of houses valued at $130,000 each in an area around Fifth and Sixth streets.

The EDC has acreage on Fourth Street that could be used as well, Batiste said.

He envisioned employees of Lamar State College-Port Arthur, those working for the city or the school district inhabiting the new homes.

Those making application for the new homes would need to meet credit requirements and fall within the income limits.

If the measure is approved by voters, the EDC would control the funding for the program.

The EDC and City Council will meet jointing Nov. 17 to discuss the proposals.

Voter approval for both measures is required because the projects fall outside of what is allowed under 4A tax dollar spending.

“Anytime we choose to do something outside of our charter, we have to take it to the voters,” Batiste said.