EDC plans on streets, housing worth more discussion

Published 8:36 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation proposed a plan this week that might get the process started for repairing pothole-riddled roads in Port Arthur. The EDC board approved a plan to use a portion of the sales tax money that funds the agency — from $4.5 to $5 million over four years — to finance street repairs. We suspect talk of repairing the city’s streets will be well received by city residents, many of whom have been vocal about the need to make repairs.

The EDC board is scheduled to hold a joint meeting with the Port Arthur City Council on Nov. 17 to discuss the proposal. The council must sign off on the plan before it can go into effect. There would be a number of details to work out, such as which streets would be at the top of the list to be repaired, how the plan fits with the city manager’s plans for infrastructure repairs including water, sewer and streets.

Building and maintaining roads in a community is a well-established use of governmental funds. The EDC also proposed during this week’s meeting another use of its funds that is not as common for government as street repairs — building homes in the downtown area and selling them to people who meet credit requirements and fall within income limits, targeting the program to people with jobs who are not in the high-pay category. The home buyers would have to qualify for a mortgage with a financial institution, but the EDC would help with the down payment. At two to three houses a year, this would be a slow way to begin building population in the downtown area. It’s an idea that has merit as well as drawbacks. We urge careful consideration before the city and the EDC get into the home development business.

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We applaud the EDC for finding ways to help Port Arthur with some of the city’s most difficult problems. Now it will be up to the EDC board and the city council to work together to find the best way forward for the city’s residents.