County Health Department in PA celebrated with ribbon cutting

Published 3:40 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Surrounded by Jefferson County, city of Port Arthur officials, state representatives and Chamber of Commerce members Heather LaGrone, center, with the Texas General Land Office, cuts the ribbon during a special ceremony Wednesday to celebrate the Grand Re-opening and Relocation of the Jefferson County Health II Building in Port Arthur.

Going on eight years after Hurricane Ike ravaged much of Southeast Texas, Jefferson County had something to celebrate in the wake of the storm.

The new Jefferson County Health II Department at 800 Fourth St., in Port Arthur was feted with a ribbon cutting during a Grand Re-Opening Celebration.

“Without the assistance of the Texas General Land Office we would not be here today,” County Judge Jeff Branick, said.

The old facility just a few blocks down the road on Dallas Street had sustained storm damage. With mold and roof leaks, the building was hardly sound enough to see patients let alone have workers there all day.

The new $2.2 million Health Department building also houses the adult probation department, and was the last of 30 hurricane projects completed in Jefferson County. In total the projects cost $29 million, most of which was funded by Hurricane Ike Recovery dollars administered by the GLO.

Branick said the project ran into some technical bureaucratic problems that nearly derailed construction, but with the assistance of the GLO was able to get back on track.

“Now we have a wonderful new facility to serve the underprivileged,” Branick said. “We are also thankful for the side of the department that serves probationers. This is a great new facility to serve Port Arthur.”

Heather LaGrone, staff director with the GLO’s Community Development and Revitalization department said there was a lot of creativity that went into making the new building possible.

“It is a testament to your commitment. It is the best way to serve your community,” LaGrone said.

David Waxman, a consultant and administrator of the Hurricane Ike projects was in attendance Wednesday.

“Buildings are just buildings. It’s what goes on inside that means everything and what goes on inside this one is very important,” Waxman said. “This was never a project to be done with Ike money. But, you had the county judge, the state funding agency that wanted to make this happen and it did.”

In addition to Hurricane Ike recovery funding, Drainage District 6 and Drainage District 7 had money left over from their hurricane-related projects. That money was siphoned over to the Jefferson County Health Department in Port Arthur.

“Lagniappe. Where I come from in Louisiana a little something extra,” Waxman said.

Plans are in the works to expand services at the Port Arthur Center, possibly from a partnership with University of Texas Medical Branch in Port Arthur.

Currently, the facility sees about 15 scheduled patients per day, not including walk-ins.

The new health facility has four exam rooms — one more than the old building — a lab, minor procedure room, and screening rooms. There are three physicians on staff who rotate days.

On the probation side the new building is a vast improvement, Diana Columbus, superintendent of adult probation said.

“I’ve ben here 31 years and in the old building we were working in we had bad, bad conditions,” Columbus said. “The new building is a neat clean beautiful working environment with a beautiful atmosphere.”

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