Kayak launch proposal capsizes

Published 5:47 pm Monday, October 17, 2016

BEAUMONT — The refunding of $50,000 to build a kayak launch led to a rather lengthy discussion at the Jefferson County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday afternoon in the courthouse.

Everette “Bo” Alfred, Precinct 4 commissioner, said he spoke with the engineering department about working with Jefferson County Drainage District #6 for constructing the launch near the visitor’s center on Interstate 10, but the project proved to be too costly due to having to meet American with Disabilities Act compliances.

“The ADA requirements could not be avoided,” he said. “It is way out of reach for the amount of money. That’s why we’ve given it back to the donor.”

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Brent Weaver, Precinct 2 commissioners, asked County Engineer Don Rao if there were any other opportunities in the future to build the launch. Rao said it would take a huge amount of effort to meet the ADA requirements. One challenge is the height and slope at Ford Park makes building difficult.

Alfred asked Rao if there was grant money to do the project. Rao answered he was not aware of any grants and the kayak launch doesn’t fit as a boat launch to receive Texas Parks and Wildlife grants.

Weaver said to Mike Getz, a Beaumont city councilman, he was hopeful the county would come up with other opportunities or find other waterways that are acceptable to build on. Getz, and his wife, Allison Nathan-Getz, county tax assessor-collector, have been particularly active in trying to get the kayak launch installed.

Rao said other areas along some county roads were discussed, but to no avail.

“I prefer Ford Park because of its waterway and it would bring it visitors,” Alfred said.

Mike Getz said with a kayak launch in Jefferson County, residents wouldn’t have to trek to Hardin County to launch.

Also, the donation used dedicated funds for that particular site.

The benefactor wanted to help and they were under the impression it would be under $50,000.

Alfred said something can still be put together because the launch is a good idea.

County Judge Jeff Branick said the county was appreciative of the donor’s generosity, but low oil prices have negatively affected the county’s revenues.

“We couldn’t give our employees pay raises and it wouldn’t be appreciated to pay for a $100,000 kayak launch,” Branick said.

The commissioners decided to table approving a letter and authorizing sending it to individuals/organizations with events booked at Ford Park after March 31, 2017.

Alfred said he favored the commissioners’ court meeting individually with SMG, and the new management company, Spectra instead of sending letters. The court agreed.

“It has come to the commissioners’ court attention that there may exist some concern and uncertainty regarding the change of venue management at Ford Park,” a letter from County Judge Jeff Branick’s office read. “It is also my understanding that you and/or your organization currently have a date being held or already booked at Ford Park for an event after March 31, 2017.”

“The commissioners’ court wants to assure you that it is our intention to honor any and all commitments made by SMG for events at Ford Park and we will take all necessary steps to communicate your selected dates to any subsequent management company just as soon as a contractual agreement is reached between the county and such company.”

Last week, the commissioners’ court approved hiring Spectra as the management company over longtime managers, SMG.

Also near Ford Park, the court approved a preliminary plat and construction plans for a Love’s Travel Stop at Interstate 10 and Smith Road.

Founded in 1964 and headquartered in Oklahoma City, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has more than 390 locations in 40 states, providing professional truck drivers and motorists with 24-hour access to places to purchase gasoline, diesel fuel, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), travel items, electronics, snacks and more, as well as restaurant offerings, according to their website.

The Jefferson County Commissioners Court approved the preliminary plat and construction plans of Mid-County Industrial Park Phase I on Highway 69.

Rao said the park will be built along FM 3514 across from the state jails. It will be a lease site. The property will be outlined and determine how the drainage will be handled.

The property lies within Beaumont’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction and plans can’t go forward until they are approved and completed.

The commissioners approved re-bidding the contract to install and operate ATMs at the Subcourthouse at 525 Lakeshore Dr. in Port Arthur. This item will add one additional ATM at the Subcourthouse.

David Ball: 409-721-2427