Drainage District No. 7 experiencing growing pains

Published 7:06 pm Friday, October 28, 2016

After 60 years in the same location the Jefferson County Drainage District No. 7 has outgrown its space.

Phil Kelley, manager of the DD7, said they own the property at the end of the access road behind their administrative building on Ninth Avenue near Highway 73 in Port Arthur.

“This building was dedicated and built in 1956. It was added onto twice,” he said. “We’re completely out of space — the office, file and the parking. The restrooms aren’t ADA compliant. We also have more work coming down the road. It’s not feasible to add on the building again.”

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Kelley explained a risk assessment was recently completed on the district’s hurricane levee system’s readiness. The assessment is based on a 1 to 5 range with 5 being the best.

DD7’s classification was at 2.

“We’re in the almost urgent category,” he said. “Since Hurricane Katrina there are a lot more rules and regulations on levee systems. We will need more space because we will increase staff (to work to improve things).”

With the new building, there will be more office space, more parking space and better technology with the ability to monitor weather events.

During hurricanes, there are 75 DD7 personnel who stay and man the facilities. As a result DD7 needs more space when storms hit to house them.

Now they will be able to set up cots at the new facility and in the new employee break room as well. In the future, there’s a possibility another large building will be built with shelter space and a kitchen.

The new administrative building will be 10,000 square feet with additional space for the engineers.

It was suggested the present administrative building be converted into an office space for the 10 field supervisors and foremen since they have no space of their own at the moment. That may happen a year from now.

The floor plan for the new building has been laid out by Sigma Engineers. DD7 also plans to do some of the work themselves such as concrete and pavement site preparation and the hauling dirt in their dump trucks for the pad. The could save from $300,000 to $500,000 on the project.

Kelley said the DD7 has built up their reserves over the years.

“We feel we can pay for it. We had no tax increase from last year to this year. We estimate it’s $2 million (in reserves),” he said. “We pay as we go without burdening the taxpayers. That creates sustainability.”

David Ball: 409-721-2427