TxDOT finishing the job they started

Published 9:12 am Friday, March 2, 2018

The Texas Department of Transportation will begin cleaning some additional areas of Port Arthur.

The City Council approved an agreement between the city and the TxDOT for disaster debris removal within the city limits.

TxDOT is currently assisting the city with debris removal. This request is expanding the area to the north of 25th Street to Highway 73 and east to Highway 347 to the Motiva property line. TxDOT cleared 17 of Port Arthur’s 19 quadrants so far.

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The Council also approved a contract between the city and Arceneaux, Wilson and Cole for drainage studies of the Port Acres and Vista Village areas. The contract is not to exceed $66,655. Funding is available in public works.

A letter of memorandum from Armando Gutierrez, director of public works, read a drainage study performed in 1969 identified a drainage pipe system to be constructed along 67th Street from near West Port Arthur Road to discharge at the Jefferson County Drainage District 7 pump station by the levee. This study will identify the contributing drainage basin and the recommended pipe sizing based on new drainage design criteria. Areas affected will include Garnet Avenue and surrounding areas.

Harold Doucet Sr., District 4 councilman, said he would like to know where they were in the process because they’ve been talking about the project for two weeks.

Gutierrez said he met with engineer Ron Arceneaux at sites in Port Acres and El Vista. Gutierrez said he’s ready to start the design, and work will start in three to four months.

Gutierrez said there have been new surveys needed because of the improvements and changes made over the last 50 years.

“The land has changed character. New surveys are needed to identify where the water is coming from,” he said.

In other Council business, Andrew Vasquez, finance director for the city, explained the recent rating history decline during the monthly financial report.

Likewise, an article from Moody’s Analytics states in September they had a total of 37 municipal utility districts, four schools and two cities under review for downgrade due to Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey. All are small cities with concentrated revenue sources and limited financial flexibility.

In September 2016, Moody’s ranked the city with an A1 rating. In October 2017, the city received an A2 rating.

Meanwhile, Standard & Poor’s gave the city an A1 rating for both those years.

Vasquez said Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond rating from A1 to A2 on Oct. 24 as part of a comprehensive review of credits impacted by Harvey.

Moody’s rating rationale was that the city’s weak liquidity position is exposed to additional financial obligations from the recent hurricane. The rating considers the city’s manageable debt and pension burden, weaker wealth and income levels and significantly higher unemployment levels compared to peers.

But Vasquez said the city has some credit strengths:

  • Economic base is well over $10 billion
  • City’s plan to repay the general fund
  • Multiple years of operating surpluses
  • Liquidity in capital projects fund
  • Fixed industrial district contracts

He added that Moody’s missed the majority of the city’s debt is due within 10 years, 97.59 percent in 2028, and there’s been a significant increase in the General Fund balance since Fiscal Year 2014 review.

On the other hand, the city faces some credit challenges:

  • Tax base declines due to Hurricane Harvey
  • Outsized reliance on petrochemical sector
  • Cash position much weaker than peers
  • Debt and pension levels remain elevated compared to peers
  • History of General Fund supporting utility operations
  • Resident wealth and income levels are lower than peers

Factors that could lead to a credit upgrade for the city are:

  • Improve city’s liquidity position
  • Reduce support for utility enterprise system
  • Immaterial economic disruption during recovery
  • Moderate debt and pension profile
  • Improved resident wealth and income indices

Vasquez concluded his presentation by saying Moody’s rated the city higher at A1 when the fund balance and cash balance metrics were less than current.