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Citizens must see needed road repairs


The success of Port Arthur’s beleaguered street improvement program may speak volumes about the success of this administration and the City Council.

City Engineer Alberto Elefaño laid out in detail for City Council members last week the state of the city’s streets and how his department hopes to meet the obvious problems. What he had to say was encouraging — but we’ve been encouraged for oh-so-many potholes long.

Elefaño said the department has money — plans call to spend some $14 million on city streets this fiscal year — but more than money, the street program can also call upon needed equipment and a growing number of employees.

District 4 Councilman Harold Doucet said there’s been a continuing communication problem involving the public works department, the street program and the elected city leadership. The council has granted the money for work, he said, but for too long, the money remained unspent and the work remained undone. On further inspection, he said, the professional staff did not communicate the need for additional equipment and people.

“Five, six months from now, people will start seeing streets done,” he said.

Indeed they must, for when it comes to how voters rate their elected leadership, it may depend most upon where the rubber meets the road. Too often in Port Arthur, that’s in a pothole.

Elefaño laid out for the City Council which projects are ready for bid and which ones (here’s a hint: all of them) will be ready by the end of Fiscal Year 2019, which comes in October.

Some projects — seven, if you’re counting — will be handled solely by private contractors. Those are complex reconstruction efforts that include the whole street structure, he said, which includes drainage work and utility replacements, realignment and sidewalks.

Others — remedial projects — involving reclaiming and resurfacing streets, which he said would extend the lives of streets another three to five years. By then, he said, the city might have the money for more complex replacements. Many of those projects will be handled by a designated city crew that has been gaining experience in road repairs.

City workers will also handle a dozen more rehab projects this year, now that the experts have been hired and the needed equipment purchased.

The professional staff has submitted lists of potential projects; City Council members have reviewed those lists and approved some. Doucet said the councilmembers, in choosing the projects, are handling the political end of the street program and that by their choosing the projects every district will “get a piece of the pie.”

Most cities leave those choices to the professionals. By now, with Port Arthur streets in near complete disrepair, voters may skip the small print in hopes of getting something done.

Soon. Very soon.