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EDITORIAL — Potholes: Council, drivers demand help

Port Arthur City Councilmembers likely had the pulse of their community measured accurately this week when they demanded more progress in fixing potholes.

“I’m very upset,” Mayor Pro Tem Harold Doucet told staff members when they suggested they were testing other materials for fixing potholes. He said the public works department hadn’t kept councilmembers abreast of the need for such changes and that progress in repairing potholes is long overdue.

“What does it take?” asked District 1 Councilmember Raymond Scott. “Manpower? Tools?”

In fact, the council has been generous in offering public works whatever is needed to get short-term patchwork accomplished, as rapidly and surely as possible. They offered more of the same Tuesday, including materials, training, additional people, extended hours — whatever it takes. The staff would do well to listen and respond aggressively.

Here’s a fact: The city has spent more on its streets in the last year, $17 million, than it has for the last decade. Don’t fault city leaders for not providing ample resources.

Here’s a fact, too: The street crews have done significant remediation work on streets, and are awaiting new projects. They’ve responded admirably on projects.

But this, too, is a fact: The damage to Port Arthur streets was exacerbated by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, and the refashioned public works department is starting from a long way behind. Catch-up will take concerted effort. That takes paving and it also takes patching.

In the meantime, patchwork on potholes — it’s a short-term tack, but needed — has not made the progress that city leaders envisioned. They want faster results. So do drivers in this city.

City Engineer Alberto Elefaño told councilmembers patching material suggested by the City Council for street patching didn’t pan out; it’s only marginally better than other materials used and under many circumstances it can wash away in a week during heavy rains. He suggested new tools for cutting potholes before filling. Perhaps that’s an answer.

But Doucet and others weren’t talking about the need for new materials at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. They were talking about a need for a new mindset, a greater sense of urgency in addressing patchwork.

Remedies recommended Tuesday included adding manpower to extend the hours in which crews can address potholes. That means keeping crews working until the sun goes down or into the night, with additional lighting and proper safeguards for crews.

If the money is there — it may be — then the city must show the will to do the job.

“This is supposed to be a priority,” Doucet said. “We cannot fix these streets fast enough in this city. …

Interim City Manager Becky Underhill said recommendations would arrive at the next City Council meeting. The whole city will be waiting.

 

See also: Council makes command clear: Fix potholes, without delay