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Home for the workforce? Engineer hopes to address influx of Port Arthur workers

The city of Port Arthur will soon face a boon of workers in the oil and natural gas sector.

Dr. Hani Tohme of Golden Triangle Consulting Engineers in Beaumont said the proverbial ball is in Port Arthur’s court to either update or pass an ordinance allowing temporary buildings known as man camps to be established in the city.

“The ordinance needs to determine which zoning this project would be allowed to occur in and it would have to specify requirements on fire protection and utilities and roads,” said Tohme, a former director of public services for the city.

He estimates 25,000 people will come to Port Arthur to fill upcoming project expansion jobs.

“The workers are going to stay somewhere,” Tohme said. “The amount of hotels and other properties cannot accommodate this number. We can either find ways to keep them in the city of Port Arthur with the project they proposed and make sure their money is spent in Port Arthur, or they will go to other cities. It’s a very important decision for the city, especially with the low population we’ve been dealing with, along with revenues and sales. It’s important for Port Arthur to retain most of the money within city limits.”

Despite recent population issues stemming from Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in 2017, the city is poised for growth thanks to projects ranging from Motiva’s billion-dollar expansion to Port Arthur LNG’s liquefaction project.

Pamela Langford, acting director of development services for the city of Port Arthur, said she is working with Tohme to research existing ordinances in order to define how one can be incorporated into the city ordinance.

“Currently, there’s one that speaks of recreational vehicles and manufactured homes, but there is not one for temporary homes or man camps,” Langford said.

Tohme is working on behalf of The K3 Group, which would provide workforce housing and food services. K3 has offices in San Antonio and Anchorage, Alaska.

While no timetable has been set for the city to take action on a possible ordinance, Tohme believes time is of the essence to keep money in Port Arthur.

“The influx of people is coming,” Tohme said. “We’re trying to put them in an area that will not impact our roadways while they are spending money in our city.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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