Engineers: District 4 requires nearly 1/2 of Port Arthur road improvement funding

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Members of the Port Arthur City Council will be asked soon to decide whether to balance funding for improvement of streets by districts or allocate proportionately with the needs of each district.

Port Arthur Public Works engineers presented breakdowns of a $10 million budget for street reconstruction and $4 million budget for street remediation during Tuesday’s council meeting. The charts revealed District 4 would receive $1,898,400, or 47.46 percent, of remediation funds, and $4,696,000, or 46.96 percent, of reconstruction funds.

But not everyone on the council agrees with the proposal.

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District 2 councilman Cal Jones and District 3 councilman Thomas Kinlaw III expressed their desires for each district to receive $2.5 million of reconstruction funds. Kinlaw said he was under the impression for that after talking with engineers two weeks ago.

The data used for the proposed allocation dates back to a 2017 analysis, according to engineers. In October 2019, the council approved a $98,500 purchase for “X-ray” van analysis from Infrastructure Management Services that engineers say updates the data on road conditions from 2017.

“Each council member had a binder two years ago when I first came on council,” Kinlaw said. “If we were going to use this data, why did we pour in [$98,500] for an “X-ray” van when we’re going to wait until February or March time frame? This was presented to me today.”

DeWayne Davis, a Port Arthur city engineer, said the IMS crew will complete its fieldwork by the middle of January and expects data to come by February.

District 4 councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Harold Doucet defended the presentation. Doucet expects the council to vote on a resolution to approve the allocations during the Jan. 7 meeting, which will begin at 8:30 a.m.

“When the program was explained to us in 2018, I asked the question how will we allocate the money,” Doucet said. “Public works said we would allocate the money proportionately. What the staff presented to us is, they looked at the linear feet for the city and determined the cost for each district from there.”

District 4, which covers portions of northwest and west Port Arthur, includes 18,737 linear feet, or 47.46 percent, of streets that require remediation and 82,328 linear feet, or 46.96 percent, that require reconstruction. District 2 includes the second largest amount of ailing streets (20.45 percent for remediation and 16.47 percent for reconstruction).

“I wasn’t going to approve the program if it wasn’t done fairly,” Doucet said. “When they said it was fair, I said OK, no problem. When we accepted the program, we approved the streets they identified and the classification we have for the streets. Nobody is going to argue with that.”

All council members agree, however, that road rehabilitation should not be stopped despite the funding dispute.

“All of us sitting here have gotten complaints from every part, north, south, east, west,” at-large Councilwoman Charlotte Moses said. “Every street, everywhere. They’re torn up. So, we can’t afford to stop, whether it’s $4 million, $10 million, whatever is allocated, we can’t afford to stop. … We can make adjustments, we can make changes, we can come back as we get the data. I think the truck is going to be very beneficial. Basically, this helps us to not stop the process. Get the bids out. Get the packages done. Get the work done because we’ve complained so much about getting the work done.”

City Manager Ron Burton reminded the council that a procurement process will take approximately 60 days is still needed for the project. He advised the council to allow engineers to take a head start on repairs in order to see corrective action for 2020.

“It’s up to you, council, if you want to see that corrective action,” Burton said.

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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