• 66°

In contested vote, County Commissioners approve Ben Rogers Visitors Center repairs

BEAUMONT — Repairs to the Ben J. Rogers Visitors Center in Beaumont are in the works, though Jefferson County Commissioners were divided on the contract vote.

The visitors center, located at 5055 I-10 access road, has been closed since Tropical Storm Imelda flooded parts of Beaumont and surrounding areas in September. Earlier this week commissioners approved a job order contract with Choice Partners for $223,035.26.

The vote was 3-2 with Pct. 3 Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal and Pct. 4 Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred giving the dissenting votes on Tuesday.

Sinegal expressed concern over the workload of selected company SETEX Construction, which is already contracted for work to the service center roof, a health and welfare center in Port Arthur and several other projects.

“One of my jobs hasn’t started yet and the contractor said he is too busy. I’m worried about the timeline going into this job because he doesn’t have the manpower,” Sinegal said. “I have a major project that will probably go into the next budget. It was approved last budget but they’re too busy to start.”

So far approximately $105,000 has been spent on remediation to take care of the water damage from Imelda. Insurance is expected to cover the cost of the project.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said the company that was hired for the job is part of a co-op that qualifies people and sets prices.

The contract is for 120 days, Branick added.

In other business:

  • Commissioners approved a settlement agreement with Orion Marine Construction in relation to damage to a boat ramp walkway.

On or about July 21, an Orion vessel came in contact with a boat ramp boarding walkway at Broadway and South First Street in Sabine Pass.

The payment agreement is for $14,000.

  • Commissioners also approved an amendment to the abatement agreement for property located in Port Arthur LNG reinvestment Zone.

Branick explained that when Sempra had entered into a letter of agreement with Saudi Armco in relation to the Port Arthur LNG facility, the Saudi lawyers requested some issues clarified in Chapter 312 of the tax code.

The requirement is favorable to the county — if Sempra does not build all of the improvements promised, then they are forced to pay back any of the taxes which were abated.

The county has a tax abatement agreement with the company where taxes are abated 100 percent for the first 10 years.

Last week, Sempra Energy and Saudi Aramco announced their respective subsidiaries, Sempra LNG and Aramco Services Company, signed an Interim Project Participation Agreement, or IPPA, for the Port Arthur LNG export project under development in Jefferson County.

The next step in the project, according to the proposed timeline, is a final investment decision by 2020 with the first LNG production by 2023.