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STEPHEN HEMELT — Port Arthur parks vote promises & concerns take center stage

One of my favorite parts of this week’s town hall was when Mayor Pro Tem Charlotte Moses displayed her passion, both in her assessment of past performances and in the what she believes for the future.

However, the best part of the project was the commitment to transparency and timelines made by local leaders.

That’s important because the city’s voters have a $3 million decision to make on May 1.

Are Port Arthur voters going to vote in favor of reallocating $1 million of sales tax revenue per year for three years from the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation to be used to upgrade parks at Rose Hill and Adams, as well improve the recreation and senior center?

Voting “yes” or “no” won’t raise or diminish taxes, but a “yes” vote would be a testament of faith from the citizenry, saying “we believe by infusing the Parks and Recreation Department with a consistent funding supply that it can turn Adams Park and Rose Hill Park into premiere parks.”

That would be a heck of a faith statement for some who feel a lack of completion with projects involving a splash pad and new soccer field dooms anything possible going forward.

City leaders stress those projects are still going to take place, adding the future is going to be so much better than the past.

“We’ve been disappointed, but I think now you see a new staff, new leadership,” Moses said. “You can see things happening. We didn’t have it before. It may not be as many or as fast, but you see street improvement taking place. We see workers on these different projects.”

Moses made her comments during a virtual town hall hosted in partnership with the Port Arthur News and Lamar University. The event was broadcast live on various Facebook and YouTube pages, and the complete video is pinned to the top of Port Arthur News Facebook page.

As I type this Friday morning, it has been viewed more than 1,400 times.

There is definite interest from our community about this parks proposal, with many wanting to know, should it pass, when are we going to see results.

Port Arthur Parks and Recreation Director Chandra Alpough said timelines and expectations need to be discussed and talked about.

“When citizens hear that you are going to do something, then they expect it to happen in months, but it doesn’t hardly ever happen that way,” she said. “We’re taking this from the very bottom level of planning, from getting surveys and seeing where everything is. We’re looking at mitigation and possibly enhancing roads. A lot of that takes time.

“The design phase process takes a while, the construction process takes a while. They don’t happen in six months or a year. We’re going to give ourselves three years.”

Hearing that response from Alpough, which came from a question asked by a viewer, prompted Moses to say the city council must be the connector keeping residents informed about the process holding staff members accountable for announced timelines.

“We will make sure those that need to be held accountable are held accountable and that we don’t see some subpar things going on,” Moses said. “It is our responsibility to make sure things go on transparently so the citizens can trust the council. I think the council we have is very transparent.”

Should the May 1 ballot item pass, Moses said the city council would post a timeline broken down through phases. The information would be easily assessable so citizens won’t have to ask “what happened to the park?”

“We’ve had the negative and seen all the bad things happen,” Moses said during the town hall.

“I’m not running for office again. This is it for me. I want to see something happen and change while we are in the midst of this thing.”

The city staff and many elected leaders have made their cases for this project. Should the community believe in it and vote “yes,” it promises to be one of the most followed municipal projects in recent history.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia and publisher of the Port Arthur News. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.