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MONIQUE BATSON — Mayor expresses concern over Motiva’s construction shutdown

What started with a bang left without a whimper. But the question is: Will the noise return to Downtown Port Arthur?

In Spring 2019, Motiva Enterprises gathered city and county leaders for the fanfare as they announced a multi-million dollar plan to renovate parts of downtown. The move was in conjunction with a $6 billion expansion planned for the company’s Port Arthur refinery.

But contractors slipped out under the cover of a pandemic and economic downturn. And only recently was it noticed that construction to the area destroyed by Hurricane Harvey had stopped.

“They are private land owners,” Mayor Thurman Bartie said. “They don’t owe us any explanation. But I think out of mutual respect that the city and that industry has, that when they were shutting down, it could have been communicated with us and it wasn’t.”

Motiva began refining locally in 1902 as Texaco. Since then, it has grown into North America’s largest refinery, according to the company’s website, with more than 1,500 employees.

In 2019, the company announced the purchase of two historic buildings in downtown, which were to be renovated and used for personnel as the company prepped for a large expansion.

And with it came the hope that the fresh look would bring additional businesses to downtown, revitalizing an otherwise idle part of town.

Last week, when it was noticed that work had ceased, city officials were less than thrilled.

“I just pray they will come back, return to work, get those people in here and we can move on,” Bartie said.

In a statement sent to Port Arthur Newsmedia by Motiva, the company expressed intentions to continue what was started.

“We are currently awaiting historical designations from both the state and federal government,” the statement said. “Although the renovation timeline has been slowed, downtown Port Arthur is still the future home of a Motiva campus that will provide much needed office space for employees and contractors who are not directly involved in site-specific maintenance or operations.”

When I read that statement to Bartie, he said it was the first he had heard of their plans to move forward.

“I wasn’t told anything that they were shutting down, and I wasn’t given assurance that they’ll start up again,” he said. “We still want them to come back, but tell us now. I don’t think they should play with the emotions of the citizens in Port Arthur by not giving us a particular date for when this would happen. We were kind enough to accept that they left without telling us. It’s just the moral aspect and relational component that’s involved in it. I feel our relationship was such that they would tell us.”

 

Monique Batson serves as editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.