Copper theft, $690K repair quote creates speed bump on proposed park improvements

Published 12:34 am Thursday, October 28, 2021

Improvements approved by voters to three Port Arthur parks have been delayed after a theft at one put a substantial dent in projected costs.

Director of Parks and Recreation Director Chandra Alpough this week gave an update on Adams Park, one of three approved by voters in May to receive $3 million in funds from the Economic Development Corporation for major upgrades.

The month before, however, park across from Memorial High School were substantially vandalized.

“In April, unfortunately we had a theft,” Alpough said. “A theft occurred at the park where someone cut the electrical boxes and stole all of the copper wiring from the boxes as well as underground.”

Soon after they received a quote of $84,395.68 from Bennett Electric, which is under contract with the City for electrical needs and maintenance.

However, the quote was incorrect.

“They only quoted one field instead of the entire park,” Alpough said. “Multiple fields were adversely affected by this theft.”

The following quote was $690,097.08.

In October, staff worked with Bennett Electric to reduce that amount to $273,209.44 by offering to pay for the parts and find labor elsewhere.

The department is also working on reducing costs by working with other city projects to use removed dirt and have it brought to Adams Park to help with leveling.

“Getting this dirt allocated will save us a lot of money regarding this project,” the director said.

Six months following voter approval, however, the parks project is still in infancy stages.

Alpough said city staff members are working on a master plan, which would include a design, storm water mitigation and an opportunity for residents to weigh in on what they’d like to see at the three specified locations.

“Are you saying we’re still in design phase at this point?” asked Councilman Thomas Kinlaw, referencing renderings of upgrades shown to the Council in previous months.

Adams park is in his district.

Alpough said, in fact, the design phase wouldn’t begin until the master plan is complete.

“Adams Park — I don’t want to rush it,” she said. “I’m just going to be completely honest, because there’s a lot of issues structural wise. We’re currently trying to get funding for infrastructure since it takes up a lot of money that has to be spread among all the parks.”

The other two locations that are part of the May proposition are Rose Hill Park and the recreation center.

Alpough said the department is seeking grant money to help with infrastructure.

“I want to make sure that we leave no stone unturned,” said City Manager Ron Burton. “I want to make sure we do all the due diligence that’s necessary. I do understand the importance of providing quality recreational areas for the City of Port Arthur, but it’s also important that we invest wisely when we undertake those projects.”

Kinlaw said he’s received multiple calls regarding the challenges residents, little leagues and other sports teams that utilize the park face from structures to roads. He requested another update in 90 days.

“We need to find a common ground to address some of those issues,” he said. “We don’t want to drop the ball on this. We really need to keep our eyes on this.”