Port Arthur hopes to begin construction on new Health Department early next year

Published 12:42 am Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Officials with the Port Arthur Health Department were scheduled Tuesday to meet with Beaumont-based Sigma Engineers as the city continues plans for relocation.

However, one city council member is pleading for the City to speed up that and other planned projects.

“Maybe it’s just me,” Councilman Cal Jones said at a recent council meeting. “Everything in the last few years is always in the planning stages or on the drawing board. The animal shelter, streets, parks — we’ve been doing this stuff for too long. These projects are sitting too long. I’m sick and tired of discussing this at every council meeting.”

In December 2020, City Council approved spending $4.5 million to renovate the former Texas Health and Human Services offices on 9th Avenue into a new Health Department. The city purchased the building that same month for $1.6 million.

The facility, constructed in 1995, will allow for an expanded health department as it has about 41,000 square-feet inside and 62,00 square-feet of parking space.

And because of its various entrances, Health Director Judith Smith previously told Port Arthur Newsmedia, it will allow patrons easier access and more privacy when visiting various parts of the department.

The facility serves South and Mid County residents with primary health care, sexually transmitted diseases, environmental health, immunization, vital statistics and services for women, infants and children (WIC) among others.

The new facility will also include a fitness area and a COVID vaccination clinic to separate it from other immunizations.

Currently, COVID immunizations are being given at the Texas Artist’s Museum, 3501 Cultural Center Drive.

Assistant City Manager Pamela Langford said the addition of the COVID clinic would be built with city dollars received due to the pandemic.

As of now, Sigma is in the architectural drawing and construction phase, which is about 65 percent complete, Langford said. The scheduled completion date is next month. Following that would be bidding for construction in January, with an intention to begin the following month.

However, there is one factor that could increase the project from its approved $4.5 million.

“One of the concerns that’s nationally and globally is the cost of materials and how (they are) continuing to rise,” Langford told council members. “So if there are any delays with construction, that would probably be it. A $4.5 million project could double or triple if the cost of materials continue to rise.”

The current location at 449 Austin Avenue was purchased by Motiva Enterprises as part of its downtown revitalization plan. In October of last year, Motiva and Port Arthur entered into an 18-month agreement allowing the City time to move forward with site renovations. Following that 18-month period, the City would begin leasing the building from Motiva.

“I do know that the city manager is in constant talks with Motiva regarding our plans and our movement,” Langford said. “He will continue to negotiate with Motiva if we do move forward and surpass the 18-month lease.”