Expanded health department on track to open in fall; Port Arthur details shared

Published 12:36 am Friday, July 14, 2023

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Health Director Judith Smith said it didn’t really sink in until she saw the sign.

What was once the Texas Health and Human Services building on 9th Avenue now says “City of Port Arthur Health Department Complex.”

Once complete, the 41,000 square-feet facility will allow for 12 divisions, keeping each area separate with privacy also at the forefront.

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The sexually transmitted disease clinic, Smith said, would have its own door to enter from outside so patients do not have to go through the main entrance.

“It’s really going good,” Smith said. “Our health department maintenance man is meeting with the construction team pretty often. We were asked to do a transition plan. We have a transition team to come up with how we’re going to get everyone situated, which programs will transition first, and we’re still being told that it may (open) by the end of October or early November.”

Renovations on the $4.5 million project began in October after the city purchased the building in 2020. It was built in 1995.

A representative of Sigma Engineers said the renovations allow for different suites, such as vaccinations, a laboratory, a pharmacy, WIC, adult services, immunizations, tuberculosis and more.

Smith said the COVID-19 vaccination center, which has been operating out of the Texas Artists Museum on Cultural Center Drive since April 2021, is going to be the first to move into the new building.

“We can give TAMS their building back,” she said. “Our transition team did a tour last Thursday to see all of the divisions. We’re going to meet with our general staff on Aug. 1, and we’re going to assign them their room numbers because the rooms have already been numbered.”

That will assist with packing and moving, as each box is labeled with the number of the room in which it belongs.

“We realize it’s going to take a long time because we have about 12 divisions that we’re going to have to move,” Smith said. “But we’ve already gotten bids for our movers that can assist with some of our major items.”

The new health department facility, which also serves Mid County, includes a 62,000 square-feet parking lot. That, Smith said, is exciting for the staff, as they’ve had to park on the street to access the current facility at 449 Austin Avenue.

That building was purchased by Motiva Enterprises along with three other buildings near it as part of the downtown revitalization plan.

“This is a larger building. From the 9th Avenue portion of the building to the back of the building, it’s long,” Smith said. “People will get their exercise if they’re going from one division to another.”