Extension of Jimmy Johnson Boulevard, road construction tabled

Published 1:11 pm Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Extending Jimmy Johnson Boulevard to FM 365 could bring economic development opportunities to the city but the idea comes with a lot to consider.

City council members have opted to table the issue until their next scheduled meeting in order to receive needed information on legalities.

The project would have the land owner donate a piece of land to the city of Port Arthur with the agreement the city would construct the road. But, as of Tuesday, there was nothing official in writing stating this, only a Memorandum of Understanding that had not been processed yet.

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The MOU is a formal document outlining an agreement between two parties.

The issue up for approval was a contract with Soutex Surveyors & Engineers of Port Arthur to provide drawings and specifications for the extension of Jimmy Johnson Boulevard from The Medical Center of Southeast Texas to FM 365 for an amount not to exceed $410,000.

The road would provide an alternate path going north, according to information from the city.

Labeled the Jimmy Johnson Boulevard Extension Project, the city advertised fro a request for Qualifications to prequalify engineering firms for streets, drainage and civil services Feb. 28. Council approved al 13 firms who submitted qualifying documentation and all are now prequalified for a term of two years.

Soutex Surveyors & Engineers is established as a pre-qualified firm and will be providing service on the project.

City Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis said as a councilman he needs to be looking for sources of revenue and feels opening the road up will create great value but doesn’t want to spend $410,000 on speculation that there would be economic value should the road be constructed.

An executive summary of economic impact over a 20-year period shows a benefit of $17.9 million in sales tax, $63 million in property taxes, City Manager Ron Burton said.

The executive summary was presented to council in October 2021 in reference to a mixed-use project previously planned for the whole 275-acre tract.

“I hear what you’re saying but it’s still all speculation,” Lewis said. “We don’t have any agreements in place and we’re going to spend $400 or $500,000 up front designing something that may or may not happen? Mind you, I’m not doubting your numbers, what you just said, but what do we have in place?”

Jeremy Mitchell with Soutex Surveyors said they have worked with the current developer of the property I the past and as of this week there isn’t a concrete plan for the land.

The developer’s main concern, Mitchel said, is to ensure that if he commits to the city by giving the right-of-way for the road, there will be some sort of consideration given to him that the road will be constructed in a timely manner.

Councilman Harold Doucet worries about ownership of the land and possibly approving the sue of taxpayer money to design a road on what is essentially private property.

The land’s current owner, Mark Vernon, is the one looking to develop the land, not the developer Anthony Patel, Interim City Attorney James Black said.

John Cannatella, city engineer said the issue is like putting the cart before the horse by designing the roadway before having the right-of-way.

“It takes eight to 10 months to do engineering so we’re trying to get ahead of things and get plans ready so we could go to construction next year,” Cannatella said. “But if council sees fit to delay it, that’s fine with me. Like I said I don’t know the legalities of it.”

Council unanimously approved tabling the issue until the next scheduled meeting in order to have more information on the legalities of the project.