The Port Arthur News
Port Neches —
PORT NECHES — The familiar building at 634 Avenue C stands empty with only traces left of its longtime use as city hall for the citizens of Port Neches.
File cabinets and office equipment are gone, moved to the newly constructed city hall situated on the adjacent land at 1005 Merriman Street.
The move, which took place over the course of several days during the week before Christmas, was a major undertaking as city employees trucked decades worth of items next door. One full day was set aside for last minute details and for the switch over from AT&T to Time Warner phone service.
On Dec. 20, city council met for the last time in their old home and at 2 p.m. Jan. 10, 2013 the city will hold a ribbon cutting at the new facility.
The new city hall, now open to the public, is a multi-purpose facility and also houses the city’s emergency operations center.
“We are extremely excited. It’s been a goal of the city for a long time to provide the citizens with a city hall that truly acts as a city hall,” Port Neches Mayor Glenn Johnson said.
The old building, he said, was once a doctors office before it was converted to city hall.
“We are excited for the citizens, they deserve this. We were extremely lucky to have been awarded a grant to pay for a majority of this. Cities like Port Neches don’t usually get the chance at this grant,” he said.
Funding for a majority of the project came from two federal grants, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program grant and a Port Security Grant. The more than $2 million in grant funding pays 75 percent of the cost of the building with the city picking up the remaining 25 percent which amount to about $600,000.
Johnson is also excited about the EOC which includes a back-up for Central Dispatch. Should there be an incident in southeast Texas, whether hurricane, or incident on the river or at one of the local refineries, the EOC will be the central location for first responders and emergency management to work.
Council chambers at the new city hall are spacious with screens located around the room to enable council to show maps, graphics of photos during meetings. Sporadic areas on the floor contain a hidden area where computers may be hooked-up to and the whole room can transform into and EOC.
To the left, just inside the front doors are desks for customers to pay their water bill and purchase a permit. There is also a drive-through area, with a camera inside the billing department.
City Manager Andrè Wimer gave The News a walk-through recently for the multi-million dollar facility.
Walking past council chambers Wimer enters a large conference room which, he said, could be used for closed session and as an EOC conference room. There is also a smaller conference room which can be multi-purpose as well.
City staff and the mayor all have new offices and there is a spare room allowing the city room to grow and upstairs is a large space for storage.
The city hall building is elevated about eight feet and able to withstand winds up to 150 mph.