Port Lavaca improvement plan attracts business

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Aug. 30, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.
Updated Aug. 31, 2013 at 3:31 a.m.

Bob Turner had more to give when he retired from the city of Tyler after 29 years of service.

He wanted to find a small coastal town where he could make a difference. Three years ago, Turner brought his experience to Port Lavaca, a town about one-sixth the size of Tyler.

As new city manager, he recognized the need for a plan to improve the city.

"Residents just want to know the projects they believe are important are part of the plan," Turner said. "When the city can't forecast, they become upset."

With the city's six department managers, Turner condensed his objectives into a prioritized, five-year plan to improve streets, parks, water and wastewater systems, Lighthouse Beach and bulkheads.

The plan will be updated annually.

"The department leaders thirsted for improvement," Turner said. "They just needed leadership to make it happen."

Before Turner's arrival, elected City Council members vetted the city projects rather than paid city staff, he said.

Now, city leaders develop and present plans to council members during work sessions, and the city maintains a five-year plan.

Improvements to streets and parks are financed with tax revenue from the general fund, while water and wastewater projects are covered by revenue generated by the utilities. Lighthouse Beach and the Port Commission also generate their own revenue. Grants cover certain projects as well.

"Bayfront Park improvements are the most important because the peninsula touches so many different age groups," Turner said.

Children, who are the building blocks of the community, can build positive memories of playing on the playscape and splash pad, young adults can enjoy concerts under the pavilion, and grandparents can fish with their grandchildren from the pier or watch them play.

Bayfront Peninsula Park More than $2 million in projects is on the master plan, which is the city's wish list. Over the next five years, $350,000 is allocated for the projects at the park.

An amphitheater for small concerts, a boat ramp, sidewalks and restrooms are among the options.

Completed projects include lighting, the playscape, the splash pad and the new pavilion, which accommodates large concerts.

Wilson Field Park and Recreation Area accounts for $400,000 of the improvements budgeted for the next five years. More than $2 million in options are outlined in the master plan.

The existing facilities cannot accommodate large softball tournaments, Turner said.

The addition of two fields and lighting would attract tournaments with 40 or 50 teams for the weekend, which would help build the economy. The teams could play all night.

Lighting has already been installed, as well as a playground, two soccer fields and proper drainage.

Other improvements on the wish list include a 1-mile walking trail around Wilson Field Park and sidewalks to connect all the city parks. Walkways already connect all the schools, said Turner.

Additional connectivity could attract 5K and 10K races.

A swing set, basketball court, skate park, pavilion, restrooms and cabanas are also part of the master plan.

Streets rebuilt or repaired in the five-year plan include George Street from Virginia Street to Half League Road, Pinta Drive, Montier Road, Commerce Street and Independence Drive.

Downtown sidewalks will be rebuilt with a grant.

"All the roads in Port Lavaca will be inspected and reviewed over the next seven years," Turner said.

A seal coat program, thin overlays that extend the lives of the roads, is also in the budget.

Water system improvements include pipe replacements and upgrades along Smith Road, Brookhollow Drive, Lighthouse Beach Drive and Broadway Street, as well as hospital area roads.

An electronic meter reading system is also part of the plan.

Wastewater system improvements include pipe replacement or repair in Alamo Heights, Bonorden, DeShazor, Center Street and Commerce Street areas, among other projects.

Lighthouse Beach projects include dredging, demolition of an abandoned pier, construction of a new T-head fishing pier, upgraded trailer spaces, a playground and splash pad to the tune of more than $1 million over the next five years.

The $80,000 splash pad on the peninsula was so well-received that the city plans to spend $260,000 on a more elaborate version for Lighthouse Beach.

"It will be eye-catching, innovative and interactive for the kids," Turner said.

The Port Commission improvements support local commerce with upgrades to Bayfront Peninsula and Harbor of Refuge bulkheads totaling more than $2 million in five years.

Before Turner started as city manager for Port Lavaca, he took a huge tablet along on vacation and wrote down all the things he wanted to do in Port Lavaca. The pages covered the hotel walls.

With this plan, his visions are becoming a reality.



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