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City of Port Aransas granted $5 million

A drone flying over the Port Aransas City Marina just after Hurricane Harvey struck in August 2017. The city will use part of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to rebuild the harbor master’s office, docks, and other amenities at the marina. Courtesy photo

A $5 million grant to the city of Port Aransas will be used to build a new public works department, volunteer fire department, and EMS complex. Coming 15 months after Hurricane Harvey hit on Aug. 25, 2017, the money from the U.S. Economic Development Administration will also help pay for improvements at the Dennis Dreyer Municipal Harbor, where new docks are currently under construction.

“The project will be a critical part of the city’s effort to rebuild its infrastructure,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in an email to the city announcing the grant. “And (help it) become more resilient to the effects of future natural disasters which lead to long-term economic stability throughout the region.”

Although heavily damaged, the Public Works Department building at 415 Ninth St., is still being used by city employees out of necessity. Now, the city can rebuild the structure plus purchase adjacent land needed for an expansion to include the fire department and EMS.

Grant terms dictate that the city of Port Aransas will have to provide matching funds of 20 percent of the grant, which is $1 million. The matching funds will come from $6.3 million in certificate of obligation bonds approved in November 2017 by the City Council specifically for harbor renovations.

Among an extensive list of improvements slated for the marina is a two-story structure for the harbor master’s office, a lounge, a multi-purpose room, and storage. Boaters will be provided with larger restrooms, showers, a locker room, and laundry facilities. As an energy-efficient facility, it will collect stormwater for irrigation and use lighting that complies with Dark Skies regulations. The old harbor master’s office will be replaced with a parking lot.

Another significant change will be the ferry wait-line that loops alongside the marina. That will become parking as well after the Texas Department of Transportation builds a new ferry traffic area off Cutoff Road.

As for the public works/fire department/EMS complex, the city is purchasing 1.83 acres of land from Nueces County Water Control and Improvement District No. 4 to accommodate the new structure. It was appraised at $1.2 million.

Other money being used for the city complex came through private donations, including the H-E-B Foundation, which gave $150,000. Nearly $300,000 total has been pledged for the project by private donors.

Newly elected congressman Michael Cloud said he was excited to see the recovery funds. Cloud was first elected in a special election set to replace a former representative who resigned in disgrace. One major complaint against the resigning congressman was that he had proven ineffective in obtaining federal money for the Port of Corpus Christi and, after Hurricane Harvey, for storm recovery. Cloud won a full term to the seat in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

“Rebuilding our infrastructure will create jobs and make us better prepared for future disasters,” Cloud said in a news release.

Also, according to the release from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the project will help create and/or retain 130 local jobs.

The project is funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, a $600 million disaster-relief package approved for damage resulting from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and for wildfires and other natural disasters in the calendar year 2017.

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