The city of Port Neches had a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Jan. 10, to celebrate the construction of the new Port Neches City Hall at 1005 Merriman St. In addition to continuing services previously provided by the city hall, the new facility is also designed to act as an emergency operations center.
According to Port Neches City Manager André Wimer, the old city hall was structurally damaged during Hurricane Rita in 2005 and needed replacement. The city received federal funds for the construction of a new city hall in the form of a port security grant and a hazard mitigation grant totaling close to $2.6 million. The new, elevated structure, which cost the city a total of about $4 million, can withstand winds up to 150 miles per hour. The approximately 11,500 square-foot building was constructed on city property and took about one year to complete. The city opened the building for normal business Dec. 26, 2012, two weeks prior to the grand opening ceremony.
Wimer said there are a few minor details still in progress, including the shuttering of all the windows on the facility. Other than that, the building is operational and all regular city business is handled there. Wimer pointed out that the city has been systematically shuttering windows on all city buildings, such as on the fire station and police station, over the last four to five years to improve wind resistance and energy efficiency.
Wimer said the building is designed to be effective for at least the next 75 years.
“There was a lot of planning that went into the new building,” Wimer said. “A lot of forethought was given to the long-term. It’s not easy to add on to an elevated structure. A lot of time was spent in design and layout.”
New building features include a bill payment delivery system utilizing pneumatic air tubes, like those used in the drive-through at a bank. Many rooms, like the public bathrooms and storage closets in the city hall, feature energy-efficient lighting that comes on when someone enters the room. There are a few extra offices in case of expansion. The building has several storage rooms and 400 square feet of storage space upstairs. The facility has two conference rooms, one large and one small.
The council chamber has six outlet boxes allowing Internet access, power connection, etc. for use during an emergency. One room in the hallway leading to the council chambers is designated as a backup central dispatch room for the tri-city area including Port Neches, Nederland and Groves. All emergency contact would be directed to the backup system in the event the main central dispatch was inoperative. Also in case of emergency, the staff bathrooms have showers. Wimer said if there is an emergency, Port Neches is prepared.