In observance of its 100-year anniversary coming up April 1, 2015, the Port Arthur Rotary Club is considering a celebration project that would include the construction of a sign and flag memorial along the seawall next to Lakeshore Drive in Port Arthur to welcome international sailors into the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
A site plan shows the proposed location on Jefferson County property east of the Jefferson County Sub-courthouse between Waco and Shreveport avenues across Fourth Street from the Port Arthur Police Station. The memorial would include 26 foreign flags and a 50-foot-long, 3-foot-tall sign that reads “Seaman Of The World — Welcome to Port Arthur, Texas” on the waterway viewing side and a 35-foot-long, 3-foot-tall sign that reads “Port Arthur Rotary Club 100 Year Anniversary Flag Memorial” that could be viewed from Fourth Street. The structure holding the flags would stand 15 feet high and measure 158 feet in length.
George Newsome, senior project manager of Soutex Surveyors and Engineers and past president of the Port Arthur Rotary Club, brought the project proposal before Jefferson County Com- missioners Court on Monday, Sept. 23. For the plan to go forward, the Rotary Club would need permission from the county to build on its property, Newsome said.
“We chose 26 flags, and they are the most prevalent ships that come through our ship channel,” Newsome told commissioners.
“Is there even going to be an American flag up there?” County Judge Jeff Branick asked Newsome when presented with a rendering of the memorial, which includes flags from France, England, Italy, Greece and Denmark, but not the United States.
“If we put an American flag there, we have to have it lit at all times in the evenings,” Newsome replied. “That would be a maintenance situation. The other situation is that we are really wanting to have the salute to the foreign vessels.”
Newsome is most likely referring to Section 6a of Title 4 of United States Code, which states, “It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. How- ever, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”
“We’ll have engineering take a look at it and be back with you shortly,” Branick told Newsome.
“Port Arthur is a port city, and it’s just appropriate that we do that,” said Floyd Marceaux, chairman of the Port Arthur Rotary Club 100-year centennial. “It’s not just the ships that come to Port Arthur. These ships pass to Beaumont and come from Orange as well. This impacts the whole area,” added Russel Buss, who said he will be president of the Rotary Club in 2015.
Newsome said the project would most likely take six months to complete, if Jefferson County approves the placement, and the Rotary Club would need to raise funds to pay for it. He said he was unsure how much the project would cost. Pct. 3 Commissioner Michael Sinegal, who represents the precinct where the project would be constructed, was absent from the meeting due to an accident Monday morning at the Jefferson County Sub-courthouse in Port Arthur, where he tripped on the steps of the courthouse and fell and hit his face. Pct. 4 Commissioner “Bo” Alfred spoke on Sinegal’s behalf.
“I visited with Commissioner Sinegal … he was in the emergency room with blood all over his shirt,” Alfred told Newsome. “It looked like his nose may be broken, but what he was thinking about was what you guys (The Rotary Club) were going to present. That is a man that stands for his city and that part of the county. I know this court will look at it and the engineers will look and see what can be done.”
Alfred said that the SNWW is the gateway to the world and that the flags and signs would be a good gesture to seamen. He also said he believes there should be an American flag included. Dawn Polk, Sinegal’s administrative secretary, said that the commissioner’s nose was not broken in a phone call with The Examiner and that he “was doing well” as of Monday afternoon.
Sinegal was at home recovering from his injury, Polk added.