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Port Arthur leaders accused of making empty promises

A Port Acres woman is reaching out to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz while asking him to help with relief for her community.

Since Tropical Storm Harvey hit the region, the woman and many of her neighbors say Port Arthur city leaders have made empty promises.

"Every time it rains, sewage backs up into my bathtub," said Heidi Bertrand-Chatham. "I'm unable to flush my commode, can't do laundry, unable to take a shower."

Bertrand-Chatham has lived in Port Acres for two and a half years. Tropical Storm Harvey heavily damaged her home, but two big rain events post Harvey caused more flooding.

She was spared while many of her neighbors were not.

"I know many people here have lost everything three times," she said. "That's ridiculous."

Residents here blame a delay in storm debris cleanup for clogging ditches.

"We have TxDOT working in the city, extra trucks working right now," said Mayor Derrick Freeman. "We're on the job, but again, every time it rains I'm like the rest of our city. I get a little nervous."

Mayor Derrick Freeman and the Port Arthur City Council voted Tuesday to enter into an agreement with Jefferson County. It would allow county crews to help with debris cleanup in Port Acres.

Bertrand-Chatham says the drainage and sewage issues in Port Acres have been a sore spot for years.

"Our infrastructure for sewage and drainage is very poor," she said. "It's old and it's outdated and I'd like to see something done."

So far, Port Acres families are disappointed with city leaders' response or their lack of response, accusing the mayor of empty promises.

"I went to the town hall meeting here in Port Acres. I was told by Mr. Freeman that we can call his cell phone number or call him at City Hall, and I've not received any response back from him."

This is what Mayor Freeman had to say when we reached out to him during a break in the city council meeting.

"Just recently in the past three weeks, the last month, I started a podcast," said Mayor Freeman. "It's called 'state of the city.' I'll be doing that twice a week, and of course, I have every social media thing that's out there. So for me being, I guess, the spokesman of the city and the city council, I try to make myself as accessible as possible and get all the information out there. If there's any information that you're not getting, please call my office at 983-8105 or email me at at Derrick.Freeman@PortArthur.Tx.com."

Chatham is now reaching out to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and vows to continue fighting for her community,

"I'm a cancer survivor, and I figured if I can battle cancer, I can sure battle the City of Port Arthur," she said. "I'm not backing down. I'm one, when I believe in something, I'm going to fight hard because I feel this is a just cause. Nobody should have to clean sewage out of their bathtub."

During last week's town hall in Port Acres, Mayor Freeman proposed the idea of a municipal development district to generate sales taxes from petrochemical companies, to help fix the city's aging infrastructure.

It was on the city council agenda for discussion Tuesday, but Mayor Freeman postponed it to a later date, citing concern from industry.

Chatham told us the city contacted her shortly after her interview with us to tell her they were going out to check on her sewage complaints.

She says they just completed fixing her drainage and sewer lines at her home.


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