Legislators Hope Compromise Can Be Worked Out on Price Tag of Port Expansion - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 9/24/07

Legislators Hope Compromise Can Be Worked Out on Price Tag of Port Expansion

by Jon Kalahar

jkalahar@wlbt.net

 

What's the best way to spend 600 million dollars? That was the debate as the joint legislative budget committee hears requests from state agencies.

Three weeks after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast the Port of Gulfport was back to work. The third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico, it's how state businesses get many of their materials. Port administrators as well as the Mississippi Development Authority would also like to expand the currently operation. It would bring in five thousand new jobs, but has a pretty hefty price tag, 600 million dollars.

"We intend to grow that port for it's maritime use not only for the jobs on the coast, but to support the rest of the businesses around the state," said Gray Swoope, Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

But the catch is the money is coming from a five point five billion dollar community development block grant for the state in it's effort to recover from Katrina. The Mississippi Development Authority says the money is in place to fund housing on the coast and the port expansion.

"There is funding for those people who are eligible who have currently applied and who can still apply for a homeowners grant program," said Donna Sanford, Mississippi Development Authority.

And for committee members, it's not like they don't wont to fund the Port of Gulfport expansion. It's just that right now in the coast more housing is needed.

Representative Diane Peranich's district covers the port and areas still needing help rebuilding. She hopes both can be accomplished.

"The Port of Gulfport had 600 million on it's wish list as the absolute top, so we don't always get what we want but we certainly would like some, but perhaps we could work it out if they give us more time," said Peranich.

Still, committee members want to put the needs of residents first.

"We would hope that the Congress as well as the state legislature would address the port's needs, but not let them be competitive with the needs of homeowners," said Representative Billy McCoy, Ms Speaker of the House.

Representative Peranich also asked for an extension of time the public could comment on the expansion of the port.  She feels few citizens knew 600 million dollars was going to that project. According to the Mississippi Development Authority, one thousand residents contacted the agency concerning the expansion. Public comment expired at five p-m.

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