Governor Barbour Promises Port Will Be Economic Engine, But Community Groups Still SkepticalBy Rhonda Miller | Published 09 Dec 2011 09:33pm |
Governor Haley Barbour says the expansion of the Port of Gulfport will prove to be a major economic engine for the entire state. At a port authority community meeting in Gulfport Friday, MPB’s Rhonda Miller found some residents with lingering concerns, despite glowing promises.
Governor Haley Barbour told the large crowd of local and state leaders that even though the port expansion will take years, the jobs will eventually show up.
"We believe in about four years, four-to-five years, the 2,000 should be up into, above the 3,000 range. This is direct and indirect jobs," Barbour said. "Some of you may know a huge percentage of the jobs at the port are truckers."
But a coalition of community groups is skeptical and estimates only about 330 jobs are likely to be added to the port’s pre-Katrina workforce.
James Crowell is president of the board of the STEPS coalition.
"The amount of money that’s been expended for this project, and the possibility of the jobs not being at the number they projected, is definitely a concern of the community," Crowell said. "It’s bad to have the people excited about new jobs coming and then come to find out they’re not really there."
Outgoing state legislator Frances Fredericks of Gulfport said she's concerned about increased truck and train traffic affecting air quality.
"The children in that area at 28th Street school, last year, and they’re in a new building now, but before they came into the new building, 28 percent of the children in this elementary school had asthma," Fredericks said.
Community residents also continue to express concerns about noise pollution and safety issues because of the increased traffic.
Port officials said they have had extensive meetings with community groups and will continue to study and address concerns.
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