Gulfport City Councilman Accuses Port Leaders of Betraying CitizensBy Rhonda Miller | Published 27 Jul 2012 12:32am |
A Gulfport city councilman has accused port leaders of betraying citizens. Councilman R. Lee Flowers says they have not been truthful about the potential benefits of a $570 million port expansion project. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports
Gulfport Councilman R. Lee Flowers sent a letter to Governor Bryant yesterday recommending a change in leadership at the state port. Flowers said residents were told new mega-ships would come through the expanded Panama Canal to Gulfport and create jobs.
"We were told numerous times we were going to have 2400 more jobs, then that was recently downgraded to 1200 more jobs. We were going to do more business. We were going to have more TEUs coming in, that’s the terminology for containers that are on the ship. And we’re going to have to build a road, and all these things, and we’ve been working really hard to find out that some, or all of it , may not be realized."
Executive Director of the state port Don Allee said even when the port restoration is complete in 2017, Gulfport still won’t be able to accommodate the biggest ships from the Panama Canal – that requires a 50-foot channel.
"The $570 million restoration of the port, that’s never included the dredging portion. So our long-term goal is to have a facility that can cater to larger ships. Right now the restriction is we have 36 feet."
Allee says the goal is to get the Gulfport channel deepened to 45 feet and attract larger ships than are docking now.
But STEPS Coalition spokesman Howard Page said local residents are losing patience.
"The purpose of this project was for job creation and economic recovery. The port has always said that by getting larger ships from the Panama Canal expansion, that is where the jobs would come from. We’re concerned by the fact that with the port acknowledging that there will be no deepening of the channel, that there will not be the larger ships visiting the Port of Gulfport, that means there’s not going to be an increase in jobs."
Community groups have expressed concerns about increased truck and rail traffic, and the possible increase in air pollution, from the port expansion.
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