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State Port Director Resigns, Expansion Plans Reconsidered

By Rhonda Miller | Published 19 Oct 2012 06:03pm | comments
Photo credit: Mississippi State Port Authority

The executive director of the Mississippi state port has resigned and port leaders are meeting this morning to consider major changes to the expansion plan. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the controversial project could be scaled down a notch or two.

Actually, the project could be scaled down from a 25-foot elevation of the West Pier to keeping it at the current 10-foot elevation. That’s the main issue Port Commission President Lenny Sawyer says will be considered at the meeting in Gulfport this morning. He says it’s about moving forward more quickly.

"Well, in my mind, I’m just speaking for myself, it’s jobs and containers. We need the jobs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as quick as we can get them. And the containers bring jobs."

The STEPS Coalition is one community group critical of the slow arrival of jobs promised  from the $570 million federally-funded project. STEPS spokesman Howard Page says the group is glad to see port leaders considering the lower elevation, but concerns about issues like air pollution and increased traffic haven’t gone away.

"Any change down at the port does affect other things, and so this doesn’t necessarily solve the whole concern down at the port. But this is a good step in the right direction."

Former Governor Haley Barbour championed the port expansion as one of the most important economic development projects ever for the state. Shortly before he left office, Barbour said elevating to 25 feet is crucial.

"Why? Because we don’t want a hurricane to come through here and take all those containers and wash ‘em into West Gulfport again like it did with Katrina.  Where it’s running over houses and knocking down churches and sitting on tops of cars.  I don’t know how many bounced off the Mississippi Power building. "

Gulfport City Councilman R. Lee Flowers says there are better ways to spend the money.

"When we had Hurricane Isaac, we proved at the port all those containers and all that equipment could be moved out. Yes, it takes some down time. But it’s the same down time any other port or business has to face when they live along the waterfront, if a storm’s coming their way."

Port Executive Director Don Allee resigned Friday, after 11 years on the job. His resignation is effective November 2.

Rhonda Miller.MPB News. Biloxi.



Photo credit: Mississippi State Port Authority



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