Jackson Co. shipbuilding school scaled back due to budget woes

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Patrice Clark – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A future multi-million dollar school aimed at educating shipbuilders in South Mississippi is going to be scaled back now  because of budget woes. That's according to the designers of Northrop Grumman's future Maritime Trades Academy in Pascagoula.

They said unexpected construction roadblocks as well as design requests are running up the bill. And Jackson County supervisors refuse to spend taxpayer dollars to help build the school.

Supervisor Tommy Brodnax said he wasn't that impressed with drawings of the proposed two story Maritime Trade Academy.

"It is real nice design that should go into the business district of Atlanta, Georgia and not the environment of the shipyard," Brodnax said.

A $20 million state block grant is paying for the apprenticeship school, which will be located on Jerry St. Pe' Highway, and run by Northrop Grumman. The LPA group is the design team. Design Manager Richard Shulby said one major hurdle they've run into is the recent $2 million increase in soil and site requirements to build.

"What that did was left us to deal with something that was unexpected at the time," Shulby said.

So, changes were made to cut costs.

"A reduction of office spaces for tenants that are not there and not going to be there, and a reduction in change over spaces."

But LPA said Northrop Grumman still wants to add a multi-purpose area for crane training that has not been budgeted.

"What we want to would do is ask the board to approach MDA and look at reallocating some of the budget that is available," LPA's Chris Lunsford said.

Supervisors said if the state says okay to the new funding request, it will be no problem. But they said the county is not going to put any extra cash toward this project.

"We took a stance very early on, we would be their facilitator of the project," Supervisor Manly Barton said. "But at end of the day, the board as a whole really felt that it would be unfair for the taxpayers of the county if we took on a major role, a financial role."

Recently, Northrop Grumman announced it's considering selling its shipyard division.  Barton said he doesn't expect that move to jeopardize the school. The Jackson County Port Authority will own the building and Northrop Grumman will lease it once it is up and running.

Barton said he's confident the money issues will be ironed out so the shipbuilding training school can open by 2012.

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