PEER review of port project raises concerns

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There are more questions and concerns about the port expansion project in Gulfport.

The latest issues include a pending PEER committee report and a call to terminate a consultant's contract.

A state representative wants that PEER review of the port project to be made public.  However, a Gulfport city councilman is calling for the contract cancellation.

Meanwhile, the new port director is responding to concerns, while pushing forward with the complex project.

The port restoration and expansion project is being managed by CH2M Hill, a global consulting firm based in Colorado.

Recently, the port has been looking to cut costs with that $35 million contract.

"We want to make sure that we're thorough, that we're fair, so that we make the cuts that are necessary without getting into a situation where we make them less efficient, to where it bogs down the project," said port director Jonathan Daniels.

But some leaders say it's time to terminate that contract.

"The commissioners are doing the right thing. They're starting to analyze the contract. They realize the rates are way above market rates. I think they need to terminate the contract and we need to move on and let the local engineers take over," said Gulfport city councilman, Rusty Walker.

The new port director says ending the contract is always an option.

"But you need to take a look at where they are in the process right now. The fact that they have been pulling back on many expenses. They have been downsizing their staff as has been necessary. They've made cuts. Those cuts have not been publicized," said director Daniels.

"There were some promises that were made. Jobs were promised. That has not been met. Many jobs and we are still waiting on those jobs to come to fruition," said Rep. Sonya Williams Barnes.

The state representative is pushing to make public a PEER report which reviewed the costs of the ongoing port project.

In a letter to the PEER Committee, Rep. Williams Barnes said she was "very concerned" that the MDA and port authority could exert undue pressure to keep that report from being released.

"The public definitely wants to know what's going on and how this money is being spent. And we're not going to stop until we get some answers," said Rep. Williams Barnes.

"We're not trying to block that. But we're trying to be very up front and manage any inconsistencies that may be in the report. To make sure the public understands and the PEER understands that it's an extremely complex project with a lot of complex issues," explained port director Daniels.

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