Harrison Co. Supervisors Not Ready To Endorse Port Plans

Harrison county supervisors told the Port of Gulfport on Monday they aren't ready to give their blessing to the port's expansion plans. The board tabled a resolution endorsing an expansion to around 38th Avenue.

Port officials say while they don't need county supervisors' approval to move forward with the project, that endorsement would be nice to include in the permit application. However, supervisors said they want to make sure there isn't another solution.

District 3's Marlin Ladner asked, "Is this resolution that your asking us to approve include the filing in westward?"

Port officials say the best way to go is west, because expanding east wouldn't work well for shipping containers and would block the small craft harbor. They say heading south would mean building an expensive, inferior facility.

"Westerly is more efficient in a number of areas," said Port Executive Director Don Allee. " Not only in the cost standpoint but also from the terminal layout standpoint. When I say terminal layout what is attractive to the individual that actually operates that ship and has to handle that cargo."

While supervisors say they support port growth, they don't want the Island View Resort and other area businesses to suffer.

District 2's newly-elected supervisor Kim Savant said, "I'm asking you, as a state port authority, to attempt to work something out. If it cannot be worked out and you've made every effort, then I'm probably going to be okay with what you're trying to do."

"I don't think it's established yet from our studies that there is a negative economic impact," said Port Commission Vice-President John Rester. "Some people might have that opinion, but I don't personally agree with that."

Port officials say they announced plans to expand to the west back in the late 1990s so they don't understand how anyone could be surprised now that they're moving forward. Director Don Allee says he isn't ruling out a compromise with expansion opponents.

"We want to compliment everybody's plans for the future, plans for growth," said Allee. "You have to work together and we plan to do that."

Supervisor Connie Rockco expressed safety concerns about the expansion since after Katrina containers filled with chicken and port bellies destroyed homes in West Gulfport. Port leaders say they plan to secure land to the north where containers could be stored in case of a hurricane.