Port Questions Surface At Mississippi Development Authority Meeting - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Port Questions Surface At Mississippi Development Authority Meeting

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Leaders from the Mississippi Development Authority met for some three hours Friday morning with state legislators and representatives from the congressional delegation.

The group discussing disaster recovery had a clear view of the State Port at Gulfport from their meeting room in the Great Southern Club on the top floor of the Hancock Bank building downtown.

What's not so clear is if and when the nagging question about that 600 million dollars will go away.

"And that's concerning the six hundred million dollars. That's really plaguing my community. I don't know about anybody else's," said state representative Frances Fredericks.

She had several questions about port expansion plans. Turns out, that 600 million may not be enough.

Elizabeth Fargason Stanga oversees the port project for the Mississippi Development Authority.

"With the rising cost of construction etc., I don't know that $600,000,000 will be enough. But we will use that six hundred million in a responsible manner to bring back jobs and bring back people to the port at Gulfport," said Fargason Stanga.

The planned expansion is also expected to create jobs.

"Can you tell me how many jobs have been lost at the port since the hurricane?" said Rep. Fredericks.

"I know that the ILA has been greatly affected by the hurricane and loss of jobs. And pre-Katrina direct jobs were 2058 at the Port of Gulfport," said Fargason Stanga.

She says that number had dropped to around 1300 by last year.

Then there's the still publicly unanswered question about which direction the port will expand. Port neighbors object to a westward expansion, claiming it would spoil the view.

The question of which direction the port will expand should be answered August 26th. That's when the MDA expects to receive a report on the project and a timeline for the work. But at least one lawmaker still has questions about the overall expansion project.

"I would like to know what the plan is to do with that 600 million, and how did that fit in with their insurance they were supposed to have had at the port. And if it was absolutely necessary to take that $600,000,000 and give to the port of Gulfport," said Rep. Fredericks.

MDA spokesman Lee Youngblood says the $600,000,000 dollars for the port was justified.

"That funding is certainly within the realm of the original Community Development Block Grant package," said Youngblood.

By Steve Phillips

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