Port, firm closer on lease pact|[05/20/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Warren County port commissioners and Kinder Morgan officials inched closer to signing a revamped lease to manage the Port of Vicksburg despite evolving preferences and the company’s plans to upgrade its Monroe County facilities.

In March, the board of supervisors, which has final authority, gave a tentative nod to a seven-year renewal. It called for the Houston-based firm to pay a base annual rent of $235,000 with an additional 8 percent if the gross revenue of the contract operator of the terminal at the Port of Vicksburg tops $2.255 million. Currently, performance-based payments to the commission total 8 percent if gross tops $1 million and 15 percent if it tops $1.4 million.

Since then, company officials have countered with a five-year agreement with a series of five, two-year options. Also, an additional six acres of land would be leased by the port as part of terms OK’d by port officials pending a legal review.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am

Kinder Morgan attributed delays to establishing a rapport with top executives of Russia-based steelmaker Severstal. In January, the company purchased a majority stake in the SeverCorr steel plant near Columbus.

On the agendaMonday, members of the Warren County Port Commission:Heard that an application for state road improvement grant funds was sent to the Mississippi Department of Transportation last week. Up to $1.7 million would be available to resurface and widen E.W. Haining Road, Mansfield said. Grant money to pay the other half of the project’s cost was previously applied for via the Mississippi Development Authority.Approved inviting a major advertising firm to demonstrate a possible broadcast about economic conditions in Warren County. Mansfield said representatives of the firm are interested in profiling the economies in multiple locations across the United States. Initial information provided allows for a five-minute presentation to be shown 19 times regionally on major cable news networks.Awarded a $787 per-mow contract to Al Sellers for grass cutting duties at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex. Terms also call for Sellers to be paid $32.50 an hour.Tom Murphree, regional sales manager for the company’s Lower River Region, told commissioners the change affected lease talks because of commissioners’ desire to have the plant look to the Port of Vicksburg as a major transfer point.

“They’re holding our feet to the fire on everything,” Murphree said. “They’re good business people, but tough.”

Kinder Morgan has announced a $12.8 million expansion to its terminal along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in north Monroe County for the steelmaker to ship raw components to Columbus, about 40 miles south. Plans include a new 12,000 square-foot building and two, 400-ton silos, according to published reports.

Late Monday, Kinder Morgan spokesman Tom Hollier said the decision to upgrade the 24-acre facility in Amory was based on its location.

Wayne Mansfield, executive director for the port commission here, has said the capacity of the Mississippi River and comparable access to rail and truck traffic will keep Vicksburg in the mix to become part of the steel plant’s supply network.

“You can ship a lot more things on the Mississippi than you can the Tenn-Tom,” Mansfield said after commissioners met.

As for tonnage unloaded at the port in April, Kinder Morgan reported more steel and other materials than in March, when the T-dock crane support structure was used for the first time in three months following major phases of a $3.4 million replacement.

Reports showed 10,546.7 tons handled for the month. Most was cottonseed, mill scale and soybeans.

Members of the port commission are appointed by supervisors to manage the county’s industrial properties, which include the Ceres area at Flowers.