Lack of funds puts port crane plans on hold

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 26, 2009

Plans for a new overhead crane at the Port of Vicksburg are essentially complete. Still missing is the money.

Estimates on a replacement for the existing 15-ton crane and erecting a structure to house it have risen to $12 million. This past week, because clearest chances for money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 seem less likely, the Warren County Port Commission put the brakes on paying for additional preparatory steps.

“It’s a serious effort for a serious project,” County Engineer John McKee said, adding cost concerns were an understandable factor in putting off the next steps.

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The crane is part of the public infrastructure at the Port of Vicksburg owned by Warren County and operated under contract by Kinder Morgan. The project has been eyed for grant funding for several years. It was put off in favor of replacing the T-dock crane support platform in 2007, a $3.4 million endeavor paid for by port improvement bonds and now the subject of a court fight involving its contract labor.

Public facilities monies from the $787 billion stimulus bill available to Warren County have evolved into a lottery system involving about 23 projects, according to Central Mississippi Planning and Development District. Additional funds in the latest updates include $212,800 from the Department of Energy to pay for new air conditioning compressors atop the Warren County Courthouse and a $150 million pot of funds from the Department of Commerce to be awarded through a competitive process.

Lobbying efforts won’t stop, executive director Wayne Mansfield said, as visits and possibly a tour of the port with U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson have been sought for most of this month.

Tonnage unloaded at the port dropped for the second consecutive month, with an even greater decrease due to structural issues with the T-dock. Crews handled 1,521 net tons of materials in March, down from 24,457 tons in February.

Deep cracks on the surface of the structure developed late last year as monthly cargo averaged more than 40,000 tons, mostly pig iron moved by heavy equipment. Commissioners agreed to have the surface topped with a dark, metallic-aggregate substance common in construction involving hardened slabs. The port’s operator, Kinder Morgan, will finance the resurfacing with an approved contractor.

In the court case, Riverside Construction claims its contract with the commission was breached during delays in the project’s completion. The company seeks a 2 1/2-month extension to its original contract, eased liquidated damages and more than $890,000 added to its $3.4 million construction contract.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at