County OKs funds for crane repair

Published 11:27 am Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Supervisors declared an emergency Monday to repair an aging 15-ton overhead crane at the Port of Vicksburg as the county continues to lose money because of the malfunctioning piece of machinery.

Repairs will get the crane operational again as the county looks for ways to finance its replacement.

Under its agreement with Watco, the company that operates the port, Warren County pays $187 per day for each day the crane is out of operation in addition to losing revenue based on the amount of tonnage shipped out of the port, Warren County Port Commission director Wayne Mansfield told the board.

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“With the crane being down, it puts a significant strain on the work up there. It’s bringing about a loss of revenue for Watco and the Port Commission,” Mansfield said.

Declaring an emergency allows the county to bypass state regulations on bids, and the board is expected to receive quotes on repairing the crane at its Oct. 5 meeting. Bypassing the bidding process is expected to cut about three months off repair time, Mansfield said.

Repairs are expected to take months because the company that manufactured the crane is out of business.

Parts must be machined, County Engineer John McKee said.

“When we get these quotes available we’ll be talking to some of the vendors out there and get a time frame that we think is reasonable for them to turn it around. At that time we will come up with a time but I would think three months at the most,” McKee said.

McKee has estimated the cost of repairing the crane at about $150,000. Replacing the crane could cost about $2 million, he said.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon expressed concern over the crane breaking down again following repairs.

“Wouldn’t it be best to go ahead and try to replace it?” Selmon asked McKee.

McKee said the concern is valid, though there really isn’t another option with current funding.

“Without the certainty of money being available to replace the whole thing right now, I don’t know that we have a choice to get it up and running,” McKee said.

Board President Bill Lauderdale asked how long it would take to get a new crane in the county’s building at the port.

“I’m not sure I can answer that exactly. You’re talking about fabricating quite a bit of material and getting it and also doing some foundation enhancements to that existing facility. You’re looking at probably having it down for six months or so,” McKee said.

The crane needs to be operational in order to generate revenue to support the Port Commission’s budget, Mansfield said.

“It potentially puts a strain on the Port Commission’s budget. If we get to a point where the port commission is continuing to lose revenue we’ll have to come before you and ask for some type of ad valorem to supplement our budget. That’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Mansfield said.

Money to replace the crane could come from leftovers from a previous port project, County Administrator John Smith said.

“We have a remaining bond issue from the T-dock itself that we could use, but we have not pursued state funding for the repairs. We could check but I doubt there’ anything for repairs,” Smith.

“You’re about to be asking them for $2 million for replacement.”