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Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

Port opening delayed until March

Thursday, November 15, 2012

(Photo)
This recent aerial shot of the Port of Cates Landing shows how close the port is to completion. The port has a tentative completion date for the first week in March.
The Port at Cates Landing continues to inch closer to completion despite the challenges that Mother Nature continues to throw its way. The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority met on Wednesday morning and heard reports that low river waters and high winds, which caused the partially constructed warehouse to collapse last month, are causing minor delays in the project. The port is projecting its new completion date around the first week in March.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, John Lannom, attorney for the port authority, updated the board on several key items including the approval of the port's Foreign Trade Zone application. Mike Philpot, executive director of the West Tennessee Industrial Association, was in attendance and thanked Lannom and the board for their support in getting the application processed. Philpot said that the next step is to make presentations to some area businesses to make them aware of the benefits of having an FTZ.

As a recognized FTZ, the port authority will have the authority to license other trade zones in the area generating a revenue source for the port. Lannom told the board that he is in the process of putting together documents on what the board's responsibilities are with this new designation.

"When you're dealing with a Foreign Trade Zone, the potential for the train jumping the tracks is huge," said Lannom. "We want to build appropriate infrastructure to guard against that."

Lannom also reported that he had spoken with Rep. Bill Sanderson on Tuesday afternoon about funding for the railway extension to the port site. According to Lannom, Sanderson said he had discussed the matter with Gov. Bill Haslam, who requested that a letter be drafted with the specifics of their funding request and for what purpose. Lannom explained to the board that the initial costs for the railway extension limited to the various studies that had to be performed as well as the Safety Transportation Board application would cost around $1 million.

The board also received a project update from Michael Sanders of Forcum Lannom Contractors. Sanders says that the water levels continue to be monitored and although they received a "bump" to around 2 feet earlier in the week, that was only temporary and continues to hover around 1.2 feet on the New Madrid scale.

Sanders reported that the concrete slab for the warehouse was not damaged except where the anchors were pulled out. According to Sanders, there was bracing on the warehouse structure but it wasn't adequate enough for the winds that day. Sanders would not say if the bracing was reasonable enough, only saying, "that was a different question". Sanders told the board on Wednesday that the warehouse work should be done by the last week in January with Choctaw Construction able to finish its remaining work by the first week in March.

Sanders provided a budget update, which he stated was also sent to MARAD earlier in the week. The updated budget shows how tight the project will run the rest of the way with the contingency budget down to just under $72,000.

"It is getting real tight here down the stretch," said Sanders.

Sanders also reported that the minor delays have required that the port authority extend its builder's risk insurance as well as sending a formal request to MARAD to extend the project.

Chairman Jimmy Williamson closed out the meeting with a few comments. Williamson said the board needed to start thinking about hiring a port director that would be separate from a port operator. The port director would be required to keep normal business hours and be on site. Williamson said it would be discussed further at the next meeting.

Williamson also reported that Ken Eriksen of Informa Economics would have a draft business plan ready after the first of the year.

In other business:

* Lannom reported that they are working with MARAD on the reimbursement of the second camera installed at the port site. Sanders noted the benefits of the second camera, which captured the collapse of the warehouse.

* Williamson said he expected to receive official word from the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday afternoon on when they will return to resume dredging operations at the harbor.

* Williamson noted that the next port authority meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14 will take place at the Obion County Library.



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