It was a message that was shared part in jest as Sanders acknowledged that it was a running joke in construction that "all that is left is to finish the job". The Port at Cates Landing, which has been under construction for over a year, is almost complete with the minor tasks associated with finishing the project remaining. Despite a couple of setbacks near the end, associated with low river levels throughout this winter and the collapse of the warehouse in October, the completion of the port is within reach.
Sanders explained to the board that there is a lot of work to be done in terms of completing the project from the grant side. He reported that it was important to review everything to ensure that everyone has been paid and that every necessary report has been filed in order to be able to properly close the project out. Sanders noted that punch lists have been created for each of the contractors to ensure that all minor items are being addressed and commented that they are well on their way to being completed.
Continuing discussions from the December board meeting, Williamson reported that advertisements had been placed in several waterway journals in search of a port director. The board had begun discussing the possibility of hiring a port director in its November meeting after Williamson mentioned that it would be important to have an individual at the site who could maintain regular business hours. Williamson noted in follow-up conversations during the board's December meeting that the position would initially be part time and the director would be required to live in Lake County. Williamson announced that he has asked board member Richard Arnold to chair the committee in search of a port director. Any potential candidate will be required to conduct an interview with the full board.
In other business, Williamson announced that Informa Economics, which was retained by the port authority last year to create a business plan, will have a draft of that business plan completed in the next two weeks. Ken Eriksen of Informa Economics has been working on the draft master plan as well as an operational budget for the port. Williamson also noted that board member Mack Forrester is researching insurance options for the port once the current insurance policy expires.
Prior to adjourning, Forrester asked Williamson about the rail project and where it stood. Williamson reported that port authority attorney John Lannom was drafting a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam to request that money be set aside in the state budget to begin the process of submitting an application to the Surface Transportation Board to request a rail permit. The STB would then conduct an environmental study of a route outlined in the application. Forrester asked Williamson if he believed Haslam was amenable to setting those funds aside for the port authority. Williamson responded that with the state investing nearly $30 million in the project since the beginning and with this being the only port that has land options (opportunities to expand) he believed the state would fund the request.
"There is a lot of interest in this port," said Williamson. "I think we will be successful once we get started. We just have to hang on while it is coming together."