Funding for port operations center is in the works

State Rep. Sam Jones speaks at the Port of Morgan City meeting Tuesday.
The facility could house the port, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the parish levee district.
 
By ZACHARY FITZGERALD
MORGAN CITY — Port of Morgan City officials are working with state legislators to sign an agreement that would allow the port to move forward with a project to build a $7 million government and operations training center, which could also serve an emergency command center during storms.
State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, who attended Tuesday’s port commission meeting, will attend a state bond commission meeting at the State Capitol Thursday to put the $7 million in a non-cash line of credit, he said. “It’s going to allow us to get started working up the cooperative endeavor with my intentions of being able to access to some, hopefully all of that money come July,” Jones said. 
The non-cash line of credit means the state does not have the money to put up right now, but the state will commit to get the funding, Jones said. The port can then sign a cooperative endeavor agreement with the state to fund the project, Jones said. “We are anticipating that the actual cash dollars will show up in July of next year after we complete the next session,” Jones said. 
The port has gotten some drawings of the center, but needs to hire an architect so the center can be designed and submitted to the state for approval, Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The port has $100,000 in state priority 2 funding for design work on the building. Design work could cost as much as $900,000, Wade said.
The facility could house the port, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the parish levee district, Wade said. The facility could only house government agencies not businesses, Wade said.
“It’s still in the early stages of it, but we need to go ahead and move on this thing. We’re out of space,” Wade said.
If a hurricane hit, everything would be located under one roof, and could serve as a command center during a storm, Wade said. The center would have backup generators and could also assist other parishes during storms, he said.
Once the cooperative endeavor agreement between the port and the state is signed, the port could spend some of its own money on the emergency operations center and be reimbursed by the state when the money is available, Jones said. Without a cooperative endeavor agreement, any money the port spends is not reimbursable, he said.
A site has not been selected yet for the center as port officials are looking at several options, Wade said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, officials discussed a bill authored by Jones and Allain in the most recent legislative session requesting that a study be done to determine the need for community college services in St. Mary Parish. Port Economic Development Manager Cindy Cutrera planned to attend a meeting today about the study.
Based on the last study that was done, researchers determined that there is a need for community college services in the parish, but South Central Louisiana Technical College’s Young Memorial campus needs to maintain a strong technical aspect in order to service the marine industry, Cutrera said.
Jones said he spoke with the consultants doing the study Tuesday and made it clear to them he and Allain think that though there should be college courses for the community college functions, Young Memorial needs to be dominated by its vocational-technical component.
Young Memorial is one of three vo-tech schools left in the state that is a “stand alone” school without community college status, Jones said. Adding the availability of fundamental community college courses would not change any of the structure that is in place now, Jones said.
Mark Emerson of the U.S. Coast Guard in Morgan City said, even with the Coast Guard’s lack of funding, there is no concern for any outages that would interfere with commerce in and out of the port as the Coast Guard is still responding to outages on the area’s waterways. The Coast Guard is required to keep the “outer edges of the channel marked,” Emerson said.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ officials could not attend Tuesday’s meeting due to travel restrictions relating to the federal government shutdown.
In other business, the commission
—Approved changing its November meeting to Nov. 18.
—Accepted a resolution for the commissioners to sign the Louisiana Compliance Questionnaire.
—Adopted the Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District tariff schedule.
 

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