Port discussions become heated over funding, bids

Port discussions become heated over funding, bids
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Questions, and even some controversy, have emerged over the way some decisions are being handled by the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority.
The port board met Wednesday morning in Dyersburg to go over updates on the progress of the Cates Landing port project in Lake County.
It was during that 45-minute meeting that Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire and Lake County Mayor Macie Roberson questioned the board about two specific issues.
The port board has a funding agreement with Obion, Lake and Dyer counties which commits $2.2 million to help finance the Cates Landing project. Lake County has committed $1.1 million to the port project, while Obion and Dyer counties have each committed $550,000.
It is the funding from Obion and Lake counties and whether it will be repaid that is apparently at the heart of the controversy.
McGuire and Roberson questioned the board and Dyersburg attorney John Lannom, who represents the port board, about the funding and whether there is a formal agreement in place that addresses whether the money will be repaid to the two counties.
The heated discussion between Roberson, Lannom and port authority chairman Jimmy Williamson settled down when it was agreed the port authority would work out the issue.
Lannom diplomatically said he was “confident” he and the board would be able to work out a way to “memorialize this obligation.”
“There’s a way to work it out,” Lannom assured Roberson. “I think we can get there.”
No sooner had that issue died down at the meeting than McGuire then questioned the method used by the board to bid a $2.3 million dirt work contract. McGuire questioned Williamson over why the board bid the project with a series of alternates.
There were three bids submitted for “Bid Package 400,” which was defined as site grading for the port project. Delta Contracting Company, Harold Coffey Construction Co. and Ford Construction Co. all submitted bids for the project and the port board followed the recommendation from Forcum Lannom Contractors of Dyersburg to accept the low bid of $2,318,160 from Delta Contracting Co.
The site grading bids reportedly came in less than was initially budgeted for the site work.
Williamson stated during Wednesday’s meeting that Delta Contracting Co. (of Humboldt) is a subsidiary of Dement Construction Co. (of Jackson).
The debate grew heated between McGuire, Williamson and senior project executive Michael Sanders with Forcum Lannom as all three argued over how the project was bid.
McGuire stood his ground as he questioned whether the bid process was properly handled.
Likewise, Williamson and Sanders stood their ground and Williamson ended the debate by saying the two sides simply had a difference of opinion over the issue.
The controversy spilled out into the hallway of the Lannom Center in Dyersburg, both before and after Wednesday’s meeting.
In other action during Wednesday’s meeting, the port board:
• Was informed by Lannom that the port construction “is behind schedule” despite stable river conditions.
Choctaw Transportation Co. is handling the construction work for the port site and Jamey Sanders, vice president of the company, assured the board every effort is being made to keep the project on schedule.
“Everything is going good,” he said. “We’re looking forward to finishing it ahead of schedule, if possible.”
Sanders said the delivery of some of the materials being used to build the port took longer than expected to arrive at the port site. He said 80-foot sheets are being lifted and put into place at the port.
• Was informed by Mike Philpot of the West Tennessee Industrial Association that the process of getting the project approved as a Free Trade Zone is moving forward. Philpot said he would be traveling to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with federal officials to update them on the port project.
• Approved a 2010-11 audit report submitted by Joe M. Enoch & Associates of Dyersburg. The 19-page audit detailed the port project’s financial activities for this past fiscal year.
It was announced at Wednesday’s meeting that the port authority’s December meeting will be held in Lake County and the January 2012 meeting will be held in Obion County.
Published in The Messenger 11.10.11

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