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Port taking shape as opening nears

Port taking shape as opening nears
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
A master plan and a port operator are the only remaining unresolved issues left to take care of before the Port at Cates Landing’s expected opening in March.
Both issues are being worked on by the Memphis consulting firm informa economics (see related story, Page 1).
The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority met briefly in Dyersburg Wednesday morning to review the final stages of work going on at the port site.
Absent from the meeting was Dyersburg attorney John Lannom, who has been serving as the port authority’s legal counsel, and Ken Eriksen, senior vice president of informa economics.
However, Michael Sanders with Forcum Lannom Contractors of Dyersburg was on hand to provide the port authority with a detailed report about the final phases of construction at the port site.
“It looks finished now,” Sanders said about the new port office.
“Things are starting to button up out there,” he added as part of his report to the board. “We’ve been kind of battling the weather the past couple of weeks.”
He explained work has been slowed by recent frost and rains, but progress is being made on finishing up the port facility.
Sanders used a slide show to illustrate work going on at the port site, which includes warehouse construction, the installation of massive light fixtures and work on the Mississippi River dock.
As for the water level on the Mississippi River, Sanders said, “It’s been way up compared to what it has been. Right now, it’s on a fast decline.”
“You can see a lot of things are finishing. … wrapping up,” Sanders said as he worked his way through a series of images from the port site.
Basically, he conveyed the message that crews are tying up loose ends as they complete their work on various aspects of the riverport project.
One group of engineers was scheduled to do a site inspection of the port Wednesday and a second team of engineers was scheduled to perform an inspection today. Among those expected to be a part of the inspection team at the port site today was William Paape, gateway director for inland waterways for the U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“All we lack is finishing,” Sanders said. His comment on the obvious drew a round of laughter from those at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Richard Arnold of Union City is serving as chairman of an ad-hoc committee charged with reviewing applications for an interim, part-time general manager.
Williamson announced the port authority has advertised for the position in the trade publication Waterways Journal, but said, “We have not received any resumés at this point.”
“There are still a lot of details to work out,” he said.
With a note of optimism, Williamson went on to comment, “There’s a lot of interest in the port. I think we will be successful when we get up and started.”
Williamson said a couple of potential port operators have visited the riverport, which is located just north of Tiptonville, and he said a “pretty large prospect” has also visited the port site within the past two weeks.
There is also the issue of securing funding for a planned rail line to the port site. Williamson said the process will likely take 12 to 18 months and he is hopeful state funding will be included in the governor’s budget this year.
A relatively small crowd attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Among those at the meeting was Obion County Mayor Bennie McGuire and the West Tennessee Industrial Association’s Mike Philpot, who is helping to market the riverport and its affiliated Foreign Trade Zone.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 1.10.13

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