By KEVIN BOWDEN
Dyersburg attorney John Lannom may have summed it up best when he repeatedly claimed “the devil is in the details,” during a 30-minute meeting Wednesday of the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority.
His statement came as he was trying to explain problems that have come up concerning funding of the Lake County Cates Landing project.
Lannom’s updates have become a focal point of recent port authority meetings, and Wednesday’s meeting in Dyersburg was no different.
The port board has secured the necessary $20 million in state and federal funding commitments for the project and officials with the project are ready to get construction of the Lake County port under way. However, Lannom reported Wednesday that the project has experienced a “hiccup” in terms of how the state is going to allocate its $7 million in funding for the project.
Originally, the $7 million in state funding was going to be channeled through the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Lannom reported that has now changed and the state’s funding will now apparently come through the state Department of Transportation.
The funding process for the port project is critical as port officials are on the verge of actually building the port. Lannom pointed out during Wednesday’s meeting there is a specific window of opportunity available to build the port.
Construction work needs to be done during the “dry season” and then there is the issue of complying with state and federal regulations, according to Lannom.
Officials with the port project expect to have the Cates Landing port open and operational in 18 months.
Lannom said the state’s move to shift the funding source to the state Department of Transportation could have “substantial ramifications” for the project.
He emphasized the funding shift didn’t mean “total gloom and doom” but would delay work on the project.
Throughout his report, Lannom repeated the “devil is in the details” remark and stressed the need to “thread the needle.”
Working to remain in compliance with state and federal guidelines on the port project continues to be a complicated issue for the port board. Members of the board, and board chairman Jimmy Williamson in particular, remain dedicated to keeping the project on track and on target for its 18-month completion date.
In addition to the problems with the state’s funding, Lannom brought up another “wrinkle” in the project during Wednesday’s meeting.
He said that since the project is governed under the federal Buy American Act, a change has been made in last month’s $2,157,900 bid from LB Foster of Lexington, Ky., for piling materials.
That bid originally included a German connector piece, but the component has been replaced by an American-made piece to comply with the federal Buy American Act.
The port board’s purchase last month of the piling materials represented the largest single expenditure to date for the project and signaled the start of the actual port construction.
Also, the bid from LB Foster will be increased by $5,000, to cover the addition of insurance coverage for the piling materials, it was announced during Wednesday’s meeting
The Cates Landing port project, once completed, will have a significant impact on the region’s economic development efforts. Through the location of new industry connected to the port and job creation, the Lake County port continues to attract the attention of economic development officials from across the state.
Among those attending Wednesday’s meeting was Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire, Lake County Mayor Macie Roberson and Phillip Pinion with the Obion County Joint Economic Development Council. Richard Arnold was in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting as one of Obion County’s two representatives on the port board.
Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the port board:
• Was informed by Lannom that he and others are trying to get the state’s new funding plan on the agenda of the state Building Commission’s August agenda. The funding agreement must be approved by that commission for the state’s funds to become accessible, according to Lannom.
• Announced it will proceed with pre-bid meetings with potential construction contractors. Bids for the construction of the port are due by Aug. 2 and the bids will be awarded on Aug. 10.
It was revealed at Wednesday’s meeting that the project is not tax-exempt, which will increase the cost for the port.
• Approved a recommendation from Williamson to use Mike Philpot with the West Tennessee Industrial Association to handle the board’s Foreign Trade Zone application. The port project’s designation as a Foreign Trade Zone is seen as critical to the project’s success.
An agreement will be drafted to use the WTIA as an “administrative agent” for the Foreign Trade Zone.
If approved, the port board would act as the Foreign Trade Zone agent for all of West Tennessee, including the TVA megasite in Haywood County.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Lannom told the port board.
• Approved a recommendation from Williamson to switch a previously approved bid from White & Associates for insurance coverage to Tigrett & Pennington. The change was made necessary due to a problem with an underwriter for White & Associates, according to Williamson.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 7.15.11