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Port board decides not to invest in study

By LAUREN LANGLOIS staffwriter@hammondstar.com

South Tangipahoa Parish Port Commission has voted to reject proposals for a study to determine ways to better use Port Manchac.

Commissioners voted 4-2 to reject all proposals at its meeting Tuesday. Commissioners James Nelson and Cheryl Brumfield voted against rejecting, while Commissioners Bill Joubert, Wesley Daniels, Daryl Ferrara and Ernie Drake voted for the motion, which was made by Joubert.

Speaking after the meeting, Joubert said he made the motion to reject all proposals because it seemed the study did not have enough support to move forward.

"It didn't appear to be getting any traction," he said.

Daniels said after the meeting he voted to reject the proposals because he felt the endeavor would be too costly.

In January, the commission unanimously agreed to seek proposals from firms that would study the port to determine its highest and best uses. Commissioners made the decision after hearing a legal opinion from the state attorney general's office that stated the facility on North Pass does not have to be a traditional port. The study would have been combined with input from the public about how the facility should be used.

Port Manchac is an inter-modal facility that is marketed to manufacturing and distribution clients.

The commission received two proposals. All South Consulting Engineers proposed doing the study for $75,000, and HR&A proposed doing the study for $100,000. An interview committee (composed of Ferrara, Joubert and James Nelson) recommended HR&A because the company had the right credentials and expertise.

In May, the commission voted to table the discussion to the next meeting to give more time to consider the proposals.

Ferrara said he did not make any comments on the motion during Tuesday's meeting. He said he voted to reject both proposals because of the concern over the cost of the study and not because of perceived lack of support to move forward with it.

Commissioner James Nelson said he was confused by the decision to reject the proposals, effectively killing the idea of doing a study. He said doing a study is an essential step to making the port useful to the public. He argued the facility has existed for decades as a "self-serving" entity and is not contributing economically to the parish nor the state.

Commissioners said they do not know at this time what the next step will be now that pursuing a study is off the table.