October 30, 2020

City uses portion of $1 million from state to study viability of second river port

A city along the Mississippi River hired an engineering firm last week to study how a second port facility might be constructed. The city already operated one port, but believes a new one is order.

A Georgia engineering firm has been hired by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to perform the study for a proposed multi-modal port on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg.

The board Friday approved a contract not to exceed $240,000 with Atlanta, Ga.-based Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. to perform the study, which is funded by $1 million in state funds.

It is the key item in a $55 million capital improvements program proposed by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. that would be funded by a 1-cent sales tax. About $26.5 million of the money would serve as matching funds for the port, which the mayor estimates would cost about $125 million.

The board is expected to seek a local and private, or special bill, during the 2020 session of the Legislature to hold a referendum on the 1-cent tax.

“We are excited about getting to this point and being able to develop a true market analysis to help our city make informed decisions regarding the new port development project,” said Pablo Diaz, executive director of the Vicksburg Warren Partnership. “The results of this phase of the project will help us understand what are the current and future market demands that could hopefully translate into jobs and economic development opportunities for our region.”

He said the review committee appointed by Flaggs “did an extensive and careful review of the three companies that submitted FRQs.

“The committee found Jacobs to have a tremendous amount of expertise in the development of port facilities around the world and specific expertise in understanding market conditions that will be crucial to a successful project,” Diaz said. “We look forward to the results of this phase of the project.”

“I support the decision on hiring the engineering firm to do the feasibility study,” Warren County Port Commission chairman Margaret Gilmer said. “I think anything that is important as this, I think a feasibility study is most justified.”

According to the contract, the study will be done in four phases, with the first phase involving gathering information about the area and the Mississippi River, planning, and a market analysis to determine feasibility.

Subsequent phases will involve developing a master plan and other steps leading to the possible design and construction of the port.