Adams County Port busy with new work

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2000

Pat Murphy sounds pretty excited these days when he talks about what’s happening at the Adams County Port. Two substantial grants for improvements and the onset of the agricultural season have him optimistic about the future of the county’s only port.

&uot;Things have picked up,&uot; said Murphy, who is the port’s director. &uot;We have both cranes working; we’ve got barges waiting and barges on the way.&uot;

The busyness makes for a different atmosphere than a few months ago, when a decrease in paper products being loaded and unloaded at the port had Murphy worried.

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&uot;We’ve gone through some very hard months,&uot; Murphy said.

&uot;The largest problem we had was the shortfall in paper products,&uot; he said.

The possible sale of International Paper’s Natchez mill, which went on the block last month, had county officials even more worried about the port.

&uot;There’s still so much uncertainty out there because of IP,&uot; said board of supervisors President Virginia Salmon.

But Salmon said she looks forward to working with whoever might buy the paper mill — and hopes that company will use the port as well. &uot;I really am optimistic about the port,&uot; she said.

When supervisors studied the budget earlier this month in a series of lengthy planning sessions, they considered raising the amount of millage assigned to the port in order to pay some of the debt associated with past improvements.

But the county instead decided to use money the port already had in the bank to pay some of the debt.

That money had been designated as matching funds for two grants through the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The county will instead borrow the money for the matching funds later, Salmon said.

Work on the grant projects won’t begin for another few months, Murphy said. &uot;It’s ideal to help the county pay the bond indebtedness until (the money) needs to go toward the grants,&uot; Murphy said.

The two grants, which total more than $700,000 in federal funds administered by MDOT, will be used for two improvement projects. The first grant, for $280,000, will help pay to pave the access road into the new bulk loading facility at the port.

The second grant, for $497,000, will help widen and asphalt the levee road.

&uot;This is something that’s been needed for a long time,&uot; Murphy said.

And while Murphy is waiting for the grant projects to begin, he’s working to attract more customers to the port.

Customers who load and unload at the facility don’t just happen upon the port — Murphy has to recruit them to use it.

&uot;What people don’t realize is that the maximum load on a river barge is 1,600 tons,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s 55 truckloads. You don’t find many people that can produce that much raw material at one time.&uot;

Murphy is preparing for a site visit from a potential new customer he could not name yet.

He did say that customer is interested in the port’s liquid loading capability.