Port board grapples with dredging contract

The Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District is down to its last option as the board discussed what to do with the new funding for the Atchafalaya dredging project Monday during its monthly meeting.
An email from U.S. Corps of Engineers representative Tim Connell said Brice Civil Constructors expressed interest in the special purpose dredge for the Atchafalaya River bar channel. Connell said in his email that the contracting officer with Brice is setting up an initial proposal meeting to present to the Corps at the end of September or early October.
Some board members were skeptical.
“I have a serious question about if the company, Brice, can perform the way they say they can perform,” said board member Lee Dragna.
Dragna said he is skeptical of Brice being able to complete the job after consulting with Ancil Taylor, vice president of Bean Consulting LLC.
Taylor said the placement of the dredge pump at water level versus the top of the deck barge, which Brice is proposing, would be inefficient.
“It concerns me that the Corps wants to sign a five-year deal with a company from Alaska that’s never dredged anything,” said Commissioner Ben Adams in agreeance with the skepticism.
Commissioner Lee Cain also wondered if a standard for the dredging will be in the final contract.
“The (Atchafalaya) bar channel has to be dredged down to 18 to 20 feet and maintained,” said Cain. “That’s the end goal in this contract. The standards need to be defined.”
“We have to be at the table when the decision is made,” said Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade.
The board decided to put the specifications for the dredge pump back up for bid with direct solicitation to specific companies that can design the custom dredge pump just in case Brice cannot prove that it can get the job done.
Industry local Michael Patterson, business owner of Central Boat Rentals, voiced his frustration to the board saying that solutions need to come soon.
“There has got to be a sense of urgency. I see the team offering a lot of what you can’t do and not what we can do,” said Patterson. “We all see the trend. If we don’t figure something out, we are not going to be around making a living in this community.”
Dragna mentioned to the rest of the board that the board should seriously consider consolidation of the two ports in the parish so that the port will become self-sufficient. If the port would have to consolidate, a 10-mill property tax would have to be implemented across the parish.
St. Mary Parish president David Hanagriff said he does not oppose the idea of consolidating the ports and that St. Mary Parish has to influence new businesses to the area by taking advantage and diversifying the resources that the parish has to offer.
“Now is the time we need to take charge of our own destiny. … It may be something we have to move forward with,” said Hanagriff.
In other council news, Mike Knobloch, consult-ant for Knobloch Professional Services, informed the board that the port did not receive the Port Security Grant for fiscal year 2017. Funds from the three-year grant was going to be used for the maintenance of MET stations, cameras, Blue Force tracking, cyber security programs, equipment updates and more.
Knobloch did assure that the port has enough funding from previous grants to support the current projects. He said he will work with the American Association of Port Authorities to send a letter to Congress to get more grant funding. The port has been approved for the grant almost every year since 2009.

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