GULFPORT — U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is questioning the ongoing delays for construction of a permanent Jobs Corps Center in Gulfport, a project that may not be completed for several more years.
Cochran raised the construction schedule for the Gulfport project at a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to review the FY2012 budget request for the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Gulfport Jobs Corps Center was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It currently utilizes mostly temporary facilities to serve about half of its 300-student, pre-Katrina capacity. A permanent, new dormitory is expected to open this summer, according to the Department of Labor.
“I am concerned about the delays in reconstructing this center. There was a delay in getting the temporary center in place and a permanent facility was supposed to be open next year. Now we’re hearing that it could be 2013 or 2014 before that happens,” Cochran said. “The three Job Corps centers in Mississippi, and programs like YouthBuild, give Mississippians opportunities to continue their education and gain useful vocational training.”
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis acknowledged that it could take another two to three years to complete a permanent center at Gulfport, and added that progress on the center remains a focus for her Department.
Design for the permanent Gulfport facility has been completed. The Labor Department is expected to open requests for bids on the project May 12 and award a contract in late June. It does not expect to issue a “notice to proceed” until July 13 to begin phase one of the two-phase construction project.
The administration’s FY2012 budget request recommends $1.69 billion for the national Job Corps program, a decrease from the $1.7 billion included in the FY2011 continuing resolution approved by Congress last month.
At the May 4 hearing, Cochran also questioned Solis about the future of programs like YouthBuild, on-the-job training offered through the Workforce Investment Act and the Disability Employment Initiative. There are currently YouthBuild programs in Arcola, Biloxi, Greenville, Gulfport, Jackson and Natchez.
Source: Cochran’s Office