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Board cannot decide whether to continue raising state port

GULFPORT — The state port’s five-member board has set a third special meeting because members were unable to decide in two previous sessions whether the port should continue elevation of the West Pier from 10 feet to 25 feet above sea level.

Commissioner Jim Simpson told The Sun Herald port consultants indicated tenants will evacuate for hurricanes even if the port spends an extra 18 months and around $120 million to raise the pier to 25 feet.

Dole Terminal manager Tommy Thompson said the West Pier should be elevated to at least 15 feet so evacuations would not be needed for smaller storms, such as Hurricane Isaac.

Port commissioners will continue their discussion about the elevation issue today.

In a separate item, the state port is exceeding federal requirements on the number of low-income residents or businesses working to restore and expand the West Pier.

The port must meet employment requirements under the Community Development Block Grant program in exchange for $570 million the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided for construction.

In a news release received by The Sun Herald, the port has exceeded the goal that 10 percent of a contract’s value benefit businesses that meet federal guidelines.

The requirements can be met in several ways. A business engaged through one of the contracts qualifies if 51 percent is owned by a low-income or government-subsidized housing resident, or if at least 30 percent of employees meet the low-income threshold.

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