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Legislators, group want PEER to review State Port expansion

GULFPORT — Two lawmakers and a community coalition are asking a legislative committee to release a report that analyzes spending on state port expansion.

“This is public monies, so it should be public knowledge,” Rep. Sonya Williams Barnes, D-Gulfport, said at a news conference held yesterday in Gulfport.

Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, said the report by the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee would analyze how the port is spending $600 million in federal Katrina relief dollars. In exchange for funding, the project is supposed to create 1,200 permanent, full-time jobs.

The Sun Herald reports that the report has been on PEER’s agenda for release since June. It becomes public only after a vote to release it.

“Whether the report is good or bad,” Baria said,” we need to know what it says.”

Work started in 2008 and is scheduled to be finished in 2017. Community groups want more locals hired during port construction. They also question whether the project will create as many permanent jobs as projected by the port and Mississippi Development Authority, which oversees the project.

Gulfport City Councilman Truck Casey said he sees little evidence of local jobs created during project construction.

Casey, a member of the local International Longshoremen Association, said he was on furlough from his job at the port yesterday. Casey, a mechanic for port tenant Crowley, said he now must take three unpaid furlough days per month.



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