Governor proposes spending $721,558 for improvements at SEMO Port

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority could receive a major boost to its capital improvement plans if lawmakers approve a budget request from Gov. Matt Blunt.

At the annual Governor's Conference on Agriculture, Blunt proposed spending $4 million at five state port authorities, including $721,558 for the SEMO Port.

The port last received state money for capital projects in 2005, said Dan Overbey, port authority executive director.

While Blunt's proposal indicates the money would be used for dock improvements and dike construction, Overbey said the authority has already done some of that work with its own funds. The port would rather receive money designated for improvements to the rail line serving the facility, he said.

That use would dovetail with $735,000 in earmarked funds secured by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond in the most recent federal budget, Overbey said. That money requires a local match, and the state funding also requires matching money from a source that is not state funds.

"It will work out real nice if we can line those two up the right way," Overbey said. "Then we can do other projects of our own on our list."

Overbey knows the process of securing a state appropriation is arduous. A bill providing money for ports died last year when lawmakers ran out of time to approve state spending proposals.

"It is wonderful to have the governor give you a push, but I don't know if the money will come out," he said.

Recent improvements at the port include a corn mill that is increasing its production and a lead concentrate warehouse for the Doe Run Mining Co. that will be completed within a few months, Overbey said.

According to a news release from Blunt's office, the construction would upgrade the port's infrastructure to serve the needs of existing industries and meet the demands for increased rail traffic.

Blunt is also proposing to spend $650,000 at the New Madrid County Port Authority to extend a rail spur to the dock to ease barge-to-rail transfers and to extend the rail spur to the north side of the harbor.

Other projects on the list include $2.3 million for harbor construction, a conveyor system and material handling improvements at the New Bourbon Regional Port Authority near Ste. Genevieve, Mo., $225,000 for dock improvements at the St. Louis Port Authority and $78,422 for the St. Joseph Regional Port Authority on the Missouri River.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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