MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 2, 2013

County commits to help port get grants

Funds sought to expand the Port of Muskogee’s railroad services

— County commissioners affirmed their commitment to the Port of Muskogee’s efforts to secure a $445,000 grant to help fund the expansion of its railroad marshaling yard.

A recent resolution expresses that commitment and binds the board of commissioners “to take all action within its power to facilitate the receipt” of community development block grant funds.

If the port officials are successful in securing the funds, commissioners would administer the grant and ensure expenditures are made in accordance with rules and regulations.

If the grant request is funded, the money would be used to expand the Port of Muskogee’s railroad services and improvements to its rail marshaling yard. Port officials estimate the project will cost  $505,000, with 75 percent to be funded by the grant or special financing. The port would be responsible for the remaining 25 percent.

Scott Robinson, Muskogee City-County Port Authority director, said the grant application was submitted Monday after commissioners inked the supporting resolution. He predicted a “pretty quick turnaround.

Grant funding, if approved, would be used to install 2,700 linear feet of railroad tracks in the port’s rail marshaling yard. The project is related to the V&M TCA expansion project, expected to add “25 new, high-quality jobs.”

V&M TCA, touted as the nation’s leading producer of seamless tubular products, is making an $11.8 million investment in its port operations. The creation of the additional jobs is a required component of the grant application process.

District 3 Commissioner Dexter Payne said community development block grants involve a highly competitive process. The grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, funneled through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and administered by local governments.

“I think it requests something like the creation of 14 new industrial jobs — they will be adding 25 jobs through this grant,” Payne said. “The port will benefit by being able to receive and store more railroad cars.”

Payne said the grants have proven beneficial for small cities and rural areas where there is a need for industrial development. But there is concern the economic development infrastructure financing could face cuts.

“In Washington, they have been trying to cut this program for a long time,” said Payne, who is a member of the National Association of Counties’ rural action caucus. “That has been one of the items we have been concerned about for some time.”

Payne said the topic was one of several discussed in November, when Payne met with his NACo colleagues in St. Landry Parish, La. The rural action caucus, a bipartisan coalition of county-elected officials, serves as a voice in Washington for rural communities.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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