November 16, 2013 10:22:16 PM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
The Lowndes County Port Authority board met Wednesday, holding most of its discussion about a potential land lease to KiOR behind closed doors because terms have not been finalized.
Director John Hardy said the port authority has been in frequent correspondence with the renewable fuels manufacturer through Golden Triangle Development Link CEO Joe Max Higgins on acquiring land to build a second biorefinery. The Dispatch reported last month the Texas-based company had secured the funding it needed to move forward with the plan.
Hardy said after the meeting that the parties were close to an agreement.
"We're getting close to a memo of understanding of how much land they want, what the configuration is and how we'll structure it so the port gets some compensation for providing the land," Hardy said. "It's our understanding that they've gone a good ways toward getting the money to do this second phase but they've got a ways to go to build what they want to build out there."
KiOR's existing operation on the east bank port on the Island is on nearly 30 acres of land. The tentative plan is to lease a portion of land initially set aside for an unnamed company under the code name "Project Pacific." Hardy said the company provided the port authority money for a year and a half for a lease to build a wood products facility on the site, and the two parties are mutually terminating the lease because the company decided not to build the plant. That 30-acre site will be transferred back to the port authority, about half of which would be leased by KiOR to construct the second plant if the agreement is formalized, Hardy said.
With the agreement, there would only be about 20 acres remaining near that port that could be utilized.
"That's why we want to get some revenue from KiOR so we can reinvest in some land if we can find some that's suitable (for a third port)," Hardy said.
Port Access Road transfer in progress
Hardy told board members that before the port authority could not begin work to increase the radius of a curve on Port Access Road until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers formally transfers the easement over to the city of Columbus. The Corps has agreed to do so, he said, but the action must be official before work can begin.
Councilmen approved a $335,000 Mississippi Department of Transportation grant to fund smoothing the turn that has been a long-standing safety issue with traffic for Baldor and KiOR employees, Hardy said.
"Way back when the (Tennessee-Tombigbee) Waterway was built, the property was never transferred from the U.S. government to the city, so the work we want to do in straightening that curve, we cannot do until that land is transferred," he said. "The Corps has agreed to transfer it and we sent a formal request to transfer it back in July...We need to sit down with them and see if there's anything we can do to push this along because the grant we have from MDOT is good until July 2015. We have plenty of time but we don't need to get caught up in red tape right now. We need to keep the thing moving."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.