Port moves closer to property purchaseSep 30th, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: top story
Creating a port in Plaquemines Parish moved one step closer with the parish council, acting as the governing authority of the port, passing an ordinance giving Maynard “Sandy” Sanders the go-ahead to begin negotiations to purchase 550 acres of Citrus Lands property. In a separate ordinance, the council approved levying up to 3 mills of ad valorem tax to fund the purchase. The property was recently appraised at $9.5 million and Sanders was given strict instructions not to exceed the appraised value in negotiations.
“Legally, this is the maximum amount the Port can pay for this property,” said Council Attorney Ken Rathburn.
Councilman Stuart Guey of District 4 said that the Port’s current revenue stream would only allow for a $6 million bond, which is not enough for the sale. Instead, the Port’s plan is to issue revenue bonds, which will be secured by collecting three mills of ad valorem tax.
Under state laws governing Port bodies, this millage does not require a vote from the public to be approved. The Port District passed a resolution 8-1 in support of the no more than four year tax. Councilman Burghart Turner of District 6 was the opposition vote.
“Just because we can move forward without the vote of the people, doesn’t mean we should,” he said.
The Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry offered its support for this venture.
“The Port doesn’t have the revenue stream that the Parish has,” said Bob Thomas, Executive Director of PABI while addressing the Council. “That is why a millage should be implemented. PABI feels that it is imperative that the Port move forward with this—it will be beneficial to the people and the businesses in the long run. No one likes taxes, but there is huge potential here.”
If carried out, this millage would create a slight increase in property taxes for both homeowners and businesses. Annually, businesses will pay $90 for every $200,000 of assessed property value and homeowners will pay $37.50 for every $200,000 of assessed property value, after homestead exemption has been applied.
However, “the bulk of the millage payout will be coming from the big industries” like Phillips66 and Chevron, said Guey. He also stated that the Port would be able to pay off the purchase, with the three mill bond, in no more than four years.
Once a purchase agreement is signed between the Port and the seller of the property, the Council can proceed with approving the new bond and millage.
What this means for the Port
“If you want to take a port to world class status,” said Sanders, “you have to start acquiring land to expand on. I will not be happy until I can help this port reach its full potential.”
Sanders’ main expansion plan is to implement a rail system. He is currently speaking with N.O. Gulf Coast Railway, who has expressed support in extending its line South to the Citrus Lands property, if acquired. The Port is also working to rebrand itself with a new logo, and possibly a name change.
“We’re creeping up to the starting line of creating a new Port here,” said Sanders. “My method of madness is to keep on building infrastructure to make this port world class.”