JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new effort to fund a regional port district in the heart of the Show-Me State is moving to the next step after gaining the support of local governments.
The Cole and Callaway County Commissions joined the Jefferson City Council in early July in supporting the effort, spearheaded by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, to move forward to find funding to help realize the project to establish a port authority on the Missouri River, saying it’s the chance to take advantage of what the river can offer.
The Jefferson City Council unanimously approved a resolution in the first week of July authorizing a partnership between the city, Cole County and Callaway County to establish the regional port district, which will be called the Heartland Port Authority of Central Missouri.
The proposed idea consists of two different plans. The first would build a port on the Missouri River in southern Jefferson City, adjacent to the Missouri National Guard’s Ike Skelton Training Facility.
The second option would build ports on that same site, as well as on a site along the Missouri River near OCCI Inc. on the Callaway County side.
Proponents of the plan say that dry bulk commodities would be handled at the south site using conveyor systems, while commodities moved by crane would be handled at the north site.
The first plan carries an expected cost of $54.77 million, while the second option carries a price tag of nearly $60 million. It’s also expected that there would be an additional $10 million cost for roadway improvements and $1 million to pay for engineering and planning services to build those roads.
The Callaway County Commission, Cole County Commission, Jefferson City Council and the chamber hired Atlanta consultancy firm Cambridge Systematics last year to conduct a feasibility study of a Missouri River port, which found that a Jefferson City port could potentially create more than 4,000 jobs, as well as generate an economic impact of between $200 million and $581 million, over a 25-year-period.
The two counties and the city are seeking about $900,000 in federal grant money, which they say they will match 20 percent if they receive it. Jefferson City and Cole County would pay $75,000 each, and Callaway County would pay $37,500, but if they do not receive the grant, each entity would pay double the amount.
Still, some local leaders have concerns. Cole County Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle voted against the measure back on July 3, saying that he supported the idea but was concerned about the money requested by the chamber for capital improvements and design work, and saying private funding could help.
With a 2-1 vote, however, the $150k requested by the Chamber was approved, most likely coming from the county’s general revenue funds.
The next step comes on July 26, when a public hearing will be held on the matter at Jefferson City’s city hall at 7 p.m., where public comments, both written or spoken, will be accepted.
After the public hearing, a grant application to help fund design work on the port project will be sent to the Missouri Department of Transpiration. A decision on whether the chamber gets the grant is expected in September.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.