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Milwaukee mayor holds line on port construction

By: admin//October 13, 2011//

Milwaukee mayor holds line on port construction

By: admin//October 13, 2011//

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By James Briggs

A truck drives on South Carferry Drive in the Port of Milwaukee recently. Officials with the Port of Milwaukee say its buildings and roads are in need of repair, but there's no additional money for construction in the proposed 2012 budget. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Shipping has increased this year by 290 percent at the Port of Milwaukee based on the strength of commodities such as salt and coal, said Eric Reinelt, the port’s director.

Reinelt expects the trend to continue, he said, as new businesses seek to move into the port.

“The reception from the shipping community, importers and exporters around the Milwaukee area, has been quite astounding,” Reinelt said. “I think we will have a lot of applications for new zones, expansions of current zones.”

The booming business, though, won’t necessarily result in greater construction spending.

The port is set to break ground on construction of a wind turbine, which will cost more than $500,000 and be paid for by state and federal grants. The port also is completing remediation of an oil spill that happened 20 years ago.

Otherwise, though, Mayor Tom Barrett’s proposed 2012 budget includes the same construction spending levels as the 2011 budget.

Barrett’s proposed budget allocates $100,000 for terminal and pier maintenance; $100,000 for environmental cleanup; $100,000 for dock wall and breakwater rehabilitation; $50,000 for dredging; and $30,000 for sewer upgrades. Some money also will be available from previous years.

Larry Sullivan, the port’s chief engineer, said in September he would give the Port of Milwaukee, which includes 330,000 square feet of covered warehouse space, a C grade for quality. The terminals, he said, are in good shape, but the roads leading to the port are crumbling.

“Our roads are getting to the point where sometimes customers will say, ‘Well, I’m really concerned about driving my trucks down there because they could break an axle or something,'” Sullivan said at the time.

Although the proposed 2012 budget isn’t giving money directly to the port to improve roads, Sullivan said Thursday the port would benefit from Department of Public Works construction projects on Carferry and Harbor drives.

The Harbor Drive project, with an estimated cost of cost is $650,000, is expected to be completed by November. The cost of the Carferry Drive project is undetermined, but it is expected to be completed in 2012.

“We are fortunate enough to be working with the Department of Public Works in getting roads paved,” Sullivan said. “The contracts have been let for paving, and we’re moving forward as fast as we can.”

The port, though, is focused on soliciting new business, Sullivan and Reinelt said. Businesses at the port employ more than 300 people, Reinelt said.

The proposed 2012 budget, which includes $4.9 million in spending on the port, would create a new position for a trade development representative to market the port.

Because of the port’s business success, city budget director Mark Nicolini said, it generates enough money to pay for its expenses.

“As long as current trends maintain,” he said, “their operating budget is completely offset by revenues received by port operations and real estate.”

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