Port dedicates center, begins cargo project
Port of Orange board president Lester Winfree had only one word to describe it: “Fantastic.”
He was referring to Monday’s dedication of the Port of Orange’s new security center, which the port board named after him.
Winfree has served on the board since 1980, said port board vice president Jimmy Smith.
Winfree was accompanied by family members Leslie, Will and Elizabeth.
“Buckshot,” as he is sometimes called, was presented a large framed photograph of the port’s Alabama Street terminal entrance. Winfree received a standing ovation.
Also Monday port officials broke ground for the Containerized Cargo Yard Project, which when complete will help improve port infrastructure. Barges can be loaded to heavier standards and save clients money compared to the current system. The project is funded by a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Winfree wasn’t the only one with few words, as Monday’s early morning rain brought high winds coasting over the port’s waterways. Baseball-style caps helped comfort well-wishers, however, the hat supply of 200 ran out quickly.
“It’s too windy for notes and I’m too cold to talk long,” U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady joked. “Congratulations to everyone for their perseverance on getting it done (the center) and for naming it after such a wonderful leader.”
Barge transports will also mean less traffic on Interstate 10, Brady said.
“This is good for the future of Orange County, good for jobs and good for transportation,” he said.
Wade Herpin of the EDA, senior project engineer for the cargo project, said some government officials were skeptical of giving the EDA money for Gulf Coast relief after hurricanes such as Ike, Rita and Katrina.
“The feeling was that we couldn’t handle it,” he said. “[We’ve shown that] we can handle it, we will handle it and we’re bringing jobs to this area.”
Port Director Gene Bouillion said the cargo project would take about 18 months to finish, and only then would officials know how many jobs can be added. He said local plants have shown much interest in the project.
“It will help to keep them competitive – and in Orange,” he said.
The port generates most of its own revenue, Bouillion, said.
Roughly, that’s about $4 million with only some $325,000 from a tax base, he said.
The security center was funded through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to have a permanent centralized location of main security area, to provide controlled access to the port and upgrade the existing facilities; based on standards of the TWIC (Transworker Identification Credential) System.