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Port authority moves $2 million closer to goal

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Grant will contribute to 286,000-pound rail upgrades

TELL CITY - The Perry County Port Authority and Hoosier Southern Railroad are $2 million closer to realizing upgrades to their rail infrastructure that will allow them to accommodate 286,000-pound rail cars.

News releases from Sen. Dick Lugar and Rep. Baron Hill announced Wednesday a grant in that amount had been awarded by U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

The total cost of work port-authority board members feel is necessary to adequately serve their customers is estimated at $6 million. Perry County Council members voted in January to provide their backing to $2.2 million in revenue bonds supporting the upgrades.

"I am very pleased that the Perry County Port Authority was awarded this competitive grant," Hill said in his release. "This money will modernize the Perry County railroad in order to carry heavier manufacturing loads and expand railway business."

Lugar agreed.

"This is wonderful news for Tell City and Perry County," he said. "Addressing the aging infrastructure of our roads, bridges and railways is critical to our nation's economic viability. Indiana has developed a sophisticated rail network that is central to our state's agricultural and manufacturing economy. It is important to enhance the existing railway in Perry County to provide a vital link and spur economic growth."

The Lugar release reported the grant would lead to an estimated 200 new jobs, but Dick Neumann, vice president and chief executive officer for the port-rail agency, said Thursday that was a 2007 estimate of how many positions might be added to various manufacturers through increased rail capacity, and that there will be no new jobs directly created through the grant award.

When the grant application was submitted in June 2007, he explained, it had to contain an estimate of the potential employment impact, which included possible growth of all of the Perry County industries.

Board President Alvin Evans said increased rail capacity will allow local companies to be more competitive because they could move their products more cheaply, which could lead to increased employment.

Tell City Mayor Barbara Ewing was at the port-board meeting for other business, but congratulated its members.

"I've noted since January this is a very dedicated board," she said. "Your hard work has paid off today. I commend each of you."