Work continues at port as partners feel fiscal pinch

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Bernardin-Lochmueller gets River Road work

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - Perry County Port Authority officials have received a final payment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages sustained in a September wind storm and are seeking more money for costs incurred in January's icy weather.

The September storm wrought damage to the roof of a fabrication shop at the port-authority site, Perry County's hub for barge-offloading operations and home to the Hoosier Southern Railroad.

An initial claim for debris removal after the ice storm put the cost at $9,900, Dick Neumann told the port-rail agency's board of directors at a May 6 regular meeting. The vice president and chief executive officer said a second phase was to involve a rented wood chipper to clean up rights of way along the rail line at an estimated cost of $9,000. FEMA could pay 75 percent of that cost, as it did for the earlier storm-cleanup efforts.

Neumann also reported he, board President Alvin Evans and Tell City Mayor Barbara Ewing, working independently, awarded the high score to the Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates engineering firm of Evansville among three contractors bidding to perform work on River Road. A representative of the Indiana Department of Transportation was present to provide advice at that bid-examination session, he added, and the next step was to work with Bernardin and Lochmueller to develop a fee schedule.

Work was under way at the upriver side of the fabrication shop, Neumann also reported, by workers preparing the site for Tell City Boat Works to move in. Concrete was being poured and five rail cars of steel had arrived for the new marine-vessel manufacturer, prompting Neumann to note, "we're seeing some utilization of our property and some rail business; it's good seeing that blossom."

In contrast, other partners with the port-rail agency are suffering slowdowns. One barge of coal was expected in this month, Neumann said, and "we have 10 barges of pig iron on the ground. Waupaca's taken nine cars (this month); they used to do that in a day."

Another company appeared last June to have more business for the port in the transportation of magnesium oxide. The first shipment of the material, which resembles charcoal briquettes and was destined for steel mills in northern Indiana, came in July. The company is now "slowly paying off what they owe," Neumann told the board. Once its invoices are paid and its product is moved out "they will probably no longer be a customer of the Perry County Port Authority," he added.

The short rail line is now storing 38 cars for other railroads feeling the effects of the national slowdown, Neumann said.