PALMYRA, Mo. | The creation of a regional port authority in Northeast Missouri took another step forward last week when the Marion County Commission signed an intergovernmental cooperative agreement regarding its establishment.
According to Corey Mehaffy, executive director of the Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council, all three parties involved, the Marion County Commission, the Ralls County Commission and the Marion County Port Authority Board of Commissioners, have now executed that agreement.
“This partnership allows the port authority boundaries and jurisdiction to include both Marion and Ralls counties, which will allow the port to serve existing employers in both counties as well as those we are working to recruit to the area,” Mehaffy said.
Now that the agreement has been executed the agreement will be filed with each county, Mehaffy added. In addition, the Marion County Port Authority will make application to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (MHTC) for approval as a regional port authority.
“It is our understanding that this process can take several months,” Mehaffy said of the state's approval timeline.
Following the MHTC's approval the Marion County Port Authority will make the initial appointments of commissioners to the regional port authority board. The regional port authority board will then conduct its initial meeting.
In the coming weeks meetings will occur involving the port authority and local engineering firms to discuss planning efforts. The MHTC has notified Mehaffy that the Marion County Port Authority will receive administrative funding of approximately $29,573 during the 2020-21 fiscal year.
“We plan to use some of this funding to hire an engineering firm to help us identify potential industrial land options, needed equipment, potential public/ private partnerships, marketing options and how the port may partner with the city of Hannibal to assist on the future riverfront development,” he said. “In addition, the port will now be eligible to apply for infrastructure funding in future fiscal years. It would be our goal to be in a position to apply for project-related funding in fiscal year 2021-22.”
Mehaffy saluted those who were involved in the port authority previously.
“We are working on a number of initiatives for the port,” he said. “I am grateful to the original board of commissioners that established the Marion County Port Authority and to George (Walley, former executive director of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council) and the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council staff for keeping it in good standing for so many years. Their foresight with this asset is allowing us to pursue projects that can positively impact this region for years to come.”
The Marion County Port Authority was established in 1988.
In early March of this year the Marion County Commission approved a new board of eight commissioners to the Marion County Port Authority.
During their Feb. 24, 2020, meeting the Ralls County commissioners met with representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation's Multimodal to discuss options for a potential regional partnership. During the meeting, the Ralls County Commission authorized entering into an intergovernmental agreement with Marion County to establish a regional port authority.
The COVID-19 virus outbreak slowed the partnership process. According to Mehaffy, the port board of commissioners have been scheduled to meet on April 3, but the meeting was postponed when COVID-19 restrictions forced the closure of public meeting spaces. The board met on June 5, during which it reviewed and approved the proposed intergovernmental cooperation agreement.
On June 8 the agreement was presented to the Marion County Commission for its review and approval.
The draft agreement was then sent to the Ralls County commissioners on June 8 for their review and comment.