Plaquemines Parish officials divided over rebuilt Port Eads - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Plaquemines Parish officials divided over rebuilt Port Eads

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A Plaquemines Parish councilman calls one multimillion-dollar project a waste of federal dollars. The project is complete, but now parish officials are at odds.

Port Eads had been touted as a future tourism destination. But at least one councilman calls the rebuilding a big waste of federal money.

Port Eads, which sits at the mouth of the Mississippi river in Plaquemines Parish, is only accessible by boat. Before Katrina, changing land conditions caused it to begin slowly disappearing, and then the sucker punch of the 2005 hurricane finished it off.

"It was destroyed," said Parish President Billy Nungesser. "It was literally destroyed."

Nungesser said he began fighting for federal money to rebuild it a year after Katrina. After several trips to Washington D.C., FEMA agreed to fund the project.

Today, construction is complete.

The construction company, Couvillion Group, was paid $12.5 million by FEMA to build boat slips, fishing camps and a boardwalk. But Councilman  Byron Marinovich questions why the project was ever funded in the first place.

"It's always been a semi-exclusive, private-type marina where people from out of town are not invited," Marinovich said. "And that goes for the locals, too. I've only been down there once because I'm a councilman."

Nungesser said the marina will bring in big game fishermen and be a boon to the parish's tourism industry.

"They're able to come into protective waters, get fuel, bait, ice, and go back out and fish," he said.

Marinovich doesn't believe that will happen because South Pass, the waterway used to travel to Port Eads, needs to be dredged in order for large boats to pass through it.

He says the parish doesn't have the money to do that.

"So I don't really understand how the parish is going to come out ahead," Marinovich said. "I think the best thing to do is put a ‘For Sale' sign on the place and get rid of it."

"All I ever hear is a nasty negative out of their mouths," Nungesser said. "It's a shame, because this is a great parish, and they tear everything apart instead of working to build it up."

Marinovich said the council never had a say about the construction company chosen for the project because at the time, the parish was under a state of emergency.

"Since we've been under a state of emergency since 2005, the council's had no oversight as far as contracts that are going on in the parish," Marinovich said. "The administration decides who is going to get the projects, what we're going to pay them, and who executes the contracts."

"It's embarrassing, that's all I can say," Nungesser said. "It was bid out. FEMA approves everything we do to get reimbursed. We've got a lawyer, a CPA, a consultant. But it was bid out under the FEMA guidelines, and they were the low bid. I did not pick them."

The facility is under parish management, and Nungesser said for two-and-half years he has pushed to have it run by a nonprofit board created for that purpose.

"Now, all of a sudden, we have a nonprofit that you know we are going to lose money on," Marinovich said. "We've had about $250,000 in the past month-and-a-half for things that's come before the council. That they're looking for money for $125,000 in electrical work that wasn't done in the first place."

Marinovich said after his attempts to make noise about the rebuilding of Port Eads, he received what he calls a threatening voicemail from Nungesser:

"Byron, I'm bringing you the keys to Port Eads, and y'all gonna deal with it. I'm washing my hands of it. And it's probably gonna cost some of y'all your re-election, cuz Rene Cross and everybody involved down there in Venice is some ****ed off. We're sending the wrong message when we're trying to promote Plaquemines Parish, that we can't even make that decision. You're a year behind already at trying to set something up. So I'm doing a press release and I'm ******* washing my hands of it, and y'all gonna handle that white elephant from now on. Good luck."    

"Yes, I was aggravated," Nungesser said. "I was angry, and I got people everywhere I go saying, ‘What's going on with Port Eads? Why aren't you moving forward?' They don't realize I've got to get the council approval to form this nonprofit to move it forward."

"We will not make money with it, and we know we will continue to lose money on it, so at this point I would recommend shutting it down and selling it, to be honest with you," Marinovich said. "Even at a loss."

The council did approve a few of the members on that nonprofit board that will eventually take over the management of Port Eads. Nungesser said there are already several people showing an interest in leasing boat slips at the marina.

 

 

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