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LaGrange gets raise, extension

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / April 1, 1998

LAPLACE – Gary LaGrange, executive director for the Port of South Louisiana, celebrated Monday with some news – a raise and contract extension approved by the South Louisiana Port Commission.

At the same time, the port’s 1998-99 operating and capital budget was approved, and LaGrange said it will produce a surplus of $800-900,000, thanks to “penny-pinching” by the port staff.

With those extra funds, LaGrange said half would likely go toward a new port office building and the rest to other capital projects.

LaGrange’s $90,000 salary was increased unanimously to $106,000, the national average of comparable port directors. His contract was alsoextended to 2001.

Commission president Brandt Dufrene, of St. Charles Parish, commented:”We’re very proud of Gary LaGrange. I think we’ve found an excellent man.”Commissioner Cart Davis of St. James Parish added, “We’ve been making alot of headway with him.”Dufrene and Davis presented LaGrange with a plaque in recognition of his first year on the job.

During discussion of the port budget, an amendment was approved to take $50,000 from the Harbor Services budget, which had been earmarked for a third rescue vessel small enough to be loaded on a boat trailer. The moneyinstead is going toward asbestos abatement in the demolition of the old Godchaux-Henderson Sugar Refinery in Reserve.

Harbor Services is down to using only the “John James Charles” fireboat now, as the “Rescue Runner” is in drydock for major overhaul and repair.

In other activity, LaGrange introduced the port’s new public information officer, Patrick Dufrene, a native of Reserve and former television news reporter in west Louisiana.

LaGrange and governmental affairs director Joe Accardo have been active during the current special legislative session in Baton Rouge. LaGrangereported successful efforts to increase appropriations for Louisiana ports from the Port Priority Trust Fund.

At present, ports receive $15 million statewide and the proposal is to increase that to $25 million.

“We have more support than ever before,” LaGrange said, adding the matter is headed for the Senate Appropriations Committee and is solidly backed by Sen. Ron Landry, D-LaPlace, who introduced the measure.The port is also seeking to have established an economic development fund for Louisiana ports, with $50 million set aside for this purpose.

In this session, $300 million is being asked for by Louisiana ports, but “I’d be very surprised if $10 million will be OK’d,” LaGrange said.

In another matter, TransSystems Inc. of Virginia and River Consulting Inc.of Metairie will likely be working together in preparing the port’s master plan for development. This came on the recommendation of marineconsultant Tyler Jones of Pensacola, Fla., who said TransSystems excelsin planning and marketing, while RCI has the engineering expertise and experience working with the port.

LaGrange was approved to negotiate the contract price with the two companies, which had submitted competing bids for the project. TransSystems had bid $153,000, while RCI had bid $201,000. The final costshould be in-between, LaGrange said.

RCI was also approved as the engineer on the general cargo dock expansion, where a gantry crane will be added to the Globalplex facility in Reserve. The $6.6 million project will earn a fixed 10.8 percent for RCI asits fee, making the total cost $7.3 million.Finally, North American Shipbuilding’s foreign trade subzone, under the Port of South Louisiana’s administration, was granted an expansion to include its Port Fouchon and Houma facilities for more maintenance and repair of ships. The approval will mean an additional 200 to 400employees to its present 400 employees.

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