THE R.I. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION is helping the Port of Providence gain access to a $10.5 million federal grant that will help the port make improvements, including purchasing new cranes to help with the cargo ships that use the facility.
PBN FILE PHOTO/MARY LAUZON
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
Concern over Providence’s financial condition has delayed release of a $10.5 million federal grant for long-anticipated improvements at the Port of Providence, though the funding is expected to be released soon under an arrangement with the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.
On Feb. 28, the EDC assumed control of the federal Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery grant awarded to Providence in October 2010.
Last week, William G. Brody, the general counsel for ProvPort, the nonprofit public-private partnership formed in 1994 that manages the port, met with the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration to clarify the final arrangements of the grant. He described the port’s ability to begin work under the grant as “imminent, or at least by the end of the month.”
Brody said the port is gearing up for improvements. “The $10.5 million was initially coming through the city to ProvPort. Now it will come through the state to ProvPort. The purpose of the grant is to assist us on our project of acquiring two 40-ton cranes and two barges upon which they will be placed and able to work both waterside and landside,” he said.
The new system will allow for the cranes to become mobile, a distinct operational advantage that allows the port some flexibility. They will also increase its ability to receive bulk materials and accommodate container operations. They are critical for the port, which has depended on 30-year-old cranes that have been prone to breakdowns and periodically out of commission for an extended period of time.
Providence’s precarious financial condition caused the federal government to not release the funds, according to Jim Bennett, Providence’s economic-development director.
In a Feb. 2 news conference called in response to the city’s fiscal crisis, Mayor Angel Taveras said the city would soon be bankrupt if it did not receive specific concessions and payments. That set off alarms with federal officials, who had already expressed concerns in January, according to Brody. After several discussions with state officials it was decided the most practical solution would be for EDC to hold the funds for their intended purpose.