Wilm. City Council members discuss port privatization
By Tom Lehman

Wilmington City Council members expressed their concerns over the proposed privatization of the Port of Wilmington during a committee meeting Thursday.

Although the city sold the Port of Wilmington to the state in 1995 and doesn't have a direct impact on privatization discussions, the council held a public hearing regarding the matter, which drew comment from union members and contractors that work at the port.

Many of those who spoke believe Kinder Morgan would cut jobs since its proposed plans would include more bulk and liquid bulk shipping, rather than fruit and vehicle shipments.

Councilwoman Maria Cabrera said she would be against a deal if it meant the loss of jobs.

"I mean we have issues here in the City of Wilmington, we can't afford to lose anymore jobs. A lot of the people who work at the port live in the City of Wilmington, they reside in that neighborhood. They contribute to the economy of the city and our well-being and we're already struggling with this," Cabrera says.

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Councilman Bob Williams says he's concerned about the environmental impact of bulk shipments becoming a major focus of the port's business.

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we get a catastrophe of any kind of a magnitude with an oil spill or any kind of gas leak into that river, it would be devastating to our shoreline and all the economic development that we have up and down the Christiana River," Williams says.

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Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz shared similar concerns in regards to Wilmington's southern neighborhoods.

"We want to see what is their plan to secure the proposed loose bulk contaminants that we know will not just contaminate Southbridge, but the City of Wilmington as well," Shabazz says.

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Council President Theo Gregory says he believes federal permits, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, would give Wilmington some leverage in privatization discussions.

Gregory also expects more public hearings to occur.

"This is the first meeting of what I would think maybe several meetings so that we're well informed as to how this is gonna play out," Gregory says.

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