Melissa Schroeder Reports: Heated Debate Over Naval Station Ingleside

For immediate release: Mar 9, 2010

CORPUS CHRISTI — Port of Corpus Christi commissioners had a heated debate today on plans to develop the Naval Station Ingleside property.

The Port is scheduled to take over control of the property on May 1st of this year.

The Port started paying Texas A&M last April to help search for possible tenants.

During today’s meeting, Texas A&M representatives told commissioners there are six interested parties.

Commissioners voted to talk to all the possible tenants and, they’ll continue their negotiations with a ship building company called APEX.

But, there were some tense words between commissioners before they reached that decision.

Commissioner Ken Berry didn’t back down Tuesday.

He wanted everyone to know some commissioners are taking way too much time moving forward on negotiations with APEX, a company he says is committed to go the distance.

He said, “It was here a month ago and we chose to let staff run with it at this very meeting a month ago, and here we sit today with no feedback on APEX. It’s a hard deal, it’s not a future deal it’s not a maybe deal.”

Chairman Mike Carrell doesn’t want to rush things.

His fear is the Port won’t get the best deal in the end.

He said, “I just would like us to be careful that we don’t hurry and get something done when there are plenty of opportunities out there.”

Commissioner Berry says there are two reasons to hurry.

On May 1st, the Port’s responsible for maintaining the base at a cost of $500,000 a month.

Secondly, the apex folks will move on to other options if a decision isn’t made soon.

Berry says that could be a huge loss for Ingleside.

The ship building company claims it can bring millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to the community.

So, Commissioner Berry called for a motion to establish a one month decision deadline, he debated on that issue for a few minutes with Chairman Carrell, but Berry’s motion ended up failing.

Eventually though, they decided to continue talking with possible tenants and move forward with negotiations with APEX with no timeline to follow.

Chairman Carrell said, “I think what you heard was a desire to get as many proposals in and see what the market will pay versus acting on one part of a proposal right away, and that’s the divide primarily.”

Berry said, “I’m hoping staff has been released to do their job without interference from any third party to complete negotiations with APEX. I think we’re going to know that in the next couple of weeks.”

And here’s a look at some of the other possible offers.

One private company is interested in using some of the space for a patient rehab facility.

The Texas General Land Office is interested in some of the property for a wind energy center.

Texas A&M has proposed a firefighter training facility at the base.

Triple 5, the same company that owns Mall of America, is interested in buying space to build maintenance vessels and equipment for oil drilling.

Another unnamed company is looking for a place to build drilling platforms and testing equipment.

And APEX, a ship building company based out of Houston plans to start negotiations with the Port soon.