The group, on more than one occasion, bused port stakeholders to Richmond for meetings related to the privatization process.
What has made the process frustrating for business leaders and others who don't have a vested interest but for whom the port is important is that there has been chronic confusion about basic facts related to the port's operations. Whether it's in financial trouble or not, whether it's safely bounced back to pre-recession levels or not -- these are questions that even now aren't settled on the eve of the authority's historic vote.
Last fall, a state House panel asked the General Assembly's watchdog arm to look into assertions that the Port Authority's current operating structure was "financially unsustainable."
Early this year, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission came back with a report challenging that view, stating that the authority's "market performance and outlook appear to be more positive than suggested."
The debate, however, continues.
Last week, John Crowley, an APM senior vice president, wrote an opinion piece for The Pilot citing figures in Old Dominion University's 2013 Economic Forecast, which he said "confirms that the Port of Hampton Roads lost $70.3 million in operating income just in the past four years."
Q. Isn't this a done deal? Isn't the board simply going to ratify the reorganization it teed up in January?
Asked Thursday whether the decision was already made, Port Authority Chairman William Fralin answered with an unequivocal "no."
"The only way the board can move things is through board action," he said Thursday.
"So, the process is alive until the board votes to either accept a concession, to continue negotiations, or to end the process. So that's where we are and that's, you know, where we're going on the 26th."
At its January meeting, after a long afternoon behind closed doors, the board passed "Resolution 13-4," setting in motion, at least on a provisional basis, a corporate restructuring plan for the authority and VIT.
Part of the plan would cut duplicate functions in the two organizations.
Another change: converting VIT from a company with its own board of directors to one that would be wholly controlled by the authority.
"If we go with this reorganization, we would adopt it" on March 26, Fralin said in January, adding that passage would mean that the board had chosen to pull the plug on the private offers.
Port officials have maintained that the restructuring initiative has been moving on a parallel track to the privatization offers and was discussed long before either of them surfaced.
Q. Why are we even talking about this? Didn't the port just wrap up its second-best year ever?
True, the numbers reported by the Port Authority indicate that it was the fastest-growing container port on the East Coast last year, with a 9.8 percent increase in the volume of standard 20-foot containers moved compared with 2011.
This story, however, took shape over the years leading up to 2012, when the authority was having trouble rebounding from the recession.
In July 2011, concerned that the port was being outpaced by its competitors, Gov. Bob McDonnell overhauled the port's board, replacing all but one of its 11 citizen members.
The board's mission was to find ways to cut costs and to improve efficiencies, and it has been doing both.
The issue, from the state's perspective, revolves around the authority's long-range financial viability and its capacity to pay for znecessary capital improvements.
"We're trying to make a 40-year decision here," Fralin said in January. "What we're really trying to decide is how we're going to pay for the buildout and the capital expenditures of the port, including new facilities, for some time to come."
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