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Legislation that would give land for a Heartland Port facility on the Missouri River in Jefferson City is advancing through Missouri's General Assembly.

Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Allen said during a Tuesday meeting of the Heartland Port Authority Board of Commissioners that a bill in the Missouri Senate, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, is scheduled to be heard today during a meeting of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee at the Capitol.

The bill would transfer 116 acres of state-owned land just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility in Jefferson City to the Heartland Port Authority.

A similar piece of legislation in the Missouri House, sponsored by state Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, is scheduled to have a hearing after the Legislature returns from its spring break later this month.

Allen noted this is the third year in a row the Jefferson City area has asked the Legislature to approve a transfer of state-controlled land to the local governments. He believes they have support to get the current request approved this year.

The Board of Commissioners is considering two sites for the planned port. One is in southern Jefferson City near the Missouri National Guard Ike Skelton Training Facility, and the other would split the port between the southern site and a second site in Callaway County near OCCI Inc.

Commissioners talked more Tuesday about trying to secure funding to make the port functional.

The board has voted to apply for a grant it hopes will help determine who could use a Missouri River port.

The USDA Missouri has rural business development grants the administration could provide with funds for infrastructure and equipment as well as loans that could be used by businesses that would use the port facilities.

The Heartland Port's grant application would have to be ready by the end of March, and the award could be announced in June.

The local Port Authority has been looking for grant funding after failing to receive a $750,000 federal grant in December to fund preliminary engineering studies on the two proposed port sites.

Allen said Tuesday that the chamber will go back to the Cole and Callaway county commissions as well as the Jefferson City Council to see if the three governmental bodies are still on board with contributing funds to help get the USDA grant. All three committed money to the first grant proposal.

Allen said the USDA grant would fund mapping along with coming up with a concept design for roads and bridges to the southern port location, northern and southern port design, as well as a roadway that could connect Missouri 94 to the northern port.

The total cost for this work would be $438,500, Allen said. The USDA grant would cover $175,400.

He said the Port Authority would need to get approval from the Cole County Commission and Jefferson City Council for each to pay $105,240, along with $52,620 from the Callaway County Commission.

Current plans call for the Heartland Port to be ready for state funding in 2021.

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