U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today accepted a commitment from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis that her department remains committed to constructing a permanent home for the Gulfport Job Corps Center, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Cochran and Solis discussed the delayed project at a Senate hearing to review the FY2013 budget request for the Department of Labor. Cochran serves on the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee that funds Labor Department agencies and programs.
With funding secured in 2006 by Cochran to restore the Gulfport Job Corps Center, the Labor Department awarded a contract in June 2011 to redevelop the Gulfport Job Corps Center, with a projected completion date in winter 2013-2014. However, delays associated with a historic designation application for the 33rd Avenue High School may result in the Labor Department being forced to withdraw the contract award.
At Wednesday's hearing, Cochran sought a commitment from Secretary Solis that the project would eventually go forward. The bulk of the $14 million that Congress approved for Gulfport has been used to provide temporary facilities and a new dormitory, and $4.5 million in designated funding remains for the project.
"I hope you can help us figure out a way to move forward," Cochran told Solis. "There is still a very serious need for jobs in the region."
Solis offered a commitment of support for a new center at Gulfport, but also noted that the delayed construction would force her to devote the remaining funds set aside by the Labor Department for the Gulfport center toward other Job Corps projects. While the remaining $4.5 million in designated funding would remain committed for a Gulfport center, additional funding would have to be derived from subsequent year Labor Department construction funding provided by Congress.
"I do remain committed to continuing to build out that particular facility," Solis said. "I know that [the historic designation application] has been a challenge for us in terms of figuring out exactly how we go about building up and starting a construction. So, I am mindful of that and want to see how quickly that can be resolved working with you and, of course, taking in public comment. But while we are waiting, I am responsible for using the monies that have been set aside to facilitate other construction of other facilities. So I will do that but I will remain committed to working with you and hopefully see that we can get some resolution on a particulate site there that would be amenable to the community, as well as the folks involved in that process."
* Mississippi Jobs Corps -- http://mississippi.jobcorps.gov/home.aspx
* National Jobs Corps -- http://www.jobcorps.gov/home.aspx