The West Virginia public port authority is hereby continued and shall be under the supervision of the secretary of the department of transportation pursuant to the provisions of chapter five-f of this code.
(a) The governing and administrative powers of the authority shall be vested in a board of directors consisting of eleven members, including the transportation secretary, or his or her designee, who shall serve as the chairman of the public port authority, and ten individuals who shall be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate: Provided, That no more than six members shall be members of the same political party.
All directors of the authority shall be residents of the state of West Virginia.
The directors shall annually elect one of their members as vice chairman. The directors shall appoint a person to serve as secretary and as treasurer. The person appointed as treasurer shall give a bond for the faithful performance of his or her duties as custodian of all funds, securities and other investments of the authority in an amount set by the board. The board may elect such other officers from its membership or from its staff as it deems proper, and prescribe their powers and duties. Appointments to fill a vacancy of one of the appointed members shall be made in the same manner as the original appointment.
(b) All appointed members of the board shall be from the private sector, with one member of the board from each congressional district of the state as of the effective date of this article, and shall represent the public interest generally. At least two members shall be appointed that have recognized ability and practical experience in transportation. At least two members may be appointed that have recognized ability and practical experience in banking and finance. At least one member may be appointed that has recognized ability and practical experience in international trade. At least one member may be appointed that has recognized ability and practical experience in business management, economics or accounting. Two members shall be appointed to represent the public at large.
One ex officio member of the board shall be the secretary of the department of commerce, labor and environmental resources or his or her designee.
One ex officio member of the board shall be the director of the governor's office of community and industrial development or his or her designee.
(c) Any member of the board of directors of the public port authority, appointed pursuant to the provisions of this section prior to amendment thereto, and any member of the board of directors of the wayport authority, appointed under the provisions of section two, article sixteen-c of this chapter, prior to repeal of that section, and confirmed by the Senate of West Virginia, and serving in such capacity on the effective date of amendment to this section, shall serve as a member of the board of directors of the public port authority for the duration of the appointed term. Thereafter, their respective successors shall be appointed for terms of three years. Each member shall serve until a successor is appointed and qualified.
(d) Each director, before entering upon the duties of the board, shall take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation required by the West Virginia constitution. A record of each such oath or affirmation shall be filed in the office of the secretary of state.
(e) Members of the board shall not be entitled to compensation for their services but shall be reimbursed for all necessary expenses actually incurred in connection with the performance of their duties as members.
(f) Six members of the board shall constitute a quorum and the affirmative vote of the majority of members present at a meeting of the board shall be necessary and sufficient for any action taken by the board, except that the affirmative vote of at least six members is required for the approval of any resolutionauthorizing the issuance of any bonds pursuant to this article.
(g) No vacancy in the membership of the board impairs the right of a quorum to exercise all rights and perform all duties of the board. Any action taken by the board may be authorized by resolution at any regular or special meeting and shall take effect upon the date the chairman certifies the action of the authority by affixing his or her signature to the resolution unless some other date is otherwise provided in the resolution.
(h) The board may delegate to one or more of its members or to its officials, agents or employees such powers and duties as it may deem proper.
(a) The board of directors shall appoint an executive director of the authority.
(b) The executive director shall be paid a salary to be determined by the board of directors. The executive director shall be responsible for managing and administering the daily functions of the authority and for performing any and all other functions necessary or helpful for the effective functioning of the authority, together with all other functions and powers as may be delegated to him by the board. The executive director may, with the authorization of the board of directors, employ support staff as deemed necessary to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the authority.
(c) The chairman of the board shall serve as temporary director of the authority until appointment of the executive director pursuant to this section.
Acts, 1991 Reg. Sess., Ch. 137.
As used in this article, the following words and terms shall have the following meanings, unless the context shall indicate another or different meaning or intent:
(a) The word "authority" means the West Virginia public port authority as created and continued by section one of this article.
(b) The words "operation fund" mean the special West Virginia public port authority operation fund as created by section seven of this article.
(c) The words "port" or "public port" mean ports, airports, wayports, terminals, buildings, roadways, rights-of-way, rails, rail lines, facilities for rail, water, highway or air transportation, and such structures, equipment, facilities or improvements as are necessary or incident thereto.
(d) The word "wayport" means an airport used primarily as a location at which passengers and cargo may be transferred between connecting flights of air carriers engaged in air commerce; but also allows passengers to initiate and terminate flights, and shipments of cargo to originate and terminate at said airport or similar type facility.
(e) The words "public port development" or "public port project" mean any activities which are undertaken with respect to public ports.
(a) The authority is granted the following powers and duties:
(1) The authority shall initiate meetings with political subdivisions of the state to assess specific transportation needs and shall determine the needs of the state as a whole in terms of transportation, as well as consider feasibility studies for the purpose of determining the best site locations for transportation centers, terminals, ports and harbors and foreign trade zones.
The authority shall give first consideration to selected high priority opportunities as set forth in the document entitled "Development of an Inland Port Authority", as submitted to the governor's office of community and industrial development on the second day of March, one thousand nine hundred eighty-nine.
(2) On or before the first day of December, one thousand nine hundred ninety-one, the authority shall prepare and file a comprehensive report with the governor and the Legislature setting forth the overall strategic plan both short term and long term for accomplishing the purposes set forth in this article.
(3) The public port authority shall coordinate with the West Virginia parkways, economic development and tourism authority or other parkways authority, established pursuant to article sixteen-a, chapter seventeen of this code, in the exercise of its powers and duties hereunder and development of appropriate intermodal transportation within the state.
(b) The authority has the following additional powers and duties:
(1) The powers of a body corporate, including the power to sue and be sued, to make contracts, and to adopt and use a common seal and to alter the same as may be deemed expedient;
(2) Acquire, purchase, install, lease, construct, own, hold, operate, maintain, equip, use and control ports, as defined herein, and such terminals, buildings, roadways, rights-of-way, rails and such structures, equipment, facilities or improvements as are necessary or incident to carry out the provisions of this article, and in connection therewith shall have the further right to lease, install, construct, acquire, own, maintain, control and use any and every kind or character of motive powers and conveyances or appliances necessary or proper to carry goods, wares and merchandise over, along, upon or through the railway, highway, waterway or airway or other conveyance of such transportation system, excluding pipelines;
(3) To apply for and accept loans, grants or gifts of money, property or service from any federal agency or the state of West Virginia or any political subdivision thereof or from any public or private sources available for any and all of the purposes authorized in this article, or imposed thereon by any such federal agency, the state of West Virginia, or any political subdivision thereof, or any public or private lender or donor, and to give such evidences of indebtedness as may be required;
(4) To act as agent for the United States of America, or any agency, department, corporation or instrumentality thereof, in any manner coming within the purposes or powers of the board;
(5) To initiate preservation of railroad, waterway, highway and airway facilities, to promote economic development and tourism of a specific nature in this state;
(6) To meet and cooperate with similar authorities or bodies of any of the several states contiguous with this state, whose purpose in their respective states is to establish an interstate or intermodal transportation network;
(7) To enter into agreements, contracts or other transactions with any federal, state, county, municipal agency or private entity;
(8) To report annually to the Legislature by the first day of December of each year on the status of projects, operations, financial condition and other necessary information relating to the statewide tourist intermodal transportation system and public port authority activities;
(9) To enter into agreements or contracts with the West Virginia railroad maintenance authority for the preservation, operation and use of railroad lines;
(10) The authority is hereby designated and empowered to act on behalf of the state on submitting siting proposals for public ports;
(11) The authority is empowered to take all steps appropriate and necessary to effect siting, development and operation of public ports within the state;
(12) To construct, reconstruct, improve, maintain, repair and operate infrastructure projects at the designated port sites as determined by the public port authority;
(13) To receive and accept from any federal agency grants for or in aid of the construction of any project, and to receive and accept aid or contributions from any sources of either money, property, labor or other things of value, to be held, used and applied only for the purposes for which such grants and contributions may be made;
(14) The authority is authorized and empowered to acquire by purchase, whenever it shall deem such purchase expedient, any land, property, rights, rights-of-way, franchises, easements and other interests in lands as it may deem necessary or convenient for the construction or operation of any project upon such terms and at such price as may be considered by it to be reasonable and to take title in the name of the state; and for the purpose of acquiring any lands, rights or easements deemed necessary or incidental for the purposes of the authority, the authority has the right of eminent domain to the same extent and to be exercised in the same manner as now or hereafter provided by law for such right of eminent domain by cities, incorporated towns, and other municipal corporations;
(15) The authority is hereby designated and empowered to act on behalf of the state and to represent the state in the planning, financing, development, construction and operation of any port project or any facility related to any such project, with the concurrence of the affected public agency. Other state agencies and local governmental entities in this state, including the West Virginia housing development fund, shall cooperate to the fullest extent the authority deems appropriate to effectuate the duties of the authority. If requested to do so by the authority, the West Virginia housing development fund shall, subject to the provisions of article eighteen, chapter thirty-one of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, including, without limitation, the approval of its board of directors, issue or use its best efforts to issue, either in its own name or on behalf of the authority, such bonds and notes as may be required to finance the planning, development, construction and operation of any project or any facility related to any project. In the event such bonds or notes are issued by the West Virginia housing development fund, the authority shall enter into all such agreements as the West Virginia housing development fund may determine are necessary to pledge revenues from projects or other funds of the authority sufficient to pay such bonds and notes and to pay all related fees, costs and expenses;
(16) The authority shall initiate meetings with local and area port authority districts, committees and entities in the development of possible port site designations. The authority shall seek coordination, cooperation and feasibility studies from local and area port authority districts, committees and entities;
(17) The authority shall take affirmative steps to coordinate freely all aspects of the submission of a siting proposal for any port project, and to coordinate fully the development of any project or any facility related to any project with the federal government agency;
(18) To do any and all things necessary to carry out and accomplish the purposes of this article, including issuing revenue bonds or requesting other appropriate state agencies to issue and administer public port revenue bonds to finance projects;
(19) To assist and encourage the West Virginia railroadmaintenance authority to purchase railroad tracks being abandoned by any common carrier, and to financially assist the railroad maintenance authority in making such purchase;
(20) To collect reasonable fees and charges in connection with making and servicing loans, notes, bonds, obligations, commitments and other evidence of indebtedness, and in connection with providing technical, consultive and project assistance services; and
(21) To do any and all things necessary to carry out and accomplish the purposes of this article.
(c) Incidental to the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for intermodal transportation, the executive director and staff of the authority shall analyze the shipment of products through the ports of the state for the purpose of expediting such shipments, and shall be authorized to collect and analyze such information, which is maintained in the ordinary course of business by the person, firm or corporation providing such information, pertaining to the transportation of products which has been moved by rail, water, highway or air to and from points within and without this state:
(1) Any such information and data supplied to the executive director of the authority shall be for exclusive use of the executive director and the staff of the authority. Such information is deemed confidential and is not subject to disclosure under the freedom of information act. Neither the executive director nor any staff member of the authority shall publicly disclose this information and data to any member of the board of the authority, nor to any person, firm, corporation or agent. It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee of this state to divulge or make known in any manner any information obtained pursuant to this subsection or disclose information concerning the personal or business affairs of any individual or the business of any single firm or corporation, or disclose any particulars set forth or disclosed in any report or other information provided to the authority.
(2) Any officer or employee (or former officer or employee) of this state who violates this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both, together with costs of prosecution.
(3) In carrying out the functions theretofore described, the authority shall be deemed to be performing an essential governmental function as an instrumentality of the state of West Virginia.
There is hereby established a special West Virginia public port authority operations fund which shall operate as a special revolving fund. All proceeds and revenues of the authority shall be credited to the fund by the state treasurer on a monthly basis. At the end of each fiscal year, any unexpended funds in this account shall be reappropriated and available for expenditure for the subsequent fiscal year. On the effective date of the amendment to this section, the West Virginia wayport authority operations fund heretofore created shall be transferred and combined with the West Virginia public port authority operations fund.
(a) Upon application by a local governmental entity, groups of local governmental entities, or joint venture of local government entity or entities and private industry, the board may grant authority for the creation of a local inland port authority district. In so authorizing such entities, political subdivisions of this state are authorized to join with other political subdivisions of this and sister states to form a local port authority. In deciding on a local port district designation, consideration shall be given to the following:
(1) Areas which have entered into a joint venture with private industry;
(2) Areas for which the political subdivision(s) seeking designation has made or will make the greatest effort, both financially and otherwise, to encourage the establishment of facilities to enhance the efficiency and cost of the movement of goods and services to and from markets in West Virginia, or will make the greatest effort to encourage the construction and completion of infrastructure projects, including all types of transportation systems.
(b) A local port authority district provided for in this article has the authority to establish a local board of directors, and has powers only as provided for by the state board of directors. In no event shall the powers of a local port authority district supersede the powers of the state authority.
Any board of directors of a port authority district shall prepare or cause to be prepared a plan for the future development, construction and improvement of its services and facilities.
(a) The authority or local port authority districts shall foster and encourage the participation of private enterprise in the development of the port facilities to the fullest extent it deems practicable in the interest of limiting the necessity of construction and operation of such facilities by the port authority. In this respect, the authority or local port authority districts may upon its own motion or upon the written request of any other party, advertise and solicit for the construction, operations and/or maintenance of any facility included in the development plan in accordance to plans, specifications and regulations therefor prepared by the board of directors.
(b) It is further provided that in the event the board of directors of the port authority or the local port authority districts deem it advisable and practicable, said board may cause certain facilities included in the development plan to be installed by private enterprise and leased back to the authority or local port authority districts on an installment contract or option to purchase: Provided, That any such lease back arrangement must be financially feasible and any bonds or loans utilized to enter into such lease bank arrangement shall be repayable in full from the expected rentals to be generated by such facility.
The authority is empowered and directed to develop, maintain and operate foreign trade zones, free trade zones, ports of entry and customs zones under such terms and conditions as are or may be prescribed by federal law, and to keep foreign trade zone status for, and to assist in the applications for foreign trade zone status of political subdivisions and eligible private corporations under federal law.
(a) The authority may assist business in the formation of joint venture to function as an export trading company. The authority may conduct feasibility studies to ascertain the feasibility of such a joint venture.
(b) The authority shall study whether the formation of such an entity would aid and assist West Virginia businesses in the export of goods. In the event that such company is financially feasible, the authority is authorized to create a quasi-public corporation, under the authority's control, to perform such function. The authority may advance seed money to such corporation to get it established: Provided, That the obligations of such quasi-public corporation shall not be considered obligations of the authority.
(c) The authority is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to establish the duties, powers and obligations of any export trading company to be established under this section.
(a) The division of tourist trains and transportation shall develop a plan to assess the feasibility, financial and otherwise, of establishing a statewide intermodal network of tourist transportation, so as to coordinate, link and supervise the various means of transportation including highway, rail, waterway and air and such plan shall also include, if feasible, the development of a comprehensive strategy and state plan for tourist transportation.
(b) The division shall cooperate and assist the efforts of public and private groups, agencies and political subdivisions in establishing components of the tourist transportation plan.
(c) The division shall specifically work to establish a pilot project for the purpose of creating a tourist train network in the area from Bluefield, West Virginia, to Bramwell, West Virginia, to Matoaka, West Virginia, and to Pocahontas, Virginia.
The state of West Virginia is not liable on notes or other evidences of indebtedness of the public port authority and such notes or other evidences of indebtedness are not a debt of the state of West Virginia, and such notes or other evidences of indebtedness shall contain on the face thereof a statement to such effect.
(a) No part of the funds of the public port authority may inure to the benefit of or be distributable to its directors, employees, officers or other private persons except that the public port authority may pay reasonable compensation to its officers and employees for services rendered and to make loans and exercise its other powers as previously specified in furtherance of its corporate purposes: Provided, That no such loans may be made, and no property may be purchased or leased from, or sold, leased to or otherwise disposed of, to any director or officer of the public port authority.
(b) No officer, member or employee of the authority may be financially interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract of any person with the authority, or in the sale of any property, real or personal, to or from the authority during such person's employment with the authority or for a period of twelve months after termination of such person's employment with the authority. This section does not apply to contracts or purchases of property, real or personal, between the authority and any governmental agency. Any officer, member or employee of the authority who has such financial interest in a contract or sale of property prohibited hereby is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, or imprisoned in the county jail not more than one year, or both fined and imprisoned.
The public port authority is hereby authorized to provide by resolution at one time or from time to time, for the issuance of public port revenue bonds of the state for the purpose of paying all or any part of the cost of one or more port projects. The principal of and the interest on such bonds shall be payable solely from the funds herein provided for such payment. The bonds of each issue shall be dated, shall bear interest at such rate or rates as may be determined by the authority in its sole discretion, shall mature at such time or times not exceeding forty years from their date or dates, as may be determined by the authority, and may be made redeemable before maturity, at the option of the public port authority, at such price or prices and under such terms and conditions as may be fixed by the public port authority prior to the issuance of the bonds. The public port authority shall determine the form of the bonds, including any interest coupons to be attached thereto, and shall fix the denomination or denominations of the bonds and the place or places of payment of principal and interest, which may be at any bank or trust company within or without the state. The bonds shall be executed by manual or facsimile signature by the governor and by the chairman of the public port authority, and the official seal of the public port authority shall be affixed to or printed on each bond, and attested, manually or by facsimile signature, by the secretary of the public port authority, and any coupons attached to any bond shall bear the manual or facsimile signature of the chairman of the public port authority. In case any officer whose signature or a facsimile of whose signature appears on any bonds or coupons shall cease to be such officer before the delivery of such bonds, such signature or facsimile shall nevertheless be valid and sufficient for all purposes the same as if he had remained in office until such delivery; and in case the seal of the public port authority has been changed after a facsimile has been imprinted on such bonds, such facsimile seal will continue to be sufficient for all purposes. All bonds issued under the provisions of this article shall have and are hereby declared to have all the qualities and incidents of negotiable instruments under the negotiable instruments law of the state. The bonds may be issued in coupon or in registered form, or both, as the public port authority may determine, and provision may be made for the registration of any coupon bonds as to principal alone and also as to both principal and interest, and for the reconversion into coupon bonds of any bonds registered as to both principal and interest. The public port authority may sell such bonds in such manner, either at public or at private sale, and for such price as it may determine to be in the best interests of the state.
The proceeds of the bonds of each issue shall be used solely for the payment of the cost of the public port authority project or projects for which such bonds shall have been issued, and shall be disbursed in such manner and under such restrictions, if any, as the public port authority may provide in the resolution authorizing the issuance of such bonds or in the trust agreement hereinafter mentioned securing the same. If the proceeds of the bonds of any issue, by error of estimates or otherwise, shall be less than such cost, additional public port bonds may in like manner be used to provide the amount of such deficit, and unless otherwise provided in the resolution authorizing the issuance of such bonds or in the trust agreement securing the same, shall be deemed to be of the same issue and shall be entitled to payment from the same fund without preference or priority of the bonds first issued. If the proceeds of the bonds of any issue shall exceed the cost of the project or projects for which the same shall have been issued, the surplus shall be deposited to the credit of the sinking fund for such bonds.
Prior to the preparation of definitive bonds, the public port authority may, under like restrictions, issue interim receipts or temporary bonds, with or without coupons, exchangeable for definitive bonds when such bonds shall have been executed and are available for delivery. The public port authority may also provide for the replacement of any bonds which shall become mutilated or shall be destroyed or lost. Bonds may be issued under the provisions of this article without obtaining the consent of any department, division, commission, board, bureau or agency of the state, and without any other proceedings or the happening of any other conditions or things than those proceedings, conditions or things which are specifically required by this article.
In the discretion of the public port authority any public port bonds issued under the provisions of this article may be secured by a trust agreement by and between the public port authority and a corporate trustee, which may be any trust company or bank having the powers of a trust company within or without the state. Any such trust agreement may pledge or assign the tolls, rents, fees, charges and other revenues to be received, but shall not convey or mortgage any project or any part thereof. Any such trust agreement or any resolution providing for the issuance of such bonds may contain such provisions for protecting and enforcing the rights and remedies of the bondholders as may be reasonable and proper and not in violation of law, including covenants setting forth the duties of the public port authority in relation to the acquisition of property and the construction, reconstruction, improvement, maintenance, repair, operation and insurance of the project or projects in connection with which such bonds shall have been authorized, and the custody, safeguarding and application of all moneys, and provisions for the employment of consulting engineers in connection with the construction or operation of such project or projects. It shall be lawful for any bank or trust company incorporated under the laws of the state which may act as depository of the proceeds of bonds or of revenues to furnish such indemnifying bonds or to pledge such securities as may be required by the public port authority. Any such trust agreement may set forth the rights and remedies of the bondholders and of the trustee, and may restrict the individual right of action by bondholders as is customary in trust agreements securing bonds and debentures of corporations. In addition to the foregoing, any such trust agreement may contain such other provisions as the public port authority may deem reasonable and proper for the security of the bondholders. All expenses incurred in carrying out the provisions of any such trust agreement may be treated as a part of the cost of the operation of the project or projects to which the trust agreement applies.
(a) The public port authority is hereby authorized to fix, revise, charge and collect tolls for the use of each public port project and the different parts or sections thereof, and to fix, revise, charge and collect rents, fees, charges and other revenues, of whatever kind or character, for the use of each port, public port, economic development project or tourism project, or any part or section thereof, and to contract with any person, partnership, association or corporation desiring the use of any part thereof, including the right-of-way adjoining the paved portion, for placing thereon telephone, telegraph, electric light, power or other utility lines, gas stations, garages, stores, hotels, restaurants and advertising signs, or for any other purpose, and to fix the terms, conditions, rents and rates of charges for such use. Such tolls, rents, fees and charges shall be so fixed and adjusted in respect of the aggregate of tolls, or in respect of the aggregate rents, fees and charges, from the project or projects in connection with which the bonds of any issue shall have been issued as to provide a fund sufficient with other revenues, if any, to pay: (A) The cost of maintaining, repairing and operating such project or projects; and (B) the principal of and the interest on such bonds as the same shall become due and payable, and to create reserves for such purposes. Such tolls, rents, fees and other charges shall not be subject to supervision or regulation by any other commission, board, bureau, department or agency of the state. The tolls, rents, fees, charges and all other revenues derived from the project or projects in connection with which the bonds of any issue shall have been issued, except such part thereof as may be necessary to pay such cost of maintenance, repair and operation and to provide such reserves therefor as may be provided for in the resolution authorizing the issuance of such bonds or in the trust agreement securing the same shall be set aside at such regular intervals as may be provided in such resolution or such trust agreement in a sinking fund which is hereby pledged to, and charged with, the payment of: (1) The interest upon such bonds as such interest shall fall due; (2) the principal of such bonds as the same shall fall due; (3) the necessary charges of paying agents for paying principal and interest; and (4) the redemption price or the purchase price of bonds retired by call or purchase as therein provided. The use and disposition of moneys to the credit of such sinking fund shall be subject to the provisions of the resolution authorizing the issuance of such public port bonds or of such trust agreement. Except as may otherwise be provided in such resolution or such trust agreement, such sinking fund shall be a fund for all such bonds without distinction or priority of one over another. The moneys in the sinking fund, less such reserve as may be provided in such resolution or trust agreement, if not used within a reasonable time for the purchase of bonds for cancellation as above provided, shall be applied to the redemption of bonds at the redemption price then applicable.
All moneys received pursuant to the authority of this article, whether as proceeds from the sale of bonds or as revenues, shall be deemed to be trust funds, to be held and applied solely as provided in this article. The resolution authorizing the issuance of bonds of any issue of the trust agreement securing such bonds shall provide that any officer to whom, or any bank or trust company to which, such moneys shall be paid shall act as trustee of such moneys and shall hold and apply the same for the purposes hereof, subject to such regulations as this article and such resolution or trust agreement may provide.
Any holder of bonds issued under the provisions of this article or any of the coupons appertaining thereto, and the trustee under any trust agreement, except to the extent the rights herein given may be restricted by such trust agreement, may either at law or in equity, by suit, action, mandamus or other proceeding, protect and enforce any and all rights under the laws of the state or granted hereunder or under such trust agreement or the resolution authorizing the issuance of such bonds, and may enforce and compel the performance of all duties required by this article or by such trust agreement or resolution to be performed by the public port authority or by any officer thereof, including the fixing, charging and collecting of tolls, rents, fees and charges.
(a) The exercise of the powers granted by this article will be in all respects for the benefit of the people of the state, for the increase of their commerce and prosperity, and for the improvement of their health and living conditions, and as the operation and maintenance of projects by the public port authority will constitute the performance of essential governmental functions, the public port authority shall not be required to pay any taxes or assessments upon any project or any property acquired or used by the public port authority under the provisions of this article or upon the income therefrom, and the bonds issued under the provisions of this article, their transfer and the income therefrom (including any profit made on the sale thereof) shall at all times be free from taxation within the state.
(b) In lieu of payment by the public port authority of county property taxes and other assessments on facilities owned by it, or upon any facility which is leased to any private person, corporation, or entity, the public port authority shall make an annual payment as provided herein to the county commission of such county. Any public port authority project which is leased and is exempt from taxation shall be subject to a payment in lieu of taxes. Said payment shall be made to the county commission of the county in which the project is located and shall be in an amount equal to the property taxes otherwise payable. The county commission receiving such in lieu of payment shall distribute such payment to the different levying bodies in that county in the same manner as are property taxes. Nothing contained herein may be construed to prohibit the public port authority from collecting such in lieu of payment from any private party by contract or otherwise.
The secretary of transportation is hereby authorized, in his or her discretion, to expend out of any funds available for the purpose, such moneys as may be necessary for the study of any public port economic development or tourism project or projects and to use the division of highway's engineering and other forces, including consulting engineers and traffic engineers, for the purpose of effecting such study and to pay for such additional engineering and traffic and other expert studies as he may deem expedient; and all such expenses incurred by the state department of transportation and the state division of highways prior to the issuance of public port revenue bonds or revenue refunding bonds under the provisions of this article shall be paid by the state division of highways or the state department of transportation and charged to the appropriate project or projects, and the state division of highways and the state department of transportation shall keep proper records and accounts showing each amount so charged. Upon the sale of public port revenue bonds or revenue refunding bonds for any public port project or projects, the funds so expended by the state division of highways or the state department of transportation in connection with such project or projects shall be reimbursed to the state division of highways and the state department of transportation from the proceeds of such bonds.
The public port authority is hereby authorized to provide by resolution for the issuance of public port revenue refunding bonds of the state for the purpose of refunding any bonds then outstanding which shall have been issued under the provisions of this article, including the payment of any redemption premium thereon and any interest accrued or to accrue to the date of redemption of such bonds; and if deemed advisable by the public port authority, for the additional purpose of constructing improvements, extensions or enlargements of the project or projects in connection with which the bonds to be refunded shall have been issued.
The public port authority is further authorized to provide by resolution for the issuance of public port refunding revenue bonds of the state for the combined purpose of two or more of the following: (a) Refunding any public port bonds then outstanding which shall have been issued under the provisions of this article, including the payment of any redemption premium thereon and any interest accrued or to accrue to the date of redemption of such bonds; and (b) paying all or any part of the cost of any additional public port project or projects.
The issuance of such bonds, the maturities and other details thereof, the rights of the holders thereof, and the rights, duties and obligations of the public port authority in respect of the same, shall be governed by the provisions of this article insofar as the same may be applicable.