Port of Houston's cruise terminal still closed

May 23, 2012 4:28:42 AM PDT
"I'm convinced that no cruise line is going to come. They may as well forget about using it as a cruise terminal," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

The county judge says that $100 million cruise terminal built with your money is dead in the water.

One thing is clear: Memorial Day is coming, and no one will be taking a cruise from there.

"There's still no cruise ships," taxpayer Jeff Tobolka said.

This the way we found the cruise terminal this time last year: all those empty ticket counters, a big empty monument to government waste, except the mistake they made was with your money.

"We're not talking about $100, we're talking about $100 million," State Sen. John Whitmire said.

"It's just absolutely a laughingstock. It's embarrassing," taxpayer Kirk Dahl said.

"In any other business, if you made a $100 million mistake, you would pay for it with your job," Whitmire said.

"They never lose their jobs and we keep paying as taxpayers and nothing ever changes," another taxpayer told us.

Port Chairman Jim Edmonds was embroiled in an ethics controversy last year but apparently wants to stay on as chairman. They fight hard to keep that non-paying, appointed job.

"I don't know what they are going to do with this terminal. How are you going to lease it, how are they going to rent it out? Who's going to go in there and do anything?" Dahl said.

That is the $100 million question -- and counting. In a Houston Business Journal poll last year, 61 percent of you said 'sell it.'

But finding someone to buy the place isn't that easy. When the port asked for proposals that didn't involve using the cruise terminal for cruise ships, no one responded. So you can imagine this big giant empty place has become a sensitive subject.

"We want people to feel good about the port, we want people to feel better," Commissioner Elyse Lanier said last year.

When Commissioner Elyse Lanier joked last year it could be turned into a Walmart, port bureaucrats were actually worried. Check out this email: 'This may require a trip to Bentonville, Arkansas for "damage control." We are meeting with Walmart international team Monday.'

The port's statement to 13 Undercover this week doesn't take long to read. It reminds us the cruise terminal may be empty but the dock is helpful, generating $400,000 to $500,000 a year in revenue.

"Still no cruise ships?" we asked one man.

"No, it's good fishing out in front of it, though," he said.

But the losses keep growing. In the last year, the port has spent another $4.7 million just maintaining the cruise terminal. Some of the money spent to improve the gangways.

"They improved the gangway for the passengers that aren't there," we told Dahl.

"Oh great, see that's too much information. I didn't even want to hear about this," Dahl said.

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