The Tampa Port Authority is a public business run by a government agency with a multibillion-dollar impact across the region. With that comes public accountability, which seems lost on the administration under new chief executive Paul Anderson.
The latest example involves the news this week that a Tampa oil recycling firm, NexLube, halted construction on its new $120 million facility at the port. Word came from Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who sits on the port's governing board. Port officials could not be reached. A day later the port issued a brief statement that provided no clarity.
The port's silence was as bad as its attempt to distance itself from the situation. Under Anderson's predecessor, the port worked for two years to bring NexLube to town. NexLube signed a 20-year lease to build the oil recycling plant, the first of its kind in Florida. In exchange for its 100 jobs and presence on 12 acres of port land, NexLube was granted about $500,000 in state tax incentives and millions more as the first-ever recipient of a county property tax subsidy. NexLube, the port, the state and the county are partners. The public has the right to know what's going on.
In a statement, NexLube said constructions costs for the plant had increased "more than 100 percent," and that it needed time to evaluate its options. But the company said the project was still viable and economically and environmentally beneficial. That may be. But this is a significant setback, and the port owes the public an explanation.