Dec. 4, 2003 Top officials of the Charles W. Turnbull administration say efforts are under way by the V.I. government to acquire Lindqvist Beach on St. Thomas.
Other administration officials are taking legal action against the new owners of the Smith Bay property, ordering them to remove a fence that was erected there about two weeks ago. Commissioner of Planning and Natural Resources Dean Plaskett said the fence went up without his department's prior approval. He ordered a cease-and-desist order Thursday and fined the owners $260,000. The owners are appealing.
Acquisitions efforts hit the fast track this week at Government House after languishing for several months.
Island Administrator James O'Bryan Jr. told a radio talk show audience that funding for the acquisition was available. The chief administrator for the Public Finance Authority was reportedly in New York, making the financial arrangements.
For the first time, PFA Administrator Kenneth Mapp explained Thursday what happened to the appropriation of $3.5 million passed by the Senate to purchase the property that includes Lindqvist Beach. Mapp's explanation came in response to charges made by the bill's sponsor, Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, that Gov. Turnbull approved the appropriation and acknowledged Liburd's personal appeal to take action on the sale then turned his back on the matter.
Speaking on WVWI-AM radio Thursday afternoon, O'Bryan acknowledged the appropriation was a sound piece of legislation and the funding stream was at hand.
"I believe that is why Mr. Mapp is in New York at this time, to finalize the bond sale, then the money will be available," said O'Bryan, who also serves as a spokesman for Government House.
Mapp said Thursday that lawmakers had tried to appropriate $3.5 million after the PFA loaned the government $7 million to meet its payroll obligations. The funds for the short-term loan came from a portion of the interest on bond proceeds, Mapp said. In order to take money for the Lindqvist purchase, the bond agreement would have to be reprogrammed with the approval of the bond buyers.
"The interest-earning section of the revenue portfolio of the central government's operating budget that money's accounted for," Mapp said Thursday. "So if you just go back and re-appropriate it, it's like sliding money from the General Fund. That's not money, and if there's an attempt to appropriate from the project's proceeds that's not going anywhere because those monies don't belong to the central government. They belong to the bondholders for the project."
Further indication that a land deal was in the works came from Attorney General Iver Stridiron on Friday. "I was just looking at a resolution by the PFA," he said, "and there is in that resolution an accommodation for $2.5 million to make the acquisition at Lindqvist Beach."
In order to take the property by eminent domain, the government would have to pay fair market value to the current owners.
"The estimate for the value of the property was $2.3 million, but fair market value is arrived at through the appraisal of three independent appraisers," Stridiron said.
Fair market value is computed by taking an average of the three independent appraisals, he said. If the court decides the value is higher than $2.3 million, the balance can be made up through the General Fund, Stridiron said. The current owners paid $3.1 million in May for the land.
Legal documents petitioning the Territorial Court for the taking of the Lindqvist Bay property have been ready since March 2002, Stridiron said. The process begins "when I receive in hand a check for 2.3 million dollars or more," he said.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.