June 2, 2004 – The Public Finance Authority board unanimously authorized on Wednesday the issuance and sale of $105 million in matching fund loan notes intended to help get the territory's Waste Management Authority up and running.
About $70 million of the proceeds will go the to the authority, which the governor "reluctantly" signed into law in January, to be used for the construction of wastewater plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Another $10 million is earmarked for road maintenance, and $5 million is to go for solid waste management. The remainder will be used to fund debt reserves and to cover the cost of issuance of the bonds.
Kenneth Mapp, PFA director of finance and administration, informed board members that although they authorized $105 million, the board will be able to use only $95.8 million because of a cap.
The PFA board also approved a request from Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood for $500,000 from the Road Fund to finish work on a cemetery under construction in Smith Bay on St. Thomas.
"We know cemeteries are necessary. We have people dying every day," Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, board chair, said. "The situation is one that warrants immediate action."
Callwood had told the governor in a letter that only a few unused burials sites remained at Western Cemetery.
"Once we approve the money to Public Works, we have to ensure that this cemetery would be operable once the monies are spent," Bernice Turnbull, Finance commissioner and a PFA board member, said.
In other matters Wednesday, the governor's Financial Team, consisting of two PFA board members, Bernice Turnbull and Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, reported on its plan to conduct a study on the potential impact of imposing a sales tax in the territory.
The team has issued a request for proposals from qualified organizations to assess and develop a plan to implement a sales tax in the territory. "We do want to capture as much revenues as we can from transient people who go in and go out of the territory," Bernice Turnbull said.
Mapp said questions the study will seek to answer include how such a sales tax would affect locals and whether it would push industry shopping elsewhere. "The overall objective is to increase and enhance the revenue stream," he said.
Once a contractor is selected to conduct the study, the matter will be brought before the PFA board again if the central government needs funding assistance, Mapp said.
"Sometimes we go outside to get expertise when we can get the help we need at the university," Gov. Turnbull said, encouraging his colleagues to approach the University of the Virgin Islands about conducting the study.
The board also discussed a memorandum of agreement with the Property and Procurement Department that is intended to help get capital projects moving. "Under this structure we will all work together to facilitate the moving of capital projects," Mapp said.
The PFA also will be seeking a range of services for reconstruction and repairs to several historic buildings:
On St. Croix — restoration of the Old Danish "Military" School, the Barracks Yard and Labor Department buildings, the Queens Quarter Great House, Sion Farm Great House and the Old Diamond School.
On St. Thomas — reconstruction of Quarter "B," the old Office of Management and Budget headquarters.
On St. John — restoration of the old schoolhouse at Estate Hansen Bay.
Senate President David Jones attended the board meeting and urged members to consider renovations to the building that currently houses the Legislature's Post Audit Division on St. Thomas. Jones said the structure is in "dire need of repair." Gov. Turnbull said the board would consider taking on the work.
Mapp told the board that officials of the federal government, which is funding the restoration of the Christiansted boardwalk, said on Tuesday that before work on the project can begin, the local government must bear the cost of transplanting mangroves and manchineel trees and managing them for three years. This will cost the local government about $98,000, he said.
"The boardwalk will not proceed unless this is done," Mapp said.
Mapp said the PFA will contract Bio Impact Inc., the only local firm that can do the transplanting and managing of the trees, and that money will have to be allocated for the project. "We will do what we have to do to get our boardwalk," Gov. Turnbull said.
The board also voted to extend Golden Shore's time frame to six months after July 5 for the company's planned construction of a convention center on St. Croix.
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