July 30, 2004 – Work should begin in two months on the Red Hook marine terminal on St. Thomas, the Port Authority's executive director, Darlan Brin, told the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday in presenting VIPA's fiscal year 2005 fiscal overview.
The contract with Island Roads is in the works, Brin said.
The Port Authority had to scratch plans to include a customs and immigration facility at the terminal, he said. However, he added, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials plan to discuss with V.I. National Park officials the possible use of the park dock and buildings located across Vessup Bay from the marine terminal site as a customs facility. The park's Red Hook operations were shifted to St. John several years ago.
Brin said he has been told that the St. John Customs and Border Protection facility will remain in operation, regardless of whether one opens at Red Hook.
Turning to the Port Authority's Crown Bay project on St. Thomas, Brin said he expects the retail complex to be ready for tenants by December. He said 40 percent of the space will be leased to businesses catering to cruise ship visitors and the rest will be for businesses aiming to attract a diverse clientele.
"We don't want a repeat of Main Street or WICO," he said, referring to the shopping areas of downtown Charlotte Amalie and Havensight Mall by the West Indian Co. dock.
He said the Port Authority expects to begin recouping its investment in the Crown Bay complex in its fifth year of operation. Meanwhile, VIPA's other revenues will support the retail center, he said.
Work on lengthening the north side of the Crown Bay pier is completed and the south side extension should be done in a month and a half, he said. The expansion is to allow larger cruise ships to dock in Crown Bay.
Brin said the Port Authority is "aggressively making efforts" to convince cruise lines to use Crown Bay. "We've had discussions but no commitments," he said.
VIPA is evaluating whether the largest cruise ships now calling at St. Thomas can navigate Gregerie West Channel to reach Crown Bay, he added.
As for the Enighed Pond commercial port under construction on St. John, Port Authority engineer Dale Gregory put the target date for completion at the end of November. At last week's meeting of the VIPA board on St. John, Brin had said by the end of November or early December.
Brin also told the senators that the Port Authority conducted a feasibility study for a cultural theme park on St. Croix. "The cruise lines said they would support it," he said.
He said outside investors "willing to take a risk" would construct the project and that most likely it would not be located on land owned by the Port Authority.
The state of VIPA's aviation division is less encouraging, Brin told the committee. "Improvement and expansion of the physical improvements will not be available without sufficient revenues," he said, and what lies ahead in that regard is tenuous, "depending upon the financial health and behavior of the airlines."
Federally mandated heightened security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has added to operational costs, he said. In addition, "a number of major airlines, including those serving the Virgin Islands, are in threat of bankruptcy or, in a worst case, liquidation."
And, he said, "without a demonstrated positive financial history, the Port Authority will be unable to issue bonds to finance major facility expansion and/or rehabilitation."
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who chaired the meeting, initiated discussion of what he referred to as apparent double dipping by a Property and Procurement employee who works sporadically for the Port Authority removing illegally parked vehicles.
Donastorg said he personally watched the employee "provide services" on Port Authority property during normal working hours. "This sets a terrible precedent," he said.
The Finance Committee has no jurisdiction over the Port Authority, as it does not receiving funding from the central government, but requests that VIPA officials appear at the annual budget hearings to discuss finances and related issues.
Brin said VIPA's budget for the coming fiscal year in now in the draft stage and is expected to be approved by the Port Authority board at its next meeting
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