March 13, 2007 — Efficiency was the order of the day Tuesday, as the Public Finance Authority board sped through a hefty agenda in under two hours, voted to save the government $5.4 million and pulled the plug on a questionable capital project.
According to Brian Turnbull, the PFA's special projects coordinator, the previous board had allocated funding for the renovation of the East End School House on St. John. Once renovated, the facility was slated to be used as a "government retreat," Turnbull said.
Turnbull explained that since the facility was once a one-room school house, the renovations were classified as an "historical project." However, when put out to bid, estimates for the project came in over budget, which caused the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to ask that the funds, some $756,000, be reprogrammed to complete the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library project in Cruz Bay, he said.
After the board determined that the East End School House could not be used as a community center — Turnbull said the facility was isolated on a certain part of the island — members unanimously voted to have the funds reprogrammed.
The board took a unanimous stance on many other issues throughout the day. Within the first 10 minutes of the meeting, they had decided to:
— use $5.4 million from the interest earned on the 1999 Series A Bond proceeds to pay off debt service requirements on the bonds (according to PFA acting Executive Director Cherrie Wallace-Cole, this will save the government from using another $5.4 million in gross receipts revenues to cover the debt service payment);
— approve a list of 10 consultants to provide services to the PFA (Gov. John deJongh Jr. requested that the authority's consulting costs not exceed what was paid out during the past fiscal year, which equals approximately $3.5 million); and
–adopt a resolution authorizing a $7 million grant to UVI's Research and Technology Park (the resolution converted funds already earmarked as a loan for UVI into a grant).
Also at the top of Tuesday's agenda was a $1.7 million funding request from the Waste Management Authority. WMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall explained that the money would be used to renovate the authority's new central office building, located across the street from Frank's Bake Shop in Sub Base.
The lease for the building, which belongs to the government, will be up for consideration during a full Senate session scheduled for March 20.
In other news, the board authorized that additional funding be earmarked for a series of capital improvement projects, including:
— conducting extra repairs on Government House on St. Croix (the budget for this project was originally $400,000; on Tuesday, the board authorized that another $150,000 be earmarked for "emergency repairs");
— completing repairs on the Von Scholten School on St Croix (the budget for this project was originally $330,000; on Tuesday, the board authorized another $50,000 be appropriated to fix the roof and cover the costs of other "unforeseen circumstances," Turnbull said);
–paying the contractor for work done to the Athalie McFarlane Petersen Library on St. Croix (the budget for this project was originally $350,000; on Tuesday, the board authorized another $60,000 be appropriated to close out the contract);
–finishing renovations to an office building owned by Legal Services of the Virgin Islands (the budget for this project was originally $300,000; however, Turnbull said another $54,000 was needed to complete repairs to a second facility purchased by the agency);
— renovating Fort Frederik on St. Croix (the budget for this project was originally $500,000; however, Turnbull explained an extra $50,000 was needed to cover the cost of the contract, which exceeded the amount of funds available for renovations and repairs); and
— repairing the St. John Battery building (the budget for this project was originally $100,000; however, an additional $50,000 is needed to complete minor repairs on the property).
The money to fund the projects will be taken from interest earned on the 2003 Gross Receipts Tax Bonds.
Board members present during Tuesday's meeting were Debra Gottlieb, deJongh, Roy D. Jackson and Austin Nibbs.
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