June 12, 2009 — In a brief meeting Friday, Public Finance Authority board members gave the thumbs up to about $3.4 million in additional financing needed to complete or push along some critical capital projects.
The board first approved a resolution authorizing an additional $200,000 for the Danish School House project on St. Croix, which is almost finished according to PFA head Julito Francis. The building will eventually house the offices of the governor and St. Croix administrator.
The additional funding –$40,000 in reprogrammed funds from another capital project and $160,000 from the West Indian Co. Ltd's dividend to the PFA — will cover enhancements and expansion of the building's information technology infrastructure.
Environmental concerns have temporarily stymied the construction of the Leonardo "Nardo" Trotman Drive, a road near the Tutu Park Mall intended as an access route to the new library and archives center. While the kinks are being worked out, a little more than $3 million is needed for the current construction entrance — on the east side of the Plaza Extra parking lot — so an access road will be available once the facility opens, which is expected to be in September 2010, according to Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls. The extra money would be put toward furnishings and equipment for the facility, which will hopefully incorporate some eco-friendly features, such as solar panels.
Pitching it as a "green project" would allow the government to qualify for additional economic stimulus funds, Francis said later. In the meantime, the approximately $3 million will be taken from the PFA's unencumbered swap reserve for the 2006 gross receipts bonds. The board's resolution also authorizes Francis to amend the construction contract for the facility.
Finally, the board approved a $175,000 request from the Bureau of Information Technology to purchase additional equipment for the 911 call center on St. Croix. The government is trying to have both call centers — the second one is on St. Thomas — up and running by September or October, said Gov. John deJongh Jr., who serves as the PFA board chairman. PFA funds will be used to cover the request, to be repaid once the government receives authorization from the Legislature on an $85 million bond issue.
Acting on a recent authorization from the Legislature, board members Friday also approved a resolution allowing the government to offer a higher interest rate — up to about 10 percent — on the Diageo project bonds, which would make them more "attractive" on the bond market, according to financial advisors.
The board also increased the total tax increment financing bond package for St. Croix's Island Crossings Shopping Center from $14.5 million to $15.7 million. Island Crossings has already received a commitment letter from FirstBank for the $15.7 million, according to PFA bond counsel Patricia Goins.
A resolution setting up the Office of Economic Opportunity under the PFA was also approved. The OEO, which will also be headed by Francis, has been set up by the governor to monitor, track and report on all economic stimulus funds coming into the territory.
The PFA already has its own independent accounting system and financial advisors to assist in the process, deJongh said Friday. The resolution also authorizes the establishment of a bank account for the OEO, to which Francis, Finance Commissioner Angel Dawson and Office of Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb would be signatories.
Coming out of executive session, board members unanimously approved a lease for tenants at the Frederiksted Mall, and said they had discussed and reviewed a $240,000 settlement between the PFA and the Ingvoldstad Family Trust.
Board members present Friday were Dawson, deJongh, Gottlieb, Pablo O'Neill and Keith O'Neale.
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