Frustration and tension spilled over at the monthly board meeting of the V.I. Port Authority on Wednesday, as board members accused staff of not following through on projects with the necessary sense of urgency.
During a discussion of improving navigation aids to the Krause Lagoon Channel, board member Gordon Finch exploded when he was told phase two of the project would begin with the new fiscal year.
"This is totally unacceptable," he said. "I’m really mad about this."
Finch and other board members said VIPA management wasn’t taking the matter seriously enough.
"Do we have to replace the whole management team to get this done, to get the urgency?" asked board member Vincent Frazer, the territory’s attorney general.
Navigation in the channel directly impacts the economy of St. Croix, Finch said. Ships longer than 400 feet cannot navigate in the channel at night without the system.
Board chairman Robert O’Connor mused that the same subjects come up meeting after meeting and are never resolved. There’s always an explanation but never resolution, he said during Wednesday’s meeting at the conference room of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airpot on St. Croix.
"We’ve never been without a response, but there’s no action. We’re not seeing the results," he added.
Of particular concern is the "range light," a land-based marker that ships line up with to enter the channel. The previous range light had been mounted on a building in the St. Croix Renaissance Industrial Park. That building was demolished more than a year ago, staff members told the board, and the Renaissance management has not given permission to place a new light on the property.
The money budgeted for the work was also not enough for the entire project, staff members added, and when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 they’ll be able to continue.
But the board was up in arms again just moments later, this time over lack of progress on channel dredging at St. Thomas and an agreement with the Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, with the start of the cruise season just weeks away.
Board member Beverly Nicholson-Doty said the talks with the cruise lines began in January.
"This has dragged on for nine months, and now we’re at the start of another season," she said.
The cruise lines are equally frustrated, she said, because they can’t get confirmation on issues about channel depth and preparation of the facilities.
"Another cruise season is upon us, and we have not brought this to conclusion," she said.
O’Connor told VIPA Executive Director Kenn Hobson that the board is holding him personally responsible for the timely execution of both the negotiations for the St. Thomas cruise line arrangements and the St. Croix navigation aids.
In other business, the board approved its budget for the 2012 fiscal year. However, the authority did not release any information on it, saying it needed to adjust the documents based on decisions the board made Wednesday before it could release any information to the public or the media.