Public Finance Authority board members moved directly into discussion Wednesday meeting on an up to $10 million term loan from Banco Popular that would provide funds for first responder needs, including new ambulances and other vehicles or equipment for agencies ranging from the V.I. Police Department to Public Works.
PFA Executive Director Valdamier Collens explained during Wednesday’s meeting on St. Thomas that the authority had issued a request for proposals in April for lenders and that Banco Popular was the only one that responded. The loan would be for five years, with a three-year option to renew, officials said.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp, who is also the PFA board chairman, said the $10 million would not be spent all at once. Instead agencies in need of funds would make a request to the governor that would be brought before the authority based on need, Mapp said.
“We don’t intend at all to go out and spend $10 million,” the governor said. “There are going to be clusters of demands that will be taken care of over time.” The VIPD, for example, is in need of equipment and a professional services contract, while the Department of Health needs new emergency response vehicles and Corrections has security issues to address, Mapp added.
Andre Wright, PFA financial advisor, said Wednesday that the “clusters” of funds will be drawn down at different times, based on some flexibility given by the bank and, because of that, there is currently no closing date set for the first draw.
The board also ratified a two-year contract with T&M Protection that was commissioned last year by the PFA to conduct an assessment “of the law enforcement community,” Mapp explained. Based on the assessment, a report was completed and phase two now covers the implementation of those recommendations, he added.
Mapp said the report covers the compliance of and “exit from” the federal consent decree governing the VIPD and the implementation of technology resources to fight crime and improve safety, among other things.
“Basically they are going to be an inside tool for completely revamping the Police Department,” Mapp said. The contract is for $838,500, along with $153,000 in expenses, for a total $991,500.
Mapp said that while Police Commissioner Delroy Richards could not be at Wednesday’s meeting to further discuss the contract, an appointment letter was just signed for a new training director based on recommendations made in the company’s report.
The money to cover the contract will come from the PFA’s project fund, to be reimbursed by the “first cluster” of funds drawn down from the new $10 million loan, he said.
Board members also revisited an issue that, when submitted by former Gov. John deJongh Jr. in 2014, ended in a veto after senators amended a bill that would have created under the PFA a public corporation to receive and hold the assets of Texas-based Lonesome Dove Petroleum Co. Inc.
In 2014, deJongh vetoed the bill after the Legislature sought to put the entity under the Government Employees Retirement System, but during Wednesday’s meeting, Mapp said the Legislature recently approved a resubmitted bill that once again put the PFA back in the drivers seat.
The territory was awarded the Lonesome Dove leases, which generate around $1 million annually, as settlement in a tax case. During hearings in 2014, Justice Department officials said the government needed a vehicle to oversee the assets so the court will turn them over and out of receivership.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the PFA’s legal representatives said the company is now on its fourth receiver, which is looking to terminate its arrangement and turn over all shares to the government, which board members decided would be received and managed under a new wholly owned subsidiary of the PFA.
Under that arrangement, the entity would turn over revenues to the government, and Mapp said Wednesday that the funds would be put into a senior citizens center revolving fund and made available for the government’s payment of obligations to GERS. The PFA also approved signatories to the Lonesome Dove Special Revolving Fund, which include board members Nellon Bowry and Keith O’Neal, along with Collens and Mapp.
According to officials, the transfer has to be complete by July 15.
The board also amended its bylaws, allowing Collens to have same contracting authority as the PFA’s director of finance and administration, most recently attorney Joanne Bozzuto, who Mapp announced Wednesday had resigned to deal with family matters. Mapp explained that Collens, as PFA executive director, can now only act in the absence of the director of finance and administration and that the intent would be to allow both to be able to act at the same time.