The board members of the V.I. Public Finance Authority dealt with hurricane recovery Friday – arranging for matching dollars for FEMA projects and discussing how to move the road-renovation project forward last week at the St. Croix PFA office.
The first item on Friday’s agenda was to approve taking on a revolving line of credit for $800,000 to pay up-front money on expenses that should be reimbursed by the federal government.
According to Adrienne Williams-Octalien, newly appointed Disaster Recovery director, the territory is obligated to provide almost $2 million in matching funds, which must be paid before work is started on FEMA projects.
“That’s why we need the line of credit, because we don’t have the front money,” she said. “We’re not going to draw (on the credit line) where money is not obligated.”
The board, comprising Gov. Albert Bryan, Williams-Octalien, Finance Director Kirk Callwood, OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal, and community members Keith O’Neale and Attorney Dorothy Isaac unanimously approved the line of credit.
Bryan and Williams-Octalien answered the burning question about the delay in repairing and rebuilding the territory’s roads.
“We’re not moving on it because we don’t know what we are repairing them to,” Williams-Octalien said.
There is an ongoing debate, they said, with FEMA about the standards that will be adhered to for the roadwork. The V.I. government wants to repair roads to current federal standards, but FEMA has not agreed. Bryan said there is a bill in Congress demanding disaster repairs follow federal standards. If approved that will help move along the Virgin Islands’ $20 million road project.
The board also approved the purchase of two vehicles for the Disaster Recovery Office – one for St. Croix and one for St. Thomas. Until now, the staff has been sharing other government vehicles. The price for the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Equinox was around $68,000, with funding coming from the PFA budget. Three bids were received for each vehicle and fleet pricing was extended to the government, according to Williams-Octalien.
Another $29,900 was approved for the Disaster Recovery website, created to provide public information on funds used for “all things recovery.”
In an unrelated matter, the board also approved refinancing a loan taken out when the Islands Crossing Shopping Center was built in 2009. The property was developed using government-backed bonds paid by pledged future taxes through Tax Incremental Financing – an economic development law designed to encourage development of blighted areas and use the property and gross receipts taxes to pay back the TIF funds.
The original loan for $15.7 million was to build Home Depot and has been paid down to $12 million. The board also approved contracting a calculation agent to monitor the TIF account.
Kevin Rames, attorney for the developers Caribbean Development Partners, still plans to bring more businesses to the shopping center. In 2014, CDP talked with Burger King and Save-A-Lot grocery to negotiate leases, but the deal was never consummated.