Dowe Officially Returns to V.I. Port Authority

VIPA Director Carlton Dowe in 2016 file photo)
VIPA Director Carlton Dowe in 2016 file photo)

Carlton Dowe will return to the Virgin Islands Port Authority as its executive director after an official vote of approval from the authority’s governing board Wednesday.

In 2016, Dowe was ousted from the post by Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s administration, and the then-governor’s brother, David Mapp, ended up in the post. Rumors started circulating after Gov. Albert Bryan took office that Dowe was headed back to his former post. Then Bryan endorsed Dowe for the recently vacated position. But during a June 16 press conference he made it clear that he had no say on the Port Authority board.

During the board’s Wednesday meeting, members voted to rehire Dowe. The vote was taken during an executive session, in which neither the media nor the public were allowed to sit. At the start of the meeting’s regular session, all board members, except Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, were present. These included Port Authority Chairwoman Leona Smith, Vice Chairman Nelson Petty, Secretary Marvin Forbes, Denise George, Kevin Rodriguez, Lee Steiner and Yvonne Thraen.

A news release following the board meeting stated that Dowe was the top choice among three finalists. Smith, according to the release, said Dowe has a “proven track record of providing tangible results.”

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“He is just the person we need to address the myriad of issues plaguing the Port – especially at our airports,” Smith is quoted as saying in the release.

The release credits Dowe with numerous accomplishments during his previous tenure as executive director, including: securing a 10-year berthing agreement with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, improving the territory’s bond rating, and securing a U.S. Department of Transportation “TIGER” grant for the first time in the agency’s history.

Dowe will replace Damian Cartwright, the Port Authority’s director of engineering who has also been doubling as the acting executive director during the vacancy.

During the executive session in which Dowe’s reinstatement was approved, the board also voted on a “donated leave program” and a personnel-related “legal” matter, according to Forbes. The board secretary did not divulge any further details.

Other Port Authority Board Actions
The Port Authority Board also unanimously approved about 15 other measures during the Wednesday meeting that lasted almost five hours.

One of those measures was to temporarily waive the standards that are currently barring Eagle Aviation from selling jet fuel at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport while constructing its hangar facility at the airport. In 2015, the Port Authority halted Eagle Aviation’s fueling services, citing the need for certain minimum requirements to be met for Fixed Based Operators. The matter became a legal dispute.

The decision to waive those requirements for a year came during a second round of executive session at which the media was not present. Forbes reported the action afterwards.

But before the conversation on Eagle Aviation turned private, board members and Port Authority staff discussed the request briefly during the board’s regular session.

In response to questions on the measure, Cartwright said the minimum standards for fueling services on St. Croix were incongruent with those on St. Thomas. Calling the St. Croix requirements “onerous,” he said developers weren’t required to meet the same stringent requirements on St. Thomas.

“When you look at the economic impact and the stressed economy that St. Croix has, it’s counterintuitive because you would think that you would have more incentives on the St. Croix side to generate business versus the St. Thomas side,” he said. “It’s actually a flip. So what we’re planning to do is actually look at both standards between now and August and consolidate into one uniformed standard that makes sense.”

The Port Authority will adjust the fuel requirements in Eagle Aviation’s favor under the conditions that there is a settlement dismissal of all Eagle’s pending litigation against the agency. Eagle will be allowed to use mobile fueling trucks for a year in lieu of constructing a permanent stationary fuel storage facility.

The board also voted to give Hi-Lite the job of re-striping the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas. The authority says Hi-Lite was deemed to be the lowest and most responsible bidder for a project that will cost $1.3 million.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the regulatory body for aviation facilities across the nation, warned earlier this year that the St. Thomas airport’s pavement markings did not meet the necessary standards. The re-striping project is a response to this, according to prepared reports from the Port Authority.

A total of 10 bundled task orders from Lemartec for work on various Port Authority facilities were also approved Wednesday. The task orders total $3.2 million. Two of the orders are for materials and the rest will allow the company to perform hurricane repair services in response to the damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, according to Port Authority reports. Cartwright said the measure would save the authority $161,761.

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