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PORT AUTHORITY BOARD OKS BUDGET WITH CONCERNS

Sept. 19, 2001 – In an abbreviated board meeting Wednesday on St. Thomas, the Port Authority board approved the agency's Fiscal Year 2002 budget — with guarded recommendations about port activity in the coming months in light of the terrorists attacks on the U.S. mainland.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron, as board vice chair, conducted the meeting in the absence of Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards, the board chair, as she wasn't able to get a flight out of St. Croix in time for the meeting.
Stridiron and board member Kent Bernier, the governor's economic adviser, also had logistical problems. Both were scheduled to attend an 11 a.m. meeting with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, which was delayed until 11:30 a.m., when Stridiron had to recess the Port Authority meeting as the six-member board then had no quorum.
Lloyd Romeo, director of administration and finance, outlined VIPA's FY2002 budget, which proposes $56.6 million in spending, $21.3 million of it for capital projects. The budget is financed primarily from anticipated port revenues, estimated at $45.6 million. The balance will come from federal grants. The authority does not receive any money from the government General Fund.
Capital projects that VIPA has under way or intends to initiate in FY 2002:
St. Thomas — development of the Red Hook Marine Facility, continued harbor dredging, upgrading of the Charlotte Amalie waterfront apron, expansion of the Crown Bay dock and development there of a new shopping center, a project under contract with Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines.
St. Croix — expansion and renovation of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport terminal, extension of the airport runway and upgrading of the Gallows Bay Dock.
St. John — development of the long-planned $16 million Enighed Pond cargo facility, as soon as VIPA receives the funding from the V.I. government.
The budget was drafted before the Sept. 11 terrorist events. In that context, concerns were raised by board members Wednesday. Stridiron said, "We need to be cautious. The authority may face a lower number of incoming aircraft, and a consequent revenue downstream." Romeo added, "This is our slow period now, but if it doesn't turn around, we will have to revisit this budget."
A drop in aircraft landing fees is one consideration. Another is security. Bernier reminded the board of the costly additional airport security personnel VIPA had to hire during the Gulf War in 1991. He asked David Mapp, VIPA assistant executive director, if federal funds would be available to hire extra personnel. Mapp said that in 1991 VIPA's request to the Federal Aviation Administration for such assistance was denied.
Bernier and Stridiron urged Mapp to keep close records of the extra personnel costs. "We should quantify that, in hopes of trying to recover some of these funds," Stridiron said. He recommended that Dean Plaskett, Planning and Natural Resources commissioner, do the same.
In other action, the board approved contracts to Betteroads Asphalt Corp. for airport taxi paving, Oshkosh Truck Corp. for a new airport fire truck and Sweep and Vac Unlimited for a new airport pavement-sweeping apparatus. It also allocated $100,000 for a request for proposals for the St. Croix Industrial Park to invite firms to conduct a preliminary work assessment for the park and a hotel site.
Maurice Kurg, president of Seaborne Airlines; Hortense Rowe, Sen. Adelbert Bryan's chief of staff; and Mel Plaskett, representing the Global Museum Conference, were in the audience. All were awaiting board decisions which were deferred to the next board meeting, tentatively to take place next week at a day and time to be announced.
Attending the meeting were board members Stridiron, Bernier, Dean Plaskett, Leslie Milliner and Wayne Callwood. Gordon Finch, VIPA executive director, is off island.

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