Feb. 20, 2004 – Construction of the first facility of the new University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park on St. Croix may be delayed as a result of a bill to provide a $7 million loan for the project being removed from consideration this week by the Senate Finance Committee.
Malcolm Kirwan, interim executive director of the UVI Research and Technology Park, said when he and other park representatives arrived at the Legislature Building on St. Thomas on Tuesday to testify concerning the bill, one senator told him the measure might be removed from the committee's agenda.
The legislation, sponsored by the Senate minority, would provide the loan from $65 million out of recent bond proceeds that is earmarked for the financing of economic development initiatives on St. Croix. The committee unanimously voted to take bill off the agenda on a motion by Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, a St. Croix lawmaker and member of the minority bloc.
"We cannot construct without financing," Kirwan said on Thursday. He added that UVI has been seeking funding from federal grants and private sector investment as well as the V.I. government to finance the development of the park.
"It is our hope that one of these avenues of financing will come through," Kirwan said.
In written testimony submitted to the Finance Committee, UVI President LaVerne Ragster stated that "the launching of the park depends on the construction of its first facility and related infrastructure, for which we would like to break ground within the next six months."
This first facility is projected to cost about $7 million. The loan proposed in the bill before the Legislature would cover that cost.
Kirwan said: "It is my understanding that the [Senate] majority will support new legislation to deal with this matter."
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Finance chair and majority member, said on Friday that the lawmakers would seek to find appropriate funding for the park. "We do recognize that the University of the Virgin Islands will need assistance," he said.
Donastorg said funding might be available from the $65 million in bond proceeds for St. Croix development, but in order to tap into it, the university would have to show proof of a return on the investment.
Kirwan said the master plan for the park has been drafted and the first building is in the design stage. The park board of directors has been selected and oversight committees have been established, marketing and communications materials are being developed, and grant funding is being pursued, he said.
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