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Omnibus Money May Be Reconsidered

Oct. 19, 2005 — Appropriations included in the Omnibus Bill for local hospitals, schools, government departments and capital-improvement projects may have to be reconsidered, according to Kenneth Mapp, executive director of the Public Finance Authority.
Funding for these appropriations, which total $16.4 million, comes from interest earned on debt reserves. At a Public Finance Authority board meeting Wednesday, Mapp said this amount exceeds what the authority has left of that money for the year.
Upon hearing the news, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, chair of the PFA board asked, "Are these the appropriations I approved?"
Board members said yes: Turnbull signed the Omnibus Bill into law early Monday evening, after the bill was passed by the Legislature earlier this month.
Mapp suggested Turnbull write senators a letter saying some appropriations may have to be cut because the PFA has only about $13.8 million in interest earned on debt reserves.
In other action, the board approved a $3.6 million operating budget for the organization. Of that amount, $1.2 million will be used for the PFA's daily operations. The rest will go toward a 6 percent raise for the authority's employees, as well as the hiring of a forensic accountant who will handle the authority's invoices. In addition, $30,000 will be used to buy a new PFA vehicle for St. Croix.
The board also amended a request by Golden Gaming LLC for a six-month extension on an agreement between the company and the PFA.
The agreement states the PFA will enter into negotiations with the company to fund the construction of a conference room on St. Croix if certain conditions are met. Mapp said the project has been in the works for at least three years, and he has not heard of any progress made by Golden Gaming. "The PFA has bent over backwards for this project without receiving any tangible evidence that it is moving forward," Mapp said.
Other board members also pointed out that this is the fourth extension Golden Gaming has requested.
Mapp said the PFA put out a request for questions (RFQ) when the project first started and received responses from several companies interested in developing hotel or meeting facilities on St. Croix. Because Golden Gaming said it would be building the conference room, the PFA did not send out requests for proposals (RFP) to these companies for development packages, he said.
Golden Gaming's lack of progress has kept anything from happening in the area, Mapp said, and he proposed an extension be granted to the company for three months instead of six.
This proposal was approved by the board. Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, also suggested that once the three-month extension expired, the PFA should decide whether to put out an RFP, so other companies can present packages proposing other developments.
The board also unanimously approved an appropriation of $700,000 to the Department of Justice for repairs on the prison annex at Sub Base on St. Thomas. The money for this project comes from the 2003 bond proceeds. Because the existence of such an annex is required by a consent decree between courts and the Justice Department, the money should be provided, board members said.
A $150,000 appropriation to Housing, Parks, and Recreation for the construction of a recreation center in Estate Bethlehem on St. Croix was also approved. The money for this project comes from 2003 bond proceeds.
Turnbull said the appropriation was already introduced and approved at a previous board meeting. However, because members voted to provide money for a recreation center at Mon Bijou instead of Estate Bethlehem, Housing, Parks and Recreation could not access the money.
Members subsequently corrected the name of the location.

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