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Port Authority Remains in the Red, But Some Numbers Improving

April 23, 2008 — With the news that cruise ships will resume calling on St. Croix and an encouraging monthly financial report, things are looking up at the V.I. Port Authority.
Postings for the February financials showed a $17,407 increase in net assets, though the agency's year-to-date figure is still solidly in the red at $115,272. This number is a big improvement over last year, however, when the agency posted a net-assets loss of $32,300 for the same period.
Part of the reason for the increase was that Crown Bay wasn't really operating at full steam last year, and a year-old backlog of aviation receivables has been resolved, said Cassan Pancham, VIPA chairman. The receivables nearly doubled from $5.7 million for February 2007 to $9.9 million for February 2008. Pancham said he expected these numbers to level out somewhat.
Two of the five agency divisions posted gains. The St. Thomas/St. John marine division and the Bournefield Division showed operating profits of $867,009 and $28,077, respectively. St. Croix marine and the St. Thomas and St. Croix aviation divisions posted operating losses totaling $981,785.
Year-to-date agency operating expenses were up $4.1 million over last year, but were $882,836 less than January's figure.
Board member Gordon Finch brought these numbers to life for people attending the monthly board meeting. The agency has to "get control of utilities expenses," he said, noting that an agency employee had brought to his attention the air conditioning on the second floor of the Cyril E. King airport.
"Its not working, or you feel like you are in Alaska," Finch said. "Everybody on the second floor has to wear a coat."
The authority could make it "comfortable for everybody and at the same time we save some money," he suggested.
The board's property committee, also looking at the bottom line, reported that the lease for Thatch Farm is under review.
Attorney General Vincent Frazer, who chairs the property committee, told the board that his committee is concerned about a request for a lease extension from 69 Estate Contant LLC for Thatch Farm. The extension seems out of balance with the amount of investment being offered, he
said. The committee referred the issue back to staff to come up with a plan that would correlate tenant investment to years of extension on the lease.
The board also looked at upcoming expenses that will bring the cruise ships calling on St. Croix. The new ships will need an additional two feet of depth in the channel in Frederiksted, requiring dredging-related expenses for the agency before profits can be realized. (See "Cruise Ships Will Make Regular Calls on St. Croix in 2009.")
The project will result in about $69,000 in dredging fees. If the project can "piggyback" off a project nearby, mobilization and demobilization costs could be mitigated, Gregory said.
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