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Port Authority Prepares Wish List for Obama

Dec. 17, 2008 — The V.I. Port Authority will submit a list of capital-improvement projects for inclusion in the federal stimulus package being touted by President-elect Barack Obama that, if approved, can get some languishing — and critical — local projects off the ground.
"We're submitting all of the projects that we think are important and critical, and hoping that at least some of them get approved," said Cassan Pancham, VIPA board chairman, when contacted Wednesday evening. "But the bias in the stimulus package is for projects that can be started quickly so the money can start circulating. All of the states, everybody across the country is doing it, and we were asked to submit a list of projects as well, so I assume other agencies across the territory are also doing that."
The VIPA board held its monthly meeting Wednesday on St. Croix.
Among the projects that have been sent to Public Works for submission is an $8.9 million proposal to renovate St. Croix's Molasses Pier so it can begin accepting cargo boats from Gallows Bay, which is slated to be turned into a marina.
The economic recession has resulted in fewer travelers at both of the territory's airports, along with a dip in the total number of cruise-ship passengers, according to VIPA's financial reports.
"The other thing that's interesting is that our expectation is that revenue would be lower this year has been borne out by the start in October, so revenues are down by about $400,000 compared to last year," Pancham said. "Expenses are down as well. We're not sure whether it's in line yet with the budget, but it was our expectation that revenues would be lower, and it is in fact lower."
At the end of October 2007, passengers coming into Cyril E. King totaled 37,880, as compared to two months ago, when the figure dropped to 30,080. St. Croix's Rohlsen Airport boasted 13,185 passengers in October 2007, but saw that number dip to 11,346 this year. There's an even bigger difference in the total number of cruise-ship passengers coming into the territory, which went from 126,472 at the end of October 2007 to 81,653 at the end of October 2008.
The number of cruise-ship visitors passing through Crown Bay is up, however, jumping to 23,454, as compared to the 21,710 visitors recorded in October 2007.
Reducing expenses has helped the authority shrink its net decrease in assets to $515,162, compared to $728,725 in October 2007.
The authority's auditors, from Ernst and Young, are on island and working to complete the fiscal year 2007 audit by January, VIPA board members said during Wednesday's meeting.
While there was some controversy earlier this year about whether the world's largest cruise ship would dock at Crown Bay or Havensight, board members have since said the matter has been resolved, and that Royal Caribbean's Project Genesis ship will pull into the West Indian Co. Ltd. dock come December 2009. To accommodate the vessel, the entrance to the Charlotte Amalie Harbor has to be dredged. A local dredging committee — headed by WICO President Edward Thomas Sr, in consultation with Planning and Natural Resources — has decided that the spoils will be dumped into an existing cavity at Lindberg Bay, authority board members said Wednesday.
In other news, the board also approved:
— a proposed increase in parking fees at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport to $2;
— redirecting money from passenger-facilities charges to fix the outgoing baggage belt at Cyril E. King Airport;
— a request to change the name on a lease agreement between VIPA and HDB3 to Riverhawk West Indies;
— a lease renewal between VIPA and Federal Express Virgin Islands for 4,000 square feet of space at Cyril King;
— a lease renewal between VIPA and Media Marketing for the continued use of designated wall space at the Cruz Bay Dock on St. John;
— a request to terminate the lease agreement between VIPA and WVC St. John;
— a lease agreement between VIPA and St. Thomas Jet Center for about 68 square feet of open counter space at Cyril King;
— a lease agreement between VIPA and Get Right T-Shirts for a kiosk at the Crown Bay Center;
— a lease agreement between VIPA and Island Ambrosia for a kiosk at the Crown Bay Center. The company proposes to sell spices, teas, condiments made from local fruits, min steel pans and dolls, among other things; and
— a lease agreement between VIPA and Ester Albert and Justina Scott for a kiosk at Crown Bay Center.
Board members present during Wednesday's meeting were Pancham, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan Jr., Gordon Finch, Hector Peguero and Robert O'Connor Jr.
Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls and Yvonne Thraen were absent.
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