The Virgin Islands Port Authority Board of Directors approved a $150,000 salary for their newly appointed executive director, Carlton Dowe, in executive session at a meeting Wednesday.
The five-term senator was chosen to lead the authority by the board late last month and the parties have been negotiating the salary, start date and other terms since then.
The board also voted to allow for the hiring of a special assistant to the new executive director. The salary for that position was not released.
Dowe, who chose not to run for reelection to the Senate this year, beat out 36 other applicants for the VIPA executive director position. Board Chairman Robert O’Connor said at the time of the decision that Dowe was chosen for his administrative and policy experience as well as his familiarity with challenges currently facing the authority.
VIPA has been run by a series of interim executive directors since Ken Hobson retired earlier this year. Board members said that finding a permanent replacement was an integral step towards making the authority more attractive to investors as it prepares to seek a major cash infusion from the bond market to finance the upcoming Crown Bay dredging project.
In other business, the board tabled a proposal that would have raised an estimated $500,000 a year by adding a $2-per-day service charge to all rental car contracts written at the Cyril E. King Airport.
The money would have been put in a pool for the express purpose of improving that airport’s rental car facilities. The plan would not affect St. Croix rental companies or the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.
Denise Mills, director of property management, said this was a tactic used by airports across the nation, but differed from most other cases in that the idea originated with the rental companies, not VIPA.
“Usually you would have to fight with a company to do this, but they were the ones who brought it up,” she said. “They’re looking forward to it.”
The companies requested the funds first be used to renovate their rental counters and then later be applied to “agreed upon projects.”
Several board members raised concerns over what “agreed upon” meant and questioned whether VIPA or the rental car companies would have primary control over the funds.
O’Connor said he felt the wording of the agreement might give the car rental companies “veto power” over projects VIPA would want to pursue.
Board member Gordon Finch objected to the very idea of what he called a “force account.” He said other fees collected by the authority were lumped into a central account and directed as needed. Finch said it would set a bad precedent to give up that flexibility by earmarking the money for one purpose.
The proposal was sent back to the finance committee for further discussion.
The board approved a settlement with Crown Bay Marina concerning the dredging of the marina’s entrance. The agreement ends an ongoing disagreement between the two entities and should avoid any litigation on the matter.
VIPA agreed to dredge the entrance by Sept. 30, 2013, or be forced to pay monetary damages to the marina.
The board also agreed to issue a request for qualifications in order to find a company to perform a rate study of the fees charged by the authority. Board members said their fees were likely too low and would need to be raised.
They also called for a request of proposal to be issued for the purchase and installation of turnstiles at the Urman Victor Fredericks Marine terminal at Red Hook, St. Thomas. The turnstiles would enable the authority to collect a 25-cent passenger fee, which has been authorized but uncollected for more than 15 years.
The board also renewed leases for Seaborne airlines at both airports as well as for Cardow Inc., the jewelry store located in the Cyril E. King airport terminal. The board issued a new lease to Divine Destinations, a travel club, at the Red Hook ferry terminal, and approved a plan by Virtual Wave Enterprises to install digital advertising displays at the ferry terminal and the E.W. Blyden Marine Terminal.
A proposal to convert a currently empty space on the second floor of building B at the Crown Bay Center into a conference and reception room at the cost of $150,000 was also accepted.
Anna Penn, director of administration and finance, said the likelihood of finding a long-term renter for the space was slim because the demand for office space on the St. Thomas is low. She believes that by renting the room for meetings and private functions could generate as much as $120,000 a year for the authority.
Voting at the meeting were board members Robert O’Connor, Albert Bryan Jr., Gordon Finch, Manuel Gutierrez Jr., Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Allison Petrus, Darryl Smalls and Yvonne Thraen. Vincent Frazer was absent.