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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesV.I. Government May Guarantee Developer's Leases

V.I. Government May Guarantee Developer's Leases

The V.I. government will be authorized to guarantee as much as $20 million of hotel developer’s leases, for a period of up to 25 years, if a bill approved in the Rules and Judiciary Committee becomes law.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, gives the Public Finance Authority the power to issue such loan guarantees, with the "full faith and credit of the government of the Virgin Islands." [Bill 30-0431]

Senators enthusiastically hailed the bill, saying it would promote economic development, especially on St. Croix, where numerous hotel building incentives have yet to result in a new hotel.

"It was a lot of hard work getting to this point," said Sen. Sammuel Sanes, the committee chair. "But it is the right thing to do at this time," he said.

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Sen. Janette Millin Young said she had concerns about the government being able to pay, if it were left holding the bag on $20 million in lease payments. "But I was assured there were a battery of triggers before we would have to consider spending a single dollar," she said.

The bill says the "PFA shall stipulate, in a contingent guarantee agreement, minimum criteria for triggering guarantee to satisfy default. The criteria must mitigate fiscal risk brought about by an unanticipated call on contingent lease guarantee and include remediation provisions."

Young and other senators emphasized their hope the bill would foster economic development.

“I believe that supporting this is actually putting us right there at the precipice of a rebirth for St. Croix,” Young said.

Voting to send the measure on to the full Senate for a final vote were Sanes, Young, Sens. Myron Jackson, Kenneth Gittens, Donald Cole and Shawn-Michael Malone. Sen. Diane Capehart was absent.

The committee also sent on a bill decriminalizing possession of marijuana, (See Related Links below) after amending it so that synthetic chemical salts sold as "synthetic marijuana" are not decriminalized. Another amendment added fines and penalties if a person is fined for possession of marijuana and does not pay, and clarified that marijuana would no longer be considered a violation of parole or probation.

Another bill approved Wednesday by Rules would creating an agricultural “business incubator center” that duplicates the existing Small Business Incubator Program, but without funding or personnel. During committee hearings, Agriculture officials testified an incubator program would be valuable, but the department does not have the staffing or funding to carry one out at present.

Young addressed concerns about the lack of funding, saying "once we know what the needs are, then we will fund it."

The committee also sent forward the nomination of LaVerne Slack to the Board of Education for the St.Thomas/St. John district and more than 30 bills, including those appropriating the government’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, previously vetted in the Committee on Finance.

Also sent on for final votes by the full senate were bills:

– To rename the Industrial Development Program as the Economic Development Program; and update the Economic Development Program Law,

– To reprogram $1.3 million originally dedicated to rebuilding Durant Tower, with $799,000 for the expansion of services at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged and $200,000 to the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation for a grant to the Barren Spot Homeowners’ Association to help finance a new community center,

– Rename the Anguilla Wastewater Treatment Plant for the late Harold G. Thompson Jr.,

– Erect a bust in honor of the late Elroy George in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Veterans Memorial Park,

– Rename the Red Point Wastewater Treatment Plant on St. Thomas in honor of Pedrito Augustus Francois.

All the measures will be voted on during session scheduled Sept. 25 and 26.

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