Jan. 19, 2004 Work has yet to begin on the dredging project at the Ann E. Abramson Pier in St. Croix.
V.I. Port Authority Executive Director Darlan Brin told board members during its January meeting, that the authority is waiting for approval of its application by the Planning and Natural Resources Department to begin dredging around the pier.
"Until DPNR accepts the application from us, we cannot send it to the [Army Corp of Engineers]," Brin said.
Brin said the U.S. Coast Guard had advised the Port Authority to remove the more than 200 piles and rubble at the south end of the pier before accepting ships on that end.
Ships have currently been getting fuel at the north end of the Frederiksted Pier, which is also slated for dredging. However, larger ships, like Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, have difficulty accessing the pier because of low depths in certain areas and have requested the northern end of the pier be dredged to a depth of 35 feet.
"We feel that they should be able to suffice, with 33 feet," Brin said, adding this was the acceptable depth by the Coast Guard. Brin said when the Voyager pulled up initially at the pier, the depth was two feet from the ship's keel to the ocean floor and the ship's captain requested more depth.
"Just to have that safety margin, we're attempting to dredge the pier," Brin said.
Brin said the Authority will dredge the northern end eventually, but its priority was dredging the southern end as recommended by the Coast Guard. He added once the work on the south part of the pier begins, the facility would not be ready for ships until the end of this current cruise season.
"Because of the method to be used, the dredging will take a couple of months," Brin said. He added that the north side of the pier would continue to accept cruise ships for bunkering.
The dredging project on the south end of the pier is expected to cost about $800,000, Brin said.
In other action, the board approved four lease requests and tabled one request, sending it back to the Property Committee.
The board, with a 4-1 vote, approved a three-year lease agreement with the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas for space in the baggage area of the Cyril E. King Airport for a hospitality lounge for its guest. The area will be leased at $43 per square foot.
Robert O'Connor, board chairman; Dean Plaskett; James Rodgers; and Alva Swan voted in the affirmative. Leslie Milliner abstained. Pamela Richards, Wayne Callwood and Hector Peguero were absent.
Two requests from Caribbean Sun were approved unanimously: a request for additional office space at the King Airport at $43 per square foot and a request for counter space at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix at $45 per square foot.
The board also approved a request from Cape Air to extend its current lease at Rohlsen Airport for three years.
The board sent back to the Property Committee a lease request from Mary Caesar, a food vendor desiring to sell food out of a van near the Rohlsen Airport.
Denise Mills, acting property manager, told the board Caesar did not have general liability insurance and recommended the board not approve the request unless Caesar obtained the insurance.
"In an airport there should be provision for growth," Milliner said concerning the lack of office and counter space at King Airport and continued requests for space.
The board was also given a financial report for the month of October.
Judith James, acting director of administration and finance, told the board that total operating revenue for October 2004 was $2.41 million, a decrease of 1.39 percent when compared to October 2003. Although aviation revenue increased by approximately 8.5 percent, marine revenue decreased by approximately 7.11 percent.
VIPA's total expense for October was $3.5 million, resulting in a net loss of $1.1 million.
"What in the world accounts for this bleak financial report?" Swan asked.
James told the board, "The increase in expenses is evident in salaries and benefits, professional and other services, utilities, depreciation and other expenses."
O'Connor said something must be "getting through the cracks" as far as collection goes.
Brin told the board he assigned a staff member as a collection specialist for six months to deal solely with collections until they could hire someone full-time. Brin said he has also assigned Internal Audit to monitor all lease contracts to ensure compliance and that payments are being made on time.
Rodgers asked for a list of recommendations from the board's staff on revenue initiatives. He inquired about the yachts bunkering at the Waterfront.
O'Connor said they needed to be better regulated to make sure they are getting the necessary permits and paying necessary fines.
Brin said, "The board is saying collect, and I'm trying to collect whatever it takes."
The board moved into executive session to discuss recommendations for the airport manager in St. Thomas, among other things.
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