Oct. 19, 2005 – In a long day that included three separate executive sessions, the V.I. Port Authority board on Wednesday voted to:
— Accept a letter from Executive Director Darlan Brin withdrawing the letter of resignation he had submitted last Wednesday.
— Postpone a decision on a proposed Gallows Bay development project until VIPA's Property Management Committee meets again on Nov. 9 on St. Croix.
— Approve a paving contract for V.I. Asphalt Products Corp. for an access taxiway for Webster Aviation at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.
Brin, a more than 20-year VIPA veteran who has been director since 2003, reportedly resigned last week after a disagreement with board members over micro-management.
This is not the first time Brin has threatened to leave. In August 2003, he declared he would resign at the end of the year, although he declined to elaborate on his decision at that time. (See "Darlan Brin to Step Down From VIPA Post.")
The decision to accept Brin's change of heart was not arrived at easily. The board met in its first executive session at 9 a.m., prior to its scheduled 10 a.m. start. VIPA board chairman Robert O'Connor Jr. emerged about 10:30 a.m. to announce the meeting would re-convene at 1 p.m., which it did, only to break again about 1:50 p.m. for another session.
The board opened the meeting again about 3:15 p.m. before going back into a last executive session about 3:45 p.m. Shortly after 4 p.m., while several board members departed, O'Connor invited the media back into the board room, where only members Pamela Richards, Dean Plaskett and O'Connor remained, along with Brin.
O'Connor then announced the board's 5-1 vote to accept Brin's letter of withdrawal of his previous resignation letter. Asked who cast the dissenting vote, O'Connor deferred to VIPA counsel, Donald Mills, who said the board was not obliged to reveal the information because it was an "individual personnel matter, not subject to public disclosure."
Members O'Connor, Plaskett, Richards, James Rodgers, Kerry Drue and Hector Peguero voted on the issue. Members Leslie Milliner and George Phillips were absent for the vote.
After the meeting, Brin said of rescinding his resignation letter: "I wouldn't do it if I wasn't happy with it." He had been partially persuaded to change his mind by "people I meet on the street," he said, and by senators' remarks at a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday.
"Sen. Berry said on the floor that she hoped I would change my mind," Brin said. "Sens. Hill, Encarnacion and James said the same thing."
Brin said his concern staying in his position isn't as much to oversee the authority's continuing projects as it is "with the services we provide." He named the airport services, the airport fire stations, the marine division and the harbor pilots. "The projects will always be managed, but we have to provide good day-to-day services," he said.
Gallows Bay Development Partners principals Duane Bobeck and Michael Fields, their attorneys and consultant Gordon Finch, former VIPA executive director, waited most of the day for the board to take action, sitting out the executive sessions along with the media.
Kenn Hobson, VIPA director of property management, introduced the proposal in the last afternoon open session. The board decided to send the proposal back to the Property Committee for further review. This will be the third time the proposal will be heard before the committee.
Speaking after the meeting, O'Connor sounded positive about the Gallows Bay project. He said there were further negotiations that needed to be worked out.
The project could be a boon for St. Croix. At VIPA's September board meeting, Gallows Bay Partners said the island would have a premier retail and office mall that would envelope existing businesses and include a state-of-the-art marina. The mall includes three-story structures to house shops, restaurants, gourmet food stores and nightclubs. To accommodate the marine industry, particularly the mini cruise ships and yachts expected to dock at Gallows Bay, the proposal includes piers and docking areas with facilities for refueling, potable water and electrical connectivity for bigger ships. Fueling areas would be available for small yachts. (See "VIPA to Begin Negotiations on Gallows Bay Development.")
O 'Connor said Wednesday that VIPA would have to relocate its Gallows Bay cargo facilities, "probably to the south side" of the island.
In other action, the board sent back to the Property Committee a request from Caribe Tradewinds Lodge #589, a not-for-profit organization, to lease land in Bovoni for $1 a year. Though board members seemed to view the proposal favorably, they decided that VIPA's lease agreements need to be reviewed. O'Connor said he had "problems" with the $1 per year leases.
Board members also sent back to the Property Committee issues pertaining to the rent charged to mobile food vendors through a permitting process. Hobson said the committee was proposing a monthly increase from $100 to $175.
The permits are for one year. However, "if there are no other takers after a year, the permit is extended," Hobson said. Some vendors have been at their locations up to five years. An across-the-board increase could be 5 percent, or it could be determined by the consumer price index that gauges inflation, Hobson said.
Members Drue, Milliner, O'Connor, Peguero, Plaskett, Richards and Rodgers attended the meeting. George Phillips attended the first executive session, but was absent for the balance of the day.
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