Home News Local news VIPA Board Elects New Officers, Votes on Dredging and Waterfront Issues

VIPA Board Elects New Officers, Votes on Dredging and Waterfront Issues


Jan. 23, 2008 — The V.I. Port Authority board started off the new year with a bang: Following election of officers, new board chair Cassan Pancham pushed through a packed agenda in a few hours while addressing some of the authority's chronic issues, Crown Bay dredging and the waterfront-apron project on St. Thomas.
Pancham replaces Robert O'Connor Jr. as board chairman, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty replaces Pancham as vice chairman, and Darryl Smalls replaces Finch as secretary.
A new 20-day contract with dredging is scheduled to be completed this month, but it looks like it could be another 20 years before Charlotte Amalie gets a new waterfront.
Though the Queen Mary II docked at Crown Bay in December, further dredging is needed on the north dock, said Darlan Brin, VIPA executive director.
Brin got board approval for a 20-day extension to a contact with Misener Marine Construction for further dredging at $11,500 a day using two shifts with a 20-day maximum completion time.
Mark Stridiron, VIPA public information officer, said later that the dredging on the north dock will allow one of the larger Princess Line ships to berth on that side. The work will reduce the rock outcropping on the approach to the dock. The work started last week, Stridiron said.
As far as St. Thomas getting a beautiful new waterfront to greet visitors and please locals, it's back to square one. The board approved a motion by Gordon Finch, projects committee chairman and former executive director, to inform Island Global Yachting, the parent company of Yacht Haven Grande, that the authority will not pursue a contract for the waterfront work at this time.
Finch made clear that too many obstacles stand in the way of the revitalization project. He deferred action to board member Daryl Smalls, Public Works Department commissioner.
"Public Works should take the lead on this," Finch said, "and we will work with them."
Smalls later made clear that his role is "strictly limited to safety measures."
The waterfront apron houses not only public works sewage lines, but also the V.I. Water and Power Authority water lines. The waterfront rarely goes more than a few months without a break in one of the conduits.
"There's always hope" for the project, Finch said later: "The waterfront would have to be extended out the water side for work on Veterans Drive. It would cost millions, but maybe federal highway funds could be available."
A full complement of the board's nine members directed their attention to 11 leases. While the board approved nine of the agreements, one that was sent back to the property committee took up most of the discussion.
Charaf & Company, developers, proposed leasing 8,700 feet of land at what's called the Tortola Wharf Marine Terminal, but it is actually Seaborne Airline's ramp, along with 75 linear feet of bulkhead.
Brin interupted the discussion, bringing out a map of the proposed waterfront-revitalization plan to make his point.
"What's lacking here," he said, "is imagination." Pointing to the area in quesiton, Brin said, "Think years from now. Seaborne will expand and it will need this area to service its aircraft, if one should have a mechanical problem, they will need an emergency ramp to haul out aircraft. They will need this space."
Seaborne has leased the property from the authority for the past 14 years on St. Thomas and St. Croix. After much discussion, it remained unclear whether Seaborne had also made a bid for the property. It was finally decided to send Charaf''s proposal back to the property committee and invite both entities to meet with the committee to trash out the issue.
In other matters, a counter space lease at Cyril King Airport was approved for Seaborne.
Finch took the occasion to bring up a policy matter. Speaking forcefully, the former director said, "First come, first served has been a long-time Port Authority policy; the authority is open for business." Finch stressed that the authority is under no obligation to accept any offer just because it was first, but it is obliged to consider each application.
"There are many other considerations, of course, of appropriateness, fitting into a master plan, and others," he said, and the board agreed.
The board approved a $3.7 million MSI Buidling Supplies project to construct a bulk warehouse building, along with two sheds, to be completed in stages. But it extended the time frame from one up to two years, with negotiations to be completed after the work is completed.
The approval sparked heated comment from board member Albert Bryan Jr., Labor Commissioner. Throwing up his hands, Bryan said, "This is why St. Thomas looks the way it does. What are these decisions based on? Just money? It's sickening. There's only so much land on St. Thomas."
Bryan, who now lives on St. Croix, said he was brought up on St. Thomas. Brin defended the authority's decision, noting that there is a master land-use plan considered in leases.
Bryan wasn't convinced: "In 20 years, people will say 'What were you thinking?'"
The board approved leases to:
— IPV, doing business as Caribbean Host, owned by A.H. Riise, for 800 square feet of retail area to sell liquor and other items passengers could carry on in the secure passenger area;
— Mosaic Foods for a 25-year lease in the name of V.I. Finest Foods, which is owned by the same principal;
— Nesbitt Trucking for a two-year sublease to Tropical Scooter for a trailer to house its office;
— Rush It for a five-year term on its existng lease;
— Acquatic management, DBA V.I. Sea Tran, for a one-year use permit at the Gallows Bay
Terminal; and
— Three Crown Bay Center businesses: Sheek Shoe Boutique, Cupid's and Omni.
The board sent a lease request by Bolke International Airways back to the property committee for further negotiation.
It approved one lease to Haulover Marine on St. Thomas, but disapproved another 40-year lease.
It did not approve a lease for V.I. Site Development on St. Croix.
It authorized temporary emergency repairs to the Gordon A. Finch Molasses Dock Ro-Ro ramp on St. Croix. A portion of the ramp collapsed last month, and cargo operations on the dock were discontinued.
Handicapped lifts for both islands are expected to be in the territory within two weeks, said Judith James, director of administration and finances. The lifts are necessary to take handicapped passengers off aircraft without having to carry them down the ramp stairs, said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty.
"It's a matter of dignity for our passengers," she said.
James reported a good performance for fiscal year 2007, better than FY 2006. Total operating revenues wre $44.1 million, $13.1 million more than FY 2006. Operating expenses were $51.5 million, compared to $50.8 million for FY 2006.
The complete nine-member board attended the meeting: Bryan, Finch, Attorney General Vincent Frazer, O'Connor, Nicholson Doty, Pancham, Hector Peguero, Smalls and Yvonne E.L. Thraen.
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