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HomeNewsArchivesBACK TAXES MAKE GOVERNMENT HESITATE ON HOTEL

BACK TAXES MAKE GOVERNMENT HESITATE ON HOTEL

Outstanding property taxes have so far prevented Gov. Charles Turnbull's administration from taking possession of the crumbling Virgin Isle Hotel, which was offered to the previous administration shortly before it left office last year.
"We have not accepted it yet. There are issues of taxation," V.I. Attorney General Iver Stridiron said this week.
The V.I. Hotel, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, is the highly visible, mangled building atop the hill in Contant. The owners of the property offered the hotel to the government in exchange for waiving the property taxes owed on it.
Without being specific, Stridiron said what is owed is a "substantial amount."
"There have been cases where the government relieved the owners of taxes, but it was either an even exchange or favorable to the government," he said. "The condition of the V.I. Hotel is not too good. It's going to take quite a bit of work to refurbish it."
The hotel itself will likely have to be demolished or extensively renovated before it can be utilized, Stridiron said.
Approximately $4 million is owed in property taxes, other sources have told St. Thomas Source.
Some believe the decrepit building has been allowed to stand for too long.
"It's a dormant piece of property. It's an eyesore," Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said. "I definitely think it's gone on a little too long. It's been there for years and it should have been pursued before."
Donastorg, like many other Senators, feels the property is an ideal spot for the government to finally build a complex to consolidate its sprawled offices and reduce its rental costs. The field in Crown Bay was the initial site, but it has been returned to the V.I. Port Authority to develop.
"If the government can acquire it, I would propose centralizing the government so business people and others who require services don't have to drive from one end of the island to the other to do it," he said.
Increased efficiency might persuade the federal government to help with construction costs, Donastorg said.
"If we go to the feds and say we want to centralize for efficiency, we could ask them for assistance in demolishing the hotel and reconstructing a government complex," he said.
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole said he realized the Turnbull administration has several issues to deal with, but any proposal that would save money should be under consideration.
"The administration has a lot on the table, but everything should be in the mix now," Cole said. "I think the government should take inventory of all of its properties, and in lieu of the fact its paying more than $8 million in rent and it doesn't have any money, the V.I. Hotel should be utilized for a V.I. complex."
Cole agreed a complex would make the government more user friendly.
"We have to look at the property we pay rent for, like IRB. the Department of Finance is also looking for a new place. Those entities, and others that are contiguous, can come together," he said.
The construction could be financed with the rent money the government would save, Cole said.
"We could look at floating a bond issue for that project and use the rental monies as a collateral source," he said.
The Senate majority's Financial Accountability Act, passed Wednesday night, directs the government to evaluate all its properties with the intent of rehabilitating usable offices and moving agencies out of rental spaces.
Another option for the property is to build a hotel training center, Cole said.
"We have the tourist industry and we have the service industry and if we can institute a training center here it should be done, instead of having people spend the money for training in the states," he said.
A local training center would probably encourage more Virgin Islanders to go into the hospitality industry, Cole said.
"If it was here, and people could see the training was tied to a job, more people would be interested," he said.

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