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Tuesday, November 28, 2023


The Public Finance Authority, which handles the government's capital bonding efforts, decided Tuesday to push for building a government-backed 300- to 400-room hotel on St. Croix to serve as an anchor for tourism development.
The move came during a closed portion of an hours-long board meeting at Government House on St. Thomas, most of which was devoted to a report from the West Indian Co. Ltd.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull chaired the meeting. Other board members present were Budget Director Ira Mills, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull and a private-sector member, certified public accountant Roy Jackson. The other nongovernment member, Paul Arnold, was absent. Executive Director Amadeo Francis, who is director of Finance and Administration, and several gubernatorial aides also attended.
Francis said after the meeting that he, financial adviser Kent Bernier and chief legal counsel Paul Giminez were appointed as a committee to negotiate with interested parties about ways the PFA can help in the construction of a 300- to 400-room hotel.
"We want to fast-track it," he said.
The idea has been around for some time, and in the Omnibus Act the Legislature authorized the governor to pursue it.
"We have proposals on the table," Francis said. "We looked at several approaches to this."
He declined to discuss any of the would-be players, saying confidentiality is key to negotiations. Some people making proposals may not even have told their own stockholders about them yet, he said. Neither would he identify what locations are under consideration, saying the government's expressed interest could spike land prices.
The authority has learned from past experience not to float bonds on an assumption of a project's cost, Francis said. Nor does it want to float bonds too early and have the money sit unused. This time around it plans to get a pretty firm price first and then go to the bond market. "This is a major shift in the way the board is moving," he said.
Francis said the administration sees a need for the hotel, especially in light of the Henry Rohlsen Airport expansion.
"You've got to create a demand" for the airport and St. Croix now has only about 1,100 hotel rooms.
In other action, the PFA board appropriated $400,000 to pay the firm KPMG for the government's year 2000 audit, which Francis said will be released by the mandated deadline of March 31.
"Without audits, we have problems in the bond market," he said.
"It's been a long, uphill path" to get the government audits brought up schedule, he said. "At one time we were five years behind." But now, Francis said, "it looks like we're going to catch up."

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