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Saturday, May 18, 2024


May 18, 2001 — High-ranking government officials told a Senate committee Thursday that the wheels are in motion to carry out a little-known section of the mammoth 2001 Omnibus Act that calls for the Turnbull administration to help construct a 300-room hotel-casino and convention center on St. Croix.
Amadeo Francis, director of administration and finance of the V.I. Public Finance Authority, told members of the Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Committee Thursday that the PFA will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with an unidentified local developer to conduct a feasability study to determine whether a hotel-casino and convention center built on V.I. Port Authority land fly.
The Omnibus act, signed by Gov. Charles Turnbull in February, authorized the governor – with legislative approval – to move ahead with the project as soon as possible.
Francis said that if the feasability study is positive, the PFA will negotiate with an unnamed "developer with a track record" in the territory.
Under terms that are now being negotiated, Francis said the unnamed developer would " would design, finance and construct it on land adjacent to the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport," Francis said.
If the feasability study comes out negative, the PFA will not be obligated to go forward with the project.
The memorandum of understanding calls for the developer to obtain a full performance bond if the project is deemed possible, Francis said, adding that the agreement doesn’t preclude the government from negotiating with other developers in the future.
Francis said the project is being considered because St. Croix’s need for more hotel rooms. He said that between current hotels and home rentals, the island can offer no more than 1,500 rooms. That is about one third of what is available on St. Thomas he said.
Increasing the amount of rooms on St. Croix will go a long way in the effort to increase flights to the island.
"Our main frustration, our main concern, is to get a major destination on St. Croix," Francis said. "You need a major hotel that will generate travelers that will bring the airlift the island desperately needs."
The hearing was called by committee chairman Sen. Adelbert Bryan to discuss the impact the Omnibus Act will have on the local economy. Senators also touched on the government’s effort to build a waste-to-energy gasification plant, which will likely be the single-most expensive capital project ever undertaken.
The Federal Aviation Administration has threatened to turn millions of dollars worth of grants to the Port Authority into loans if the nearby Anguilla Landfill isn’t closed by the end of December 2002.
Kent Bernier, a financial advisor to Turnbull, said the proposed plant will cost between $160 million and $175 million. He said, however that it was still not decided if there would be one facility on St. Croix or one each built on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Under questioning from Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste, Bernier said residents would likely see bills ranging from $16 to $30 a month for waste disposal in order to help pay for the project. In the meantime, talks were scheduled with the Interior Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the FAA to supplement funding for the project. The V.I. Water and Power Authority and Hovensa will also be approached, he said.
"We’re at the point we’ll make a decision and then put the whole carte blanc decision on the table," he said.

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