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Port Authority Board OKs Budget, Contracts and COVID-19 Policy

Aerial view of St. Croix airport. (Photo from Port Authority presentation)

The Port Authority Governing Board Wednesday approved its 2022 budget, several contracts, and reviewed ongoing construction projects. The topic debated the most, however, was a proposed policy for employees who travel outside the territory for personal reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The policy, as recommended by the personnel department, stated “regardless of vaccination status” employees after traveling needed to present a negative COVID test before returning to work. The policy recommendation also stated, “This test must be completed three to five days after returning to the Virgin Islands: and employees would be responsible for the cost of the testing.”

Board members objected to vaccinated and unvaccinated employees being treated the same.

Denise George, Attorney General, who is also on the board’s personnel committee, said the recommendation was worded the way it was because “you can get it” even if you are vaccinated.

Board members said vaccinated employees should be rewarded in some way. The policy, before being passed, was amended to say vaccinated employees would not have to pay for the test.

The budget as approved by the board calls for an outlay of $201.7 million. That includes salaries payout of $16 million, a million more than the present fiscal year. The fringe benefits next year are expected to be $9.3 million, which is about $300,000 less than last year.

The Finance Committee reported present assets of the Authority were $356 million, and liabilities were $249 million.

The board approved a janitorial contract for both airports. The contracts are for one year with an option to renew for two. Crystal Clear Cleaning Service will provide services at the Cyril E. King Airport for $15,000 a month. White Gloves Cleaning Services will provide the services at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix for $15,800 a month.

Two contracts were approved for the replacement of the baggage handling system on St. Thomas. One contract was for Kimley-Horne for $150,000 and the other for Professional Design/Builders for $1.6 million.

The board also approved a contract for three years with Charles Electrical Services to provide electrical services to the Authority on St. Thomas.

The staff reported the Authority needed a qualified contractor to perform electrical work both on an on-call basis and for routine electrical work on the Authority’s airport facility, marine facilities, and administrative office. Charles Electric price quotes were normal cost per hour for electrical services: $85; cost per hour after 5 p.m., weekends and holidays: $127.50; emergency services one hour or less response time: $225.

Along the same lines, the Board approved contracts for three years with Boyce Plumbing Contractors and O’Reilly Plumbing & Construction, Inc. to provide plumbing services to the Port Authority on St. Croix.

The staff report said the Authority needed a qualified contractor to perform plumbing services both on an on-call basis and for routine plumbing work at its airport facility, marine facilities, and administrative offices.

The engineering staff reported that the parking lot project at the St. Thomas airport Phase 1 is 90 percent complete. The project is expected to cost $26 million.

Also, at that airport, it was reported that 10 of 18 planned charging stations have been installed for $12,000.

The Red Hook Customs building project reportedly needs an increase of funding from $518,000 to $694,000.

As for the improvement of the St. John ferry dock, $110,000 of the $119,000 approved for that project has been spent.

On St. Croix the Engineering Department said it is currently working on fifteen projects; This includes a $1.2 million project at the airport for a security gate and security cameras and another airport expansion project costing $7.3 million. Other projects at the airport include vegetation removal, electrical work, and refitting of the air conditioning system.

Marine projects are ongoing at the Frederiksted pier, the Molasses pier, Gordon A. Finch Molasses Dock Terminal, and the Container Port Road repair.

Carlton Dowe, Port Authority executive director, told the board that the solar panel array at the St. Thomas airport was producing about $30,000 worth of electricity each month.

Board members attending the meeting were Denise George, Lionel Jacobs, Willard John, Kevin Rodriquez, Leona Smith, Derek Gabriel, Joseph Boschulte, and Celestino A. White, Sr.

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