Port Authority Board OKs 5 new police officers


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ST. CROIX - Among a number of actions approved at its monthly meeting Wednesday, the V.I. Port Authority Board gave authorization to its executive director to fill five additional positions for Port Authority police officers.

Executive Director Carlton Dowe requested that the board establish the positions - two on St. Croix and three in the St. Thomas-St. John District - to supplement what he described as the overworked force that currently exists.

Dowe said there are times when St. John is left without any officer presence, because the one officer assigned there is out, and if the situation calls to relocate a St. Thomas officer, then that usually leaves St. Thomas short of adequate coverage.

"We are dealing here with ports that at some times have 11,000 people going back and forth to these ships, so we have to make sure that we don't even have a pass-through," he said, referring to security gates at the docks.

Dowe said a breach in security could be detrimental and it is something that needs to be addressed sooner than later.

A staff shortage is crippling the Port Authority when officers are out sick, take vacation or are placed on military leave, and the authority has been trying to work on reducing overtime for its police officers, Dowe said. Overtime has been costing the agency about $80,000 annually, he said.

Adding some officers and putting more bodies in place would fill the void and reduce the overtime costs, according to Dowe. He said the need for the officers also exists to have a presence at the cashiers booth at the various ports where there is paid parking, and he does not want to wait until there is an incident to establish more security in those areas.

Port Authority officers are bonafide police officers and act as such on and off Port Authority property. Having a V.I. Port Authority Police Department is part of the federal mandates for the airports, and the department must be staffed sufficiently, Dowe said.

Board member Gordon Finch made a motion to authorize Dowe to fill the positions, and the eight board members agreed unanimously. Member Allison Petrus was absent from the meeting.

Board actions

Board member and V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer gave a report from the Property Committee's last meeting, and the board voted unanimously to approve:

- A request from the Transportation Security Administration for the renewal of its lease agreement.

- An application from St. Thomas Jet Center to add an option for a five-year extension to its lease renewal in 2017.

- A lease renewal for Steel Pulse Supplies LLC for three years at a rate of $40,980 annually, which reflects a downward adjustment in the rent because the building space is in need of repair.

- A lease to extend the premises rented to Neltjeberg Bay Enterprises at the Austin "Babe" Monsanto Marina from 674 square feet to 1,132 square feet at a rental cost of $17,000 per year.

- A request from V and G Originals to change the use of its storefront to include a technology resale business.

- Skagway Jewelry Co.'s request to remove an interior wall between two subleased units in Crown Bay.

- Crown Bay Luxury Group's request to extend their 50 percent rent reduction to end in February rather than October when construction had been expected to be completed. Frazer said the delay was no fault of the company because it resulted from delays in the permitting process.

- A motion to get an estimate from the Port Authority's marine contractor, CDR Maguire Group, to determine the cost of assessing the damage to the King's Wharf bulkhead and move to consider using the area to increase downtown Christiansted traffic.

Following a report from the Projects Committee, the board also voted to approve a task order for CDR Maguire Group to prepare construction bid documents for the restoration of damaged pylons and cathodic services at container port for $82,839.

Crown Bay dredging

Chief Engineer Dale Gregory gave the board an update about the Crown Bay Marina dredging project and said that the Port Authority had interagency meetings with the Army Corps of Engineers about the marina application, and the Corps received all necessary documents and the permit should be ready by next month.

Regarding the Crown Bay Channel dredging project, Gregory said the Port Authority has a proposal to reduce the scope of work and lessen the impact and add the closure of the south end of the Crown Bay Pier by adding sheet piles.

He said there has been a change in dredging 200,000 cubic yards down to now only dredging 14,000 cubic yards from the area, and the plans will be submitted by next week. Despite the drastic reduction, the construction time period will still be scheduled to be finished by November of next year, Gregory said.

Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty said there is an urgent need to tighten the time line on the project to lessen the impact on the 22 cruise ship calls scheduled for Crown Bay during the 2014-2015 season. She said it is critical that the dredging does not force the cancellation of the any of the scheduled visits.

Bournefield

O'Connor gave an update on the Bournefield Housing project and said that all of the residents with the exception of one tenant have been relocated and that tenant is holding out on moving until after the holidays, not wanting to interrupt the season.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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