There was no discussion outside of an executive session held by the commission. A public hearing was held on June 8 with reasons for the request presented by one of the owners – Dr. Jeffrey Chase.
Chase told the Economic Development Commission in June that the facility would enhance the economic development of the territory by increasing the number of patients who stayed on St. Thomas or St. Croix for out-patient surgery. He said that during his 20-year residency he has seen numerous senior citizens, including his in-laws, leave the territory for better health care options on the mainland, and Paragon would help reduce those numbers.
Paragon’s other owner, Dr. Raymond Cintron, and Chase also are receiving hospital salaries at about $100,000 as well. They will pay full taxes on those incomes.
Paragon was created in 2018 and began performing surgeries in July 2020. According to Chase’s June testimony, services include orthopedic surgery, pain management, GI endoscopy, ophthalmologist, ear, throat and nose doctors, and plastic surgery.
During the same hearing, V.I. Paving was approved for another 15-year term with 100 percent benefits. Their first 15-year term was granted in 2005. In a May public hearing, Robert Schierloh, the company president, said the company’s reliance on government contracts makes tax benefits necessary.
Afterward, Margarita Benjamin, Economic Development Commission managing director, announced that the board adjusted the insurance requirement for V.I. Paving and amended their grant of incentives. The company is required to pay 65 percent of employee, spouse and children’s health insurance and provide 10 paid holidays.
A third request from Sunset Cove LLC was tabled with no action taken by the board.
During the public hearing portion of Thursday’s session, two companies, Black Diamond Advisors, LLLP and Black Diamond Holdings, LLLP applied for 10-year extensions of benefits.
Mounir Nahas, chief executive officer at Black Diamond, said the company employs more than 20 people, has a 4,000-square-foot office at Yacht Haven Grande and manages $9 billion in investment funds. The main revenue is from management fees, he said.
“We have met all EDC compliance since day one,” he said, including paying benefits, holidays and making charitable donations.
The presentation for Black Diamond Holdings was basically the same. The companies perform roughly the same functions, share office space and have the same requirements regarding employee benefits and charitable giving. Nahas said there are 10 employees at the holding company.
Two board members, Jose Penn and Phil Payne, asked Nahas to reevaluate salaries and insurance contributions for the lower-salaried staff.
The board voted to approve an operations budget for fiscal year 2022. Kelly Thompson Webbe, chief financial officer of the Economic Development Authority, presented data showing revenue of $7,395,741, with income from the Economic Development Bank, Economic Development Commission applications, and Economic Development Commission Compliance and Enterprise Zone Commission. Most of the income, around $6 million, would come from the V.I. government. Expenses totaled 10 percent – $700,579, including $115,384 for personnel, $149, 374 for business marketing, $13,640 for utilities and $100,634 for general administration.
Five of six board members were present for the meetings: Kevin Rodriguez, chair; Jose Penn, Haldane Davies, Chile Payne, and Gary Molloy. Positive T.A. Nelson was absent.