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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Comptroller’s report details delays in redevelopment of former naval base

A comptroller’s report notes that nine years after the transfer of three land parcels to the Local Redevelopment Authority for Roosevelt Roads, “and investments of $30.7 million and a debt of $24.4 million, [the Authority] only had 14 projects with 17 tenants occupying a third of the acres of the Authority’s land.”

By The Star Staff

The Local Redevelopment Authority for Roosevelt Roads (LRA) has yet to do much to develop the former U.S. naval base, while spending millions of dollars and creating fewer than 500 jobs, a Commonwealth Comptroller report issued Tuesday has found.

In May 2013, the LRA obtained title to 3,400 acres for redevelopment from the U.S. Navy by completing a transportation economic development agreement. Soon after, the LRA updated the land use plan and reorganized the master plan into nine development zones under the 2014 Master Plan Development Zones.

The comptroller’s report notes that the former naval station facilities are deteriorated and not being used.

“Nine years after the transfer of three parcels to the Authority, and investments of $30.7 million and a debt of $24.4 million, it only had 14 projects with 17 tenants occupying a third of the acres of the Authority’s land,” the report found.

The comptroller issued a qualified opinion on the fiscal operations of the LRA. A qualified opinion is issued when the individual or aggregate non-compliances are significant but not widespread.

The report reveals that the LRA did not require timely work itineraries and progress reports on lease contracts formalized from 2015 to 2018 for the operation of the shipyard and a dry dock, for the manufacturing of metal and plastic parts, or for developing a residential rental resort community. Compliance with those contractual requirements occurred up to four years later with schedules and up to two years later with progress reports. The comptroller said the situations require the LRA to make it possible to control work status or supervise contract compliance.

In addition, the report said, the LRA needs to maintain a technical file per project. The LRA board should have provided for examination evidence that the executive director has presented three of the five work plans, and six budgets,” the comptroller’s report said. “In this way, the LRA needed help to exercise adequate file control. Furthermore, the inspection work of the auditors of the Comptroller’s Office is made difficult, the report added.

The audit indicated that the LRA has yet to appoint a records administrator, has not complied with preparing an inventory of inactive records, nor does it have an updated record retention plan.

Meanwhile, the LRA had not hired a master developer, after an evaluation of eight proponents in 2014, and after incurring expenses in this regard for $459,455, the report said.

In addition, after formalizing a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a loan of $4.9 million and receiving a grant of $666,200 to improve the drinking water system, the LRA is just starting the tender process, the comptroller pointed out in the report. As of June 2021, only 392 jobs had been created, according to Department of Economic Development and Commerce reports.

The audit recommends that the governor and the Legislative Assembly take the appropriate measures concerning the delay in the redevelopment of the land and facilities of the former naval station.

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