Gov’t signs PPP deal with ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez’s firm for dry dock in SJ

Governor says he’ll ask federal court to paralyze fiscal board lawsuit that seeks to annul retirement law

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá Batiz signed a public-private partnership agreement Tuesday with Hall of Fame baseball player Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez, whose firm Isla Borinquen LLC will take over the development and operation of the deteriorated Pier 15 at the Isla Grande Airport in San Juan.

The main goal of the deal is to build a dry-dock facility that will attract vessels and mega yachts. Pier 15 was owned by the U.S. Navy but was purchased by Ports in the 1990s. The facility has not been used since 2000 and attempts to redevelop it a few years ago failed.

Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Cidre said Isla Borinquen will put up $12 million to build the dry dock and various other structures. Isla Borinquen will pay a monthly rental fee of $32,709, will receive 5% of the yearly gross income of the operation and will charge a dockage fee to the vessels that receive service at the facility.

“As part of the initiatives of my administration to make unused assets produce money, we are celebrating the agreement, the only one of its class,” the governor said at a news conference.

The operation is part of the whole redevelopment of the port section from Puerta de Tierra to San Juan and Bahía Urbana.

Rodríguez said the project is expected to have a $39 million impact to the local economy and create 950 jobs.

During the news conference, Pierluisi reiterated that he will ask the federal court to paralyze a lawsuit filed by the Financial Oversight and Management Board last week that seeks to annul the Dignified Retirement Act, which bans cuts to public pensions.

Pierluisi said he will propose solutions to the dispute to avoid a stalemate in the debt adjustment plan to restructure $35 billion in commonwealth debt. The debt adjustment plan proposes cutting by 8% pensions that are higher than $1,500 a month as part of the restructuring.

“I am going to focus on finding a solution to this controversy,” the governor said. “The Board is against that law and that law is inconsistent with the Fiscal Plan and against PROMESA [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act]. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that.”

“What are we going to do in court? Apart from admitting that the law is inconsistent with the Fiscal Plan and that some of its provisions violate PROMESA, we will inform the court that we will be filing two measures and asking the court to put the case on hold until we try to find one solution,” he said.

Pierluisi said he plans to submit two bills to the Legislature. One will ensure workers who began to work for the government before 2000 enjoy a “dignified retirement” with defined benefits. The second will make the payment of pensions a priority.

Asked what will happen if the oversight board compels the government through a court order to enact legislation against its will to enable the debt deal, Pierluisi said he did not want to anticipate his actions but such a move by the board, he said, will lead to a stalemate that will delay debt restructuring.

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