$20M ProvPort bond question sneaks into state budget

ProvPort pic_317290

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It looks like ProvPort will get its $20-million bond question after all.

A last-minute amendment to Article 5 of the state budget approved Wednesday by the R.I. House of Representatives adds a $20-million bond that would fund an expansion for the Providence nonprofit to a $50-million question Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed earlier this year to rebuild piers at Quonset.

In other words, if the full state budget is approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by the governor, voters will be asked to support a single, $70-million bond question for ProvPort and Quonset in November.

The $20-million bond for ProvPort was originally proposed as a separate ballot question when it was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio in May, but officials at ProvPort said they were seeking to merge the question with the Quonset proposal. Raimondo said she was “inclined to support” the ProvPort plan.

The budget approved by the House Finance Committee last week did not include the $20-million for ProvPort, but city officials later agreed to allow the state to own the land the nonprofit is seeking to purchase, paving the way for the amendment.

Supporters of the ProvPort say the money would help to fund the beginning of ProvPort’s multi-phase plan to develop a new deep-water general cargo port marine terminal on the waterfront along Allens Avenue. Bill Fischer, a spokesman for ProvPort, has said the expansion is necessary because the organization “has run out of space” on its current campus.

ProvPort, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, purchased its campus from the city for $16.4 million in 1994 as part of Providence’s effort to close a projected budget deficit. The organization, which now has 13 tenants, brought in $7.5 million in revenue in 2014, according to its annual IRS Form 990. ProvPort CEO William Brody’s compensation package totaled $225,000 in 2014, the document states.

As part of an agreement with the city, ProvPort pays 6% of its gross revenue to the city in lieu of real estate taxes and its tenants all pay state and local taxes. Unless a new deal is reached, all of ProvPort’s assets will revert to city ownership in 2036.

Fischer said ProvPort doesn’t know exactly which parcels it intends to buy, but he has indicated the $20-million bond would cover the costs of acquisition and development of the new land.

Asked if the state would strike a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement with the city over the land it would own, Fischer said “we’re going to have to work out the details on how this will work.”

Continue the discussion on FacebookDan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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