Jan. 23, 2003 – The federal government on Thursday stepped into the controversy surrounding the V.I. government's awarding of a contract for sewer system repairs worth more than $3.5 million to a local start-up company without going through the usual bidding process.
A principal of the company, Global Resources Management Inc., is Esdel Hansen, husband of former Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen. Another principal reportedly is St. Croix lawyer Ashley Andrews.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the Environment and National Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice filed an emergency motion in District Court on St. Thomas Thursday afternoon asking the court to order the local government to show cause why it should not be stopped from proceeding with the contract.
The federal authorities are seeking an expedited court hearing on the motion "in view of the potential threat to human health and the environment posed by the discharges of raw sewage [and] the persistent and long-standing violations of orders of this court."
Global Resources Management, incorporated in May of 2001, was awarded the $3,637,150 contract to repair, replace, clean and inspect seven locations in the St. Croix sewer system.
According a release from U.S. Attorney David Nissman's office, the motion asserts that GRM "is a start-up company with no equipment, no assets and no experience in construction of this sort." It adds that until March 8, 2002, its president was "an employee of the Virgin Islands government."
Esdel Hansen worked for the Public Works Department for almost two decades.
On Dec. 19, 2001, District Judge Thomas K. Moore issued an order requiring repairs to the sewage and wastewater system on St. Croix.
Two months earlier, government officials had testified that they were committed to completing the repairs and that the normal competitive bidding process would be followed in awarding contracts, the release said.
The federal government's motion asserts that "in approximately September 2002," the V.I. government declared the contract a "public exigency" in order to bypass the ordinary procurement process. The contract was awarded to GRM sometime around Dec. 30 without any other bids having been obtained, the release said.
Nissman said the District Court hearing is being sought "to determine whether there will be an increased risk of project failure and delay" because GRM "does not appear to have any significant experience acting as a general contractor in this type of construction." Any such delay or failure would raise the risk of sewage bypasses and pump station failures caused by debris entering the sewage system, the motion reads.
Further, "The contract does not include the necessary compliance assurances, such as a performance bond, that the contract would be performed in accordance with its specifications and the strictures of the previous orders of the court," the release said.
The St. Croix Environmental Association early on criticized the V.I. government's awarding of the contract without going through bidding. (See the St. Croix Source report "SEA: Sewer system contract should have been bid".)
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.