Home News Local news SENATE OKS FUNDING FOR MUCH-CRITICIZED PROJECTS

SENATE OKS FUNDING FOR MUCH-CRITICIZED PROJECTS

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Sept. 8, 2003 – The St. John Capital Improvement fund took a hit on Thursday when the Legislature tapped the fund to pay vendors and to build the planned vendors plaza/parking garage complex in Cruz Bay.
The Senate approved $1 million for the plaza/parking facility. Rochelle Corneiro, chief of staff for Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, said on Monday that $1.5 million had been appropriated for the project last year, so the new funding brings the total to $2.5 million.
The Senate also approved $124,000 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund to pay vendors. The allocation is to cover $80,000 to Shady Tree Co. for garbage removal dating from 1997 through 1999, $20,000 each to Man Never Sleeps Landscaping and C&J Landscaping for this year's July 4th Celebration cleanup, and $4,500 to Ira Christian Trucking for July 4th Celebration cleanup costs.
And the Legislature also approved four federal 2003 Community Development Block Grant awards for St. John totaling $100,000. One of them is for $25,000 for a fishermen's facility that almost no one said was necessary at an April 14 hearing on block grant allocation requests. (See St. John funding pleas for block grants heard.)
Hardly any one liked the plans presented for the parking garage/vendors plaza idea, either, when it had an airing at a public meeting last Dec. 16. (See "Vendor/parking facility plans prompt concerns".)
Liburd was the one senator excused from the two-day full Senate session last week where the votes took place.
St. John builder Glen Speer said on Monday that he doubts the garage/vendors plaza project will ever fly, because the government has not allocated enough money to build it. At the Dec. 16 meeting, attended by nearly a hundred people, it was stated that construction was expected to begin last March.
"And with the resources the government has right now, it needs to figure out how to balance the budget, rather than building," Speer said.
While acknowledging that some people might want a cheap or free space to sell their wares, such as they would find at a vendors plaza, he pointed out that people still need to be able to run a business in order to make a profit.
Speer suggested that a vendors plaza without a physical structure would work better. Sellers could show up when they wanted to, set up tables and umbrellas, and leave when their goods were gone. He also thinks the government-owned land where the facility is to be built, located across from the Creek and now an unpaved parking lot, could be put to far better use.
Speer, who owns the eastern section of Mongoose Shopping Center, suggested that the land be developed into a real shopping center with the parking garage located elsewhere in Cruz Bay. "It's too valuable a property and too beautiful an area," he said of the property proposed for the project.
The conceptual drawing unveiled by St. Croix architect John Boucher of Cape Associates at the Dec. 16 meeting showed a two-story building with 15 spaces of 10 by 20 feet at the front of the building for vendors. The rest of the building would be devoted to parking, with 39 regular and two handicapped spaces on the open-air upper level and 38 regular and two handicapped spaces on the ground level.
The upper level would be accessed by a ramp on the east side with vehicles accessing the lower level through a entrance in the middle of the ground floor.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said on Monday that the architect has fine tuned the drawings since then and will unveil them at another public meeting on the project. He said no date has been set for that meeting.
Harley noted that Apex Construction won the bid to build the project. However, the bill passed by the Senate on Thursday instructs Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and the Port Authority to negotiate for a "design/build contract." Harley said he had no information on this contradictory information and referred questions to Keith Richards, the assistant to the governor who handles projects of this sort for Turnbull. Richards was off island on Monday and could not be reached for comment.
Block grant awards
Harley said the $25,000 Community Development Block Grant award for the fishermen's facility is for the design work only. At the April 14 hearing, Lucia R. Francis, who heads the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Enforcement Division, asked for $300,000 for the entire project.
Harley said the plans call for a building with five stalls and an ice machine. He said the building is necessary to ensure that fish are handled in a sanitary manner. He also said that once the facility is constructed, fishermen now selling their catch elsewhere will have to relocate there.
Craig Barshinger, who once worked for DPNR's Fish and Wildlife Division, where his job was to keep track of fish catches, said on Monday that a better course of action would be to count the fish now sold at the existing facility. It is located out of sight behind the U.S. Customs and Immigration building in Cruz Bay.
Barshinger and others at the April 14 hearing said they doubted enough fish were sold to warrant a new facility. "I am for safe and sanitary marketing of fish," Barshinger said, "but if they are only selling a small amount of fish, it's not worth it."
The Senate also approved CDBG funding of $75,000 for The Safety Zone to expand its shelter, $10,000 to the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled for its after-school program at Julius E. Sprauve School, and $10,000 to the St. John Community Foundation for its after-school program for boys.
The Safety Zone requested $350,000, the Community Foundation had asked for $34,240 and The Resource Center for the Disabled had applied for $20,500.

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