Nov. 28, 2005Construction of a new public library on St. Thomas is not part of Tutu Park Ltd.s original tax benefits package, according to an official at the territorys Economic Development Commission.
Therefore, statements made by various officials and local residents that plans for the library have been in the works since 1993 are false, according to Nadine Marchena, assistant executive officer of the EDC. Marchena said that the librarys construction was not part of Tutu Parks EDC certificate until last June, when the company re-applied for benefits.
At a Senate meeting held in September, Claudette Lewis, assistant commissioner of the Planning and Natural Resources Department under which the territory's libraries fall testified that she has been waiting for a new library to be built on St. Thomas for 12 years. (see: "Library Officials Push for Money to Improve").
"Ive pushed and pushed, waited and waited, and I still havent seen anything happen with this," Lewis said after the meeting, adding that developers John Foster and William Mahaffey had made a commitment to building the facility and had not delivered on their promise.
Carol Lotz-Felix, former president of Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries, further said that while the construction of a library was provided for in Tutu Parks original tax benefits certificate signed in 1993 the facility had not yet been built because of "some confusion" between Tutu Parks developers and the EDC.
"Because of this confusion, the building of the library got lumped into the second set of benefits, which Tutu Park applied for not too long ago," Lotz-Felix said.
However, in a recent interview Marchena said there was no confusion. While the original EDC certificate does stipulate "Tutu Park make 4,000 square feet of space available for a public library," Marchena explained that the space was supposed to provide extra room for storing documents or books.
"Theres no way 4,000 square feet of space could accommodate a whole new library," she said.
In a phone interview last week, Lewis said she was not aware that only 4,000 square feet was provided for in the original EDC certificate.
"I was told that it was 20,000 square feet, for the construction of a new library along with a museum to house the historical artifacts uncovered at the Tutu Park site before the mall was built," she said. "Thats as much as I know."
The Source reviewed both EDC certificates, and while the construction of a 20,000-square-foot library was not a provision in the 1993 EDC benefits package, the June 2005 benefits package stipulates Tutu Park must:
— spend no less than $2.25 million to develop and construct a library facility of approximately 23,000 square feet.
— donate $50,000 to Planning and Natural Resources Division of Libraries and Museums for the purchase of materials, including books, equipment, computers and other items for the library.
The certificate also states that the library may "house the historic records of the Virgin Islands and the artifacts that were uncovered in the Tutu Park excavation."
After the Senate meeting in September, Lotz-Felix said she had heard the artifacts were not on-island and had been missing for "at least a couple of years."
Myron Jackson, director of the V.I. State
Historic Preservation Society, said that is untrue. "The artifacts mostly the bones which we had uncovered were sent to various colleges and universities to be studied," he said. "They have been returned, and are on-island, ready to be put in the museum."
The EDC certificate further states that the Division of Libraries and Museums must approve the plans for the building before construction of the new library can start. Lewis said her division is currently reviewing the plans, and expects a groundbreaking for the construction of the new library early next year.
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