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Senate Committee Told Construction Is Booming

July 20, 2004 – Construction opportunities are booming due to numerous V.I. government capital projects under way or soon to begin, Keith Richards, assistant to the governor for capital projects and long-term planning, told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday in an overview that was part of the fiscal year 2005 budget hearings.
He said the government has more than $95 million worth of projects under construction.
Active projects and others expected to begin by the end of the 2004 fiscal year on Sept. 30 are valued at approximately $308 million, Richards said. He also said private sector construction activities have "picked up substantially."
The total value of construction permits rose from March 2003 to March 2004 by 82 percent territorywide – 97.4 percent in St. Croix and 75 percent in the St. Thomas/St. John district – he said.
Richards said the following 39 projects are slated for 2004-2005:
– Christiansted Boardwalk Phase II A & B, $5 million.
– Islandwide Paving Phase V, St. Croix/St. Thomas, $2.5 million.
– Enhancement of Sunday Market Square, St. Croix, $1.4 million.
– Midland/Calquohoun Road reconstruction, $4.8 million.
– Frederiksted waterfront development, $11 million.
– Castle Burke affordable housing, $1.6 million.
– Housing Finance Authority Housing Development Program, St. Croix, $3 million.
– Enighed Pond Development, $16 million.
– Red Hook Terminal Development, $6 million.
– Crown Bay Infrastructure Terminal Development, $32 million.
– Ninth Street/Long Bay, $1.7 million.
– Long Bay/Mandela Circle Road Improvement Project, $14 million.
– Cruz Bay Parking and Vendors Facility, $3.1 million.
– Islandwide Paving, St. Thomas, $2.9 million.
– Fort Christian restoration, $1 million.
– Sugar Estate Head Start Center, $2.3 million.
– Reconstruction, improvement Route 105, St. John, $1 million.
– Housing Finance Authority projects, $28 million.
– Hoffman Nullyberg project, $16 million.
– Queen Louise/ Herbert Grigg Home, $1.3 million.
– Kimelman Cancer Center, $10 million.
– Juan Luis Cardiac Center, $11 million to $12 million.
– Housing Finance Authority Subsidy Funds, $5 million.
– Bethlehem Sugar Factory, $1 million.
– Hospital Street Facility, Old Education/Labor building, $5 million.
– Wastewater treatment plants, $50 million.
– Franklin Building renovation, $2 million.
– Renovation of Paul E. Joseph and D.C. Canegata Ballparks, $3 million.
– Territorial Historic Buildings, $7 million.
– Department of Justice Toro Building, $4.1 million.
– Mon Bijou Flood Control Project, $11 million.
– Government properties repair, restoration and construction, $10 million.
– Department of Education projects, $14 million.
– Approach to Turpentine Bridge, $3 million.
– Islandwide Pavement and preservation Phase VI, St. Croix, $2.9 million.
– Islandwide pavement and preservation Phase VI, St. Thomas/St. John, $2.9 million.
– Water and Power Authority infrastructure, $6-$8 million.
– Sara Hill Detention Center, Correction Bureau, $1.7 million.
– Crown Mountain and Mafolie Hill retaining wall, $1 million.
"The administration is very optimistic, not only because of what is on the horizon but what is actually happening now," Richards told the committee. He said the Public Finance Authority will work with each agency to get the projects accomplished. The PFA is negotiating to hire a program manager who will be responsible for architectural and engineering designs and for providing project management, he said.
If an architectural/engineering firm is not hired, "then each department would have to hire a cadre of architects and engineers to perform this service within their respective departments," Richards said.
While construction activities are on the rise, he said, "there is still cause for assessment as it relates to what is happening on the affordable housing front." He added that an increase in "high end," or luxury, housing has raised concerns about the ability of low, moderate and middle-income wage earners to afford to buy or build homes.
Magens Bay Authority
Also appearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday were the Magens Bay Authority and the V.I. Olympic Committee.
The Magens Bay Authority, which does not depend on funding from the General Fund, present its FY 2005 budget of $1.3 million. Of that amount, $976,000 is to go toward personnel costs. The authority meets its payroll from fees collected.
William Jowers, authority general manager, said the authority did not receive any federal funds in FY 2004 and does not anticipate receiving any such funds for FY 2005.
"We did not need grant monies at this time," Edmund Penn, a member of the authority's board, said. "We are self-sufficient."
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, the Finance Committee chair, said he understands that the authority is self-sufficient, but that does not mean it cannot seek federal funding.
Donastorg added that he has corresponded with the National Wildlife Federation about establishing a bird sanctuary at Magens Bay.
Senators asked the authority representatives their views on the idea of the government placing Lindqvist Beach, once acquired, under the Magens Bay Authority.
"We believe that we can be of help in getting it started," Penn said, adding that funding would be needed for that, however.
V.I. Olympic Committee
The V.I. Olympic Committee in its second appearance before the Finance Committee requested an appropriation of half a million dollars.
"The $500,000 V.I. government appropriation will be used mainly to assist federations to prepare their athletes for the 2006 [Central American and Caribbean Games]," Hans Lawaetz, V.I. Olympic Committee president, said.
Established in 1966, the Olympic Committee sends V.I. athletes to compete on an international level. Over the years the territory has won one silver medal at the Olympic Games — by Peter Holmberg in sailing in 1988 – and 38 medals at 10 CAC games. Currently, there are 22 sport federations under the committee.
Lawaetz said a main concern at this time is getting an office for the committee. He said for the last 20 years the committee has conducted its business out of his Annaly Farms office at a cost of $600 per month. "We need the financial support of the government," Lawaetz said.
Currently two of the sports federations have senators as their presidents – Sen. Ronald Russell of the Track & Field Federation and Sen. Usie Richards of the Basketball Federation. Russell participated in the 1976 and 1988 Olympic Games as a 100-meter sprinter.
Lawaetz said the V.I. delegation to the Summer Olympic Games will leave for Athens, Greece, in 20 days. Six athletes will represent the territory: Adrian Durante and Laverne Jones in track and field, George Gleason and Joshua Laban in swimming, Timothy Pitts in sailing and Chris Rice in shooting. Jones will carry the V.I. flag in the opening ceremony.
Committee members present for the hearing were Sens. Roosevelt David, Donastorg, Shawn-Michael Malone, Luther Renee and Russell. Not present were Sens. Louis Hill and Norman Jn Baptiste.

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