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DPW: Lack of Money Hampering Road Repairs

Aug. 23, 2004 –– The Public Works Department would like nothing better than to bring all the territory's roads up to snuff, but it just doesn't have the money, said staff from the Roads Division at a meeting Monday of the Legislature's Government Operations Committee.
"It pains all of us greatly. If you give us the tools, we'll do the job," project director Othneil Vanterpool said.
Vanterpool gave the senators a schedule for making major improvements to local roads. The list includes 60 on St. Thomas, 34 on St. Croix and 5 on St. John. Some of the roads are done, but without funding the department won't be able to adhere to the rest of the schedule in most cases.
Vanterpool said the department is waiting for money from a $10 million bond issue to make its way to Public Works.
"And $10 million is a small drop in the bucket," Vanterpool said.
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone said that at a July Finance Committee hearing, Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood said the department needed $25 million to fix all the territory's roads.
Vanterpool said that a lot of road problems are caused by water. Swales take care of that problem, but many of the territory's roads were built before swales became common.
Often crews find a bigger problem than they expected once they start digging.
Vanterpool said that ideally the department would totally rehabilitate a road, including installing swales, before moving on to the next project.
However, the department faces continuous pressure from residents and the senators to fix potholes.
"There might be major work to be done, but at least accommodate people who have to drive there every day," Sen. Lorraine Berry said, discussing a pothole near the downtown Post Office in St. Thomas.
Roads director Fredericks Stevens said water runs under the road, which causes that particular pothole to form.
Malone pointed out that residents are asking that their estate roads be converted to public roads so the government will take responsibility for maintenance. This will cost the department more money.
Malone told the Public Works representatives that the department needed to do a better job at public relations so drivers knew where they were working on roads and when other roads were scheduled for repair.
Sens. Berry, Carlton Dowe, Louis P. Hill, and Shawn-Michael Malone were on the floor at roll call. Sens. Douglas Canton Jr., Emmett Hansen II, and Celestino White were absent.

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