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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesSenate Delays Paul E. Joseph Funding Bill

Senate Delays Paul E. Joseph Funding Bill

Senators held a bill Wednesday changing its 2012 authorization to rebuild Paul E. Joseph Stadium in Frederiksted

legislation that agency heads said is needed to finalize the contract and let work proceed

citing concern over a provision that would allow work to proceed without an additional legislative approval. Senators also cited a dislike of being rushed, a desire for more information about the details of the construction plan, and in at least one case, personal distrust of the deJongh administration as their reasons. The five senators present at the hearing of the Culture, Historic Preservation, Youth and Recreation Committee all said they wanted to see work on Paul E. Joseph begin.

The 2012 Act, approved by the 29th Legislature [Act 7453], authorizes the Public Finance Authority to issue up to $35 million in bonds financed through the Communities Facilities Trust account for Paul E. Joseph Stadium and for a sports complex at Mars Hill, outside of Frederiksted. The Community Facilities Trust is a fund established in the Diageo distillery’s operating agreement with the V.I. Government. The agreement states that Diageo’s new distillery will deposit “3 percent of the annual gross cover over receipts” into the fund, administered by the PFA.

Public Finance Authority Executive Director Angel Dawson said Wednesday the fund had roughly $9 million currently and would pay off the bonds over time.

A first request for proposals went out in early 2012, with local company GEC and stateside firm GlobalVest initially being selected to build a larger project, involving swimming and tennis facilities as well as baseball and a festival village. But those plans collapsed after revelations of financial issues and padded resumes with GlobalVest. (See Related Links below)

Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner St. Claire Williams testified in support of the bill [30-0440], saying GEC was selected for the work after the most recent request for proposals, but that the contract cannot be finalized until the financing is clarified by this legislation.

"Since Paul E. Joseph is ready to proceed," and Mars Hill is not, the bill allows the funds to go first to Paul E. Joseph, while the original act is ambiguous, but seems to indicate both projects must proceed in tandem. Williams said it would allow the contract to go forward, on a stadium, a separate Little League field and a festival village, with space and utilities for vendors.

The bill also gives the PFA the flexibility to either finance the bonds with the Community Facilities Trust funds or to use gross receipts taxes as security and reimburse the General Fund out of the Community Facilities Trust for that cost, he said.
If the funding is not clarified, the contract cannot go forward and the process will likely have to start over, after the election season and holidays, Williams said.

"Frankly, any vote to delay would in effect be a vote to kill this project as it would be at least a year before it could be done again," he said.

Several senators asked to see design drawings and detailed plans. Williams said the proposal was for a turnkey, design-build project, so while the scope of work was detailed in the RFP, actual designing, engineering, design drawings and so forth would be completed as part of the contract.

Sen. Kenneth Gittens said he does "not like being placed in a position where I feel like I have a gun to my head," and wanted to get more details on the scope of work and the contract before approving this change to the 2012 authorization.

"Yes, I want economic development in Frederiksted but I am not going to be willy nilly in voting for something. Let the chips fall where they may but I will not be rushed," Gittens said.

Sen. Diane Capehart said she had some concerns with the procurement process and that she hopes the Department of Property and Procurement ensures it is all done properly.

"I do wonder why, all of a sudden, this project was brought forward, even though we did ask for shovel ready projects, ready to go. And at the last minute, here it is," Capehart added.

Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson raised a number of concerns with the bill, saying "I don’t trust this administration," that "this administration has had ample time to make a move on this and waited until now," and that "most of us are waiting out this administration."

Nelson said to Williams, "The idea you issued an RFP without a scope of work is of concern to me. Where is the scope of work?"

"The RFP defines the scope of work," Williams said. Williams, Property and Procurement Chief of Procurement Lloyd Bough Jr. and Public Works chief engineer Nicole Turner all testified that the scope of work is laid out in the RFP, the cost negotiated with contractor GEC based on that scope.

Nelson and other senators also objected to a provision in the bill allowing the government to proceed with the project without coming back a third time to the Legislature for approval of the final contract.

"You already have the authority to borrow, but you are asking for something else: You are asking for ratification in an underhanded way," Nelson said.

Dawson said that was intended to speed up the project, but suggested the committee just remove that section if it was a concern, and then the contract would go before the Legislature for approval.

Asking "if there is some way to keep this thing moving," Dawson said, "Some may say five or six months doesn’t matter, but tell that to someone on St. Croix looking for work." Again he asked "if there is some compromise or part taken out of the bill that could be considered."

Voting to hold the bill "at the call of the chair" were: Nelson, Gittens, Sens. Myron Jackson, Shawn-Michael Malone and Tregenza Roach. Sens. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and Janette Millin Young were absent.

The committee also held a bill designating Magens Bay on the V.I. Registry of Historic Places; requiring the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to nominate Salt River as a UNESCO World Heritage site; and repatriating human remains and archeological artifacts to the territory [Bill 30-0453].

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