Still just a plot of empty land, the Paul E. Joseph Stadium project began more than a decade ago, but no noticeable progress has been made since the old stadium was demolished. The Senate Finance Committee on Friday approved an $8.2 million appropriation that supporters said could finally get the job done if it gets final approval.
The members of the Committee of Finance voted to forward the appropriation request, which was made by Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., to the Rules and Judiciary Committee. The lawmakers added an amendment that would provide the contractor, Virgin Islands-based GEC LLC, with half the money now and half later. If ratified the company would receive $4.1 million in 2020 and the additional $4.1 million in 2021 to complete the project.
If approved by the full Senate and signed by the governor, the $8.2 million will come out of the Internal Revenue Matching Fund.
Some senators expressed frustration over the time consumed by the project and questioned the its viability, but Sen. Allison DeGazon implored the committee to appropriate the funds and said she was looking for a win for St. Croix.
“I want something more for St. Croix than a pile of dirt,” DeGazon said.
“At some point we have to finish a project and we need to finish a project that is going to generate revenue. If we build certain things that are not going to bring us back money, then we have to wonder should we build A or should we build B. I think that we need to continue this project since the end is in sight, which has been said to be 2021. … I feel like this has been dragging on … we have to show at some point that we are working with the administration to complete something for the people,” she said.
But Sen. Kurt Vialet took issue with DeGazon’s comments and said he doesn’t need any senator to tell him to do something for the people of St. Croix.
“The conversation is about accountability. We have $12 million in the ground and we can’t see anything. All we’ve seen is a foundation,” he said.
Vialet said the people have not seen a single block stacked after spending $12 million. Based on that history, he questioned what the people would see if the additional $8.2 million was allocated to the project.
“As legislators we have a responsibility to hold people accountable … this is about responsible government and to make sure that if this $8.2 million is passed here today that the project will be finished. I am confounded, if we spent $20 million dollars and don’t have up walls, how is $8.2 million going to put up all that he just spoke about.”
But GEC Managing Member John Wessel testified that the money is needed to fund the construction according to the approved plans. According to Wessel the $8.2 million would provide the stadium with a 29,260-square-foot floor space, address flood plain costs and create 196 parking spaces.
It also would provide concrete and steel corrosion resistant materials, a 4,000-square-foot grand entrance, 1,156 covered bench seats, two 25-player locker rooms and shower facilities, two concession stands, ballfields, four public restroom facilities, spaces for security, first aid and ticketing, an elevator, four stairwells, an 8,400-square-foot grand court plaza, eight foot padded chain link fence, LED field lighting, a suspended net system, an electronic scoreboard, public address system and a Little League ballfield with its own separate facilities.
Sens. Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Oakland Benta, DeGazon and Dwayne DeGraff all voted for the appropriation. Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory and Janelle Sarauw voted no.