Listing Public Works' ongoing construction projects throughout the territory during budget hearings Friday, Commissioner Darryl Smalls said the ones funded through bonding bills the Senate sent to committee earlier this week were "halted due to insufficient funding."
Some senators took umbrage at the implication that the funding was not available, noting that the bonding bills were being considered in committee. Smalls said he was just listing the projects and their current statuses, and would change their status as soon as funding was available.
The projects affected include:
- $4.5 million for phases II and III of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School track facility on St. Thomas. When complete the track facility will meet the standards for international competition;
- 1.5 million for the Charlotte Amalie High School track on St. Thomas;
- $2.2 million to complete the Education Complex track on St. Croix;
- $1.8 million to complete the Central High School track on St. Croix;
- $2 million for repairs to Fort Christian;
- $2 million to the Tutu Park library project;
- and $1.5 million for reconstruction of the Public Works garage in Sub Base, St. Thomas.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson asked what Public Works was planning for the St. Croix-St. Thomas ferry route, which has been inoperative since the ship was damaged last July. Smalls said a request for proposals for a new ferry is in the works.
"We are presently revising the RFP, based on comments received from the Federal Highway Administration," he said. Two ferries are under construction now for the shorter St. Thomas-St. John route, he said. Those ships have a combined cost of $7 million, while a vessel suitable for the deep-sea run to St. Croix would likely cost in the $9 million to $15 million range, he said.
Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly asked when the Christiansted Bypass would be finished and ready for traffic, and Smalls said it should be complete in November."That project brought $36 million into the territory," Smalls said.
Smalls presented the Public Works 2013General Fund budget recommendation of $20.1 million - a $3.8 million reduction from last year, and the third year in a row of reductions. Of that, $6.2 million is allocated for wages and salaries; $2.6 million for associated fringe benefits and $10.6 million in the catch-all category of "other services and charges," which includes funding for the VITRAN bus system, roadside maintenance, professional services and other expenses. The 2013 budget also includes $657,000 for utilities and $539,000 for supplies.
Public Works also anticipates $17.7 million in federal funds- a $1.1 million reduction from last year.A new federal highway bill signed in July will reduce the territory's yearly federal highway funding by more than 10 percent, Smalls said.
Public Works has 252 employees, with 164 funded through the General Fund. Another 85 are funded through subsidies to the VITRAN public bus system.
No votes were taken at the information-gathering hearing.