According to a report by consulting firm CDR Maguire, the Crown Bay dredging project on St. Thomas could be completed on time or drag on into the summer of 2015, depending on how much stone is hidden below the sea floor. The report was discussed by the V.I. Port Authority governing board at its monthly meeting on St. Croix on Wednesday.
The dredging project will deepen parts of Crown Bay and the channels leading into it so the area can accommodate larger cruise ships. The project was requested by several cruise lines who warn that if the project is not completed by November 2014, the territory stands to loose several cruise ship visits next year.
Maguire took core samples in Crown Bay and encountered a minimal amount of rock. The report stated that if the entire dredging area contains a similarly low amount of stone, the project could be completed by the November deadline and would cost approximately $15 million.
The report warned, however, that if a significant amount of rock is encountered after dredging begins, the project could suffer significant delays and drag into the summer of 2015.
The report stated that they believe the most likely scenario is that only a moderate amount of stone will need to be removed from the sea floor and the project will be completed on time.
Board member Gordon Finch, who has long warned that the Port Authority was moving too slowly on the project, said he believed the report was too optimistic.
He reminded the rest of the board that they had not yet finished the permitting process or completed a final plan for the dredging. He also said that in previous dredging projects, the Port Authority had encountered far more stone than was projected. Finch said he believed there was too much work left to be done for the project to be completed by November 2014.
“My experience as an engineer tells me this is altogether unrealistic,” he said.
Board member Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who is also the commissioner of Tourism, said the Port Authority should prepare for the worst case scenario and make the cruise lines aware of the possibility that Crown Bay may not be ready to receive their largest ships next year.
“There has to be a plan B in terms of how we are going to address this with the cruise lines,” she said.
She predicted that if the project wasn’t completed in time it would cause “conflicts” with the cruise lines.
The board also reviewed its Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Chief Financial Officer Valdamier Collens said his office had succeeded in crafting a balanced budget by making significant cuts in overtime payments, energy consumption and a variety of other smaller areas.
The budget, which totals $54.9 million, assumes the Port Authority will be able to trim its overtime expenses by 33 percent and its utility bills by 13 percent.
He said the latter goal will be achieved by implementing a number of energy saving initiatives that were suggested in a report that was compiled several years ago but never acted upon. He said the energy upgrades should cost around $260,000 and will pay for themselves within a year.
The budget also assumes that a consultant hired to review the Port Authority’s spending on insurance, which totals over $4 million a year, will be able to find at least $362,000 in savings.
Board members were generally pleased with the presentation and congratulated Collens on his efforts.
“This was a fight, but it got balanced. … You really can’t ask for more,” said board member Manuel Gutierrez.
Voting in favor of accepting the budget proposal were Gutierrez, Doty, Albert Bryan, Robert O’Connor, Allison Petrus and Yvonne Thraen. Finch abstained. Darryl Smalls and Vincent Frazer were absent.
In other business the board:
– Awarded a 10-year lease to Laser Vision Institute for a previously empty space at Crown Bay Center. Bryan, Gutierrez, Doty, O’Connor, Petrus and Thraen voted in favor. Finch abstained;
– Awarded a $3,969,000 contract to Custom Builders to renovate the baggage claim area at the Cyril E. King airport. The vote was unanimous;
– Approved a change order awarding an additional $42,670 to Radinson Construction and Development Corp. to expand the work the company is doing to repair the roof of the Port Authority’s administrative building. The bulk of the money will go towards sealing and coating the metal roof. The vote was unanimous;
– Approved an $183,557 contract to CDR Maguire for design and permitting service in regards to the renovation of the south tender landing at the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility. The vote was unanimous;
– Awarded an $890,800 contract to Island Roads Corporation to replace the perimeter fence at the Cyril E. King airport. The vote was unanimous;
– Awarded a $5,063,350 contract to Island Roads Corp. to rehabilitate the general aviation aprons at the Cyril E. King airport. The vote was unanimous.