Feds Suspend Main Street Revitalization Project

You've heard that the Feds have suspended the funding for the Main Street Revitalization Project. Here's a Press Release that we're sending out today.

ST. THOMAS-ST. JOHN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION, INC. APPALLED BY LATEST DELAY IN MAIN STREET REVITALIZATION PROJECT

NOVEMBER 17, ST. THOMAS - The Board of Directors of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce ("Chamber") and Downtown Revitalization, Inc. ("DRI") expressed great frustration over the recent announcement by the Federal Highway Administration ("FHWA") that it "will suspend federal eligibility" of the Main Street Project based on irregularities in the Payment and Performance Bond provided by contractor Tip Top Construction. The federal agency contends that the $8.4 million contract awarded to Tip Top is invalid, because a "teaming agreement" between Tip Top and Prestige Building Co. of Marlton, New Jersey, dated September 15, 2015, allowed the stateside company to provide the bond for the project and handle fiscal matters. The teaming agreement was not submitted with the bid package and therefore not approved by the Department of Public Works ("DPW"). The FHA wrote in its November 7, 2016, letter to Gustav James, Commissioner of DPW, "Since the Payment and Performance Bond appears to be invalid, this may constitute a breach of contract, and consequently puts the Contractor in default. Therefore, FHWA will suspend federal eligibility of this contract as of the date of this letter until this matter is resolved."

Chamber Board President Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli stated, "The action by the Federal Highway Administration is just the latest in a series of problems arising out of the contract with Tip Top Construction. The leadership of both the Chamber and DRI have met repeatedly with the DPW in an attempt to highlight these issues." Paiewonsky Cassinelli added, "It is our belief that these delays could have been avoided and we are appalled at the thought that the completion of the project is now in jeopardy." Paiewonsky Cassinelli added, "Tip Top should immediately produce a letter from the bond company saying their bond stands alone without Prestige Building Company. If not, DPW needs to seriously consider all options in order to move this vitally important project along."

Gautam Daswani, President of DRI stated, "We are entering the busiest and most lucrative time of the year for Main Street businesses yet, there is a large construction holerunning through the last block in front of the I. Levin Building and Enid M. Baa Library. With this delay, we have no clear indication of when the project will be completed. Coupled with the vacancies that exist on Main Street, the most important street in our territory looks even worse than it did before the project started. What kind of impression will we leave with our visitors and guests? The Virgin Islands face stiff competition as a tourist destination from our Caribbean competitors for cruise traffic and over-night guests. To add insult to injury, we have been notified that this winter there will be a reduction in cruise ship traffic."

Over the past several years, the Chamber and DRI worked in partnership with DPW, the V.I. Water and Power Authority (WAPA), and numerous public and private sector organizations to ensure that the project was flawlessly planned and executed. The Main Street Revitalization Project has enormous impact on the economic well-being of the territory and its residents, not to mention millions of annual visitors. DPW and its design team continuously sought input from the private and not-for-profit sectors and incorporated many suggestions into the design and construction schedule. However, the project has been plagued by numerous delays including litigation by Tip Top Construction in 2014 when the project was awarded to another contractor.

The Chamber of Commerce and DRI have requested an emergency meeting with the DPW and the Legislature to discuss the delay in the Main Street Revitalization Project and to make contingency plans for moving forward.