Sens. Nelson, Rivera-O'Reilly protest VING ceremony to call attention to state of roads


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ST. CROIX - As a large group gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the dedication of the V.I. National Guard's new headquarters in Estate Bethlehem, Sen. Terrence Nelson and Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly staged a two-person protest on the road leading to the facility.

The legislators' complaint is that the construction of the building has led to deplorable conditions of the adjacent Casper Holstien Road, and they want the road resurfaced by the contractor.

With placards in hand, the senators walked along the roadway, encouraging support from some of the motorists who slowly made their way down the pothole-ridden road that runs for almost a mile between Midland Road and Gen. Jean Romney Road in Estate Bethlehem.

Rivera-O'Reilly said the construction equipment that traversed the road on a daily basis has left the road in a horrible state, and she does not believe that it is fair the road should be left like that as the construction comes to a close.

"Every construction completed with federal dollars makes provisions that include road repairs," she said. "That is my understanding, and we want this returned to what it was before the construction began."

She said that as a policymaker, she may consider legislation that would make it mandatory for contractors to repair roads damaged by construction.

Nelson said it is a disgrace that the federal government would allow for a new building to be opened when one of the main access roads is in such bad condition.

"The road was not the best, but it was good, and for them to not think they are responsible is out of place," he said.

Nelson said the government may have had good intentions when naming the road, but in the state that it is in now, he is sure Holstien would be embarrassed to have his name associated with the road.

Tip Top Construction President Joe Hollins said the road had been a dirt path that was only widened and paved as a temporary road with the construction of Midland Road years ago. He said the road was not built to standard with the correct underlaying or drainage and was failing long before the construction started.

"This road had high traffic even after Midland Road construction was over, and it was too much for the road," Hollins said. "It was a big time-saver, and people used it."

Hollins said the road is in the condition it is in because of the poor construction and that the government - not his company - should be responsible for repairing it.

To properly surface the road and put in the proper drainage would cost about $1.5 million, according to Hollins. He said it has to be done properly in order to last, and he suggested that the government look into resurfacing the road using concrete rather than asphalt.

When the V.I. National Guard appeared before the Senate during a budget hearing last fall, Adjutant Gen. Renaldo Rivera said the Guard would be able to help repair the road but it is unclear how much, if any, federal money is coming for that project.

The road has to be traveled at a very slow pace because of the uneven surface and countless potholes, some measuring 2 to 3 feet in diameter.

At the time of the budget hearing, Rivera told senators that the road was improperly constructed from the beginning, leading to its quick deterioration.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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