The Public Finance Authority voted unanimously on Tuesday, March 13, to redirect $756,217 earmarked to renovate the East End School House into a luxury government retreat to the Elaine I. Sprauve Library, which is in desperate need of renovations.
The $756,217 will be added to the $150,000 already approved for the library renovations, allowing the scope of the project to be expanded, according to PFA Senior Project Coordinator Brian Turnbull.
“The project has been limited to simply fixing the storm shutters and some of the interior walls, refinishing the wood floors and repairing bookshelves in the basement area,” said Turnbull. “Now, we’re talking about air conditioning the entire facility, installing windows, adding a generator, improving the electrical and totally finishing and enclosing the property.”
The project previously went out to bid last year, and although both the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and PFA assert they have no knowledge of any bids received, Mark Hansen of Mark Hansen Designs contends that he did, in fact, submit bids for the bookshelves, doors and windows.
East End School House Project Scrapped
The East End School House project, which was met with opposition by St. John residents, has been scrapped for the time being, explained Turnbull.
"It’s no longer going to happen, at least not in the foreseeable future,” said Turnbull. “The minimum bid that came in was about twice the amount of money that was available. The board believed it was a wiser use to shift those funds to a more worthy project.”
Resources at the library are suffering from the building’s open-air environment, causing mold to grow on books, and computers to deteriorate. Enclosing the building could not be addressed in the past because of the amount of money approved for the project, Turnbull explained.
PFA to Complete Bid Package
“That’s one of the problems we tried to address, but there was only $150,000 allocated for the project initially, which was not enough,” he said. “So, we were going to deal with the rotting shutters, peeling walls and fix the hardwood floors and some of the light fixtures. Those were basically the limitations that we had.”
PFA will now attempt to quickly complete the bid package in preparation for seeking bids.
“We will talk to our architect tomorrow (Wednesday, March 14), and see how quickly he can repackage the complete package,” said Turnbull. “The property is simply open, and this will now become a real, enclosed facility, air conditioned and properly enhanced.”
Once the package is completed by the PFA architect, it will be forwarded to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, followed by the Department of Property and Procurement, which will advertise for bids for the project.
Hansen Will Resubmit
“Now we can go back to Property and Procurement and alert them to the fact that we have sufficient funds to put the project back out at bid,” said Turnbull. “We are going to be forwarding a letter to DPNR as well as the commissioner of Property and Procurement alerting them of the board’s action today, and that the project is back on go.”
Hansen plans to submit yet another bid for the project, he explained.
“The library has been a pet project; we don’t bid as a money-making venture,” said Hansen. “It would be really great if we did get the bid, because you’d have people who care about the building, who will follow through, making sure it’s executed according to contract, giving them a good price.”
$50K To Battery Renovations
Hansen’s bid will likely be costlier than his last bid, which he proposed in September 2006, because the cost of mahogany — which the renovations call for — has increased nearly 20 percent since then, he explained.
PFA also voted to allocate $50,000 to the Cruz Bay Battery, where renovations were recently completed, explained Turnbull.
“We were working on the Battery for the past year and a half, and based on some changes we had to do during the course of that work, the project required an additional $50,000,” he said. “The project is complete. The $50,000 is to cover costs that went over the initial budget.”
The musem at the Battery has not yet opened.