May 15, 2004 – After more than 20 years of promises and delays, residents of Estate Mon Bijou will finally get relief from the flooding and overflowing wastewater that invade their homes after heavy rains. Within the next six weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will award a contract for completion of the Mon Bijou Flood Control Project, according to Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
Christensen said in a release that she met with the commander of the ACE Jacksonville District, Col. Robert M. Carpenter, on May 11. She said Carpenter told her the corps was about to go forward with the construction.
Bids on the project currently being received will be opened on May 25, and a contract will be awarded "no later than June 24," the release said.
"I was extremely pleased to hear that the Mon Bijou project is ready to go," Christensen said.
The project calls for the construction of a bypass channel around the developed portions of Estates Mon Bijou and Glynn. The channel along with two new bridges to be built over Highway 73 and Glynn Road, are expected to provide 100-year flood protection to the residential area. Finalization of the project was contingent upon the V.I. government acquiring certain lands in the area; this was completed in late March.
There are more then a hundred homes in the Mon Bijou residential district, which was developed in 1968. Residents have complained of flooding and the deterioration of the sewer system since the late 1970s.
In 1985, the first lawsuit was filed in District Court on behalf of the homeowners. The court ordered the local government to make repairs to the drainage system, which was never done. In 1996, Tropical Storm Hortense caused further damage to the homeowners' properties, prompting them to file action seeking compensation for their damages and additional orders requiring the government to fix the problem. In 1998, 15 of the plaintiffs settled their cases with the government, to the tune of more than $350,000.
Last November, the government finally paid a group of residents about $390,000 for damages to their homes. (See "After 20 Years, Government Coughs Up Money".)
Following a 2003 visit to the beleaguered community where residents complained of the V.I. government's failure to comply with court orders to pay the claim, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards conferred with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and asked that measures be taken immediately to provide the residents relief.
In his presentation of the award to attorney Richard Hunter, who represented 15 aggrieved residents, the lieutenant governor said, without elaboration, "This money has come from emergency funds." He described the situation in the Frangipani area of the estate as "bleak" and characterized the attempts to settle with the government as "a long fight."
Richards said the area's long-standing sewage problems should not be allowed to continue. He cited "inappropriate engineering" as the cause of the troubles and said that he had brought the Army Corps of Engineers and the Public Works Department together to clear things up.
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