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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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New Ferry Boats Inch Closer to Reality

A recent infusion of $1.95 million in Federal Highway Administration discretionary grant funds put the Public Works Department closer to being able to buy two ferry boats for the St. John–St. Thomas route.

Wystan Benjamin, who is the federal highway program manager at Public Works, said the department now has about $6.1 million in the kitty to buy the boats.

“We’ve been applying for grants every year,” Benjamin said.

The ferry boats will be leased to the two companies that hold franchises to ply the route. Benjamin said that because the funding is supposed to help with providing public transportation, the two companies, Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, could pay as little as $1 a year each to lease the boats.

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Benjamin estimated that a 300-passenger ferry would cost about $3 million.

Public Works has already issued three requests for proposals, but Benjamin said that the requirement that the successful company be registered in the Virgin Islands was a sticking point. He said no local companies applied.

Since the companies that did respond were located in Puerto Rico and the mainland, Public Works plans to take the local requirement out.

He said that the new request for proposal should go out within a week with a 15-day window for companies to respond.

Public Works is working against the clock because the $3 million received by Public Works under the federal Stimulus Funds program means the bid must be awarded by the end of fiscal year 2012.

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said previously that the boats leased to the two ferry companies would fly the VITRAN flag, but Benjamin had no information on that. Smalls did not return phone calls requesting information.

Transportation Services spokesman Kenrick Augustus and Varlack Ventures manager Delrise Varlack could not be reached for comment.

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A recent infusion of $1.95 million in Federal Highway Administration discretionary grant funds put the Public Works Department closer to being able to buy two ferry boats for the St. John–St. Thomas route.

Wystan Benjamin, who is the federal highway program manager at Public Works, said the department now has about $6.1 million in the kitty to buy the boats.

“We’ve been applying for grants every year,” Benjamin said.

The ferry boats will be leased to the two companies that hold franchises to ply the route. Benjamin said that because the funding is supposed to help with providing public transportation, the two companies, Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, could pay as little as $1 a year each to lease the boats.

Benjamin estimated that a 300-passenger ferry would cost about $3 million.

Public Works has already issued three requests for proposals, but Benjamin said that the requirement that the successful company be registered in the Virgin Islands was a sticking point. He said no local companies applied.

Since the companies that did respond were located in Puerto Rico and the mainland, Public Works plans to take the local requirement out.

He said that the new request for proposal should go out within a week with a 15-day window for companies to respond.

Public Works is working against the clock because the $3 million received by Public Works under the federal Stimulus Funds program means the bid must be awarded by the end of fiscal year 2012.

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said previously that the boats leased to the two ferry companies would fly the VITRAN flag, but Benjamin had no information on that. Smalls did not return phone calls requesting information.

Transportation Services spokesman Kenrick Augustus and Varlack Ventures manager Delrise Varlack could not be reached for comment.