After making do with several temporary locations over the last three years, St. Croix senators and their staff moved into their new gleaming white, three-story, 20,000-square-foot home next to the Federal Courthouse on North Shore Road this week.
On Friday afternoon, Sen. Myron Jackson, acting senate president, hosted a media tour of the facility that replaced the Senate’s Frederiksted complex, which was destroyed by the hurricanes of 2017. He began in the new Senate chamber with a blessing from Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Thelma Youngblood.
James McNamara, assistant executive director of the Legislature, said he had been looking for a permanent home for 15 to 20 years, from Frederiksted to Christiansted. The asking price for the building was $1.6 million. The price was negotiated down to $975,000 and the sale was closed August 2018. The entire building had to be gutted and rebuilt.
In December 2017, senators approved $4 million to rent or buy a new facility after the Lagoon facility was damaged severely in the 2017 hurricanes. The funding was redirected from moneys for the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital which was destroyed in the storms.
McNamara said the bids for rebuilding the structure ranged from $1.5 million to $11 million. The bid for $3.75 million was accepted and there was another two percent net of the cost in change orders, most requested by the legislators, he said.
The senate chamber is on the second floor, which also has the main entrance to the building. There is a caucus room and a break room, a studio for interviews, an education room and a room for each St. Thomas senator.
The third floor houses offices for the St. Croix senators, the vice president of the Senate and the majority leader.
Human Resources, archives, the protocol office, the business office and public affairs are on the first floor along with the employee lounge, maintenance department and storage.
Throughout the building, there are a dozen restrooms.
There is a parking lot with solar lighting for 89 spaces.
The building has “all of the functions for the 21st century,” Jackson said.
The senator also talked about the history of the legislature’s home over the years on St. Croix.
He said when he was young, the senate met at a building across from the police station in Bassin Triangle. Then it moved to Frederiksted and again to the Lagoon Complex in Frederiksted. There were multiple problems for years in the last location including mold and sewage overflow. After the 2017 hurricanes, the Legislatures met at the University of the Virgin Islands, The V.I. Cardiac Center, Superior Court and established offices at two locations in Christiansted.
The new Senate facility will open for business on Monday. Jackson said it is a building where the public is welcome.
“This is a hall where the people can come,” Jackson said.