Sinking of Vandenberg still in the balance

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Sinking of Vandenberg still in the balance

April 24, 2008 - 00:53
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"It isn't on, it isn't over," said City Commissioner Bill Verge of plans to sink the USS Hoyt Vandenberg off Key West to create an artificial reef and diving destination.

Sketch of USS Hoyt Vandenberg

The ship is now docked in Virginia where it will remain at least until hurricane season is over. And then, it's anyone's guess.

Escalating costs and evaporating finances have stalled the Vandenberg project, and it's uncertain whether the ship will ever come to Key West.

It will cost $8.45 million to scuttle the Vandenberg according to the most recent estimate.

A bank consortium consisting of BB&T, Orion and First State Bank offered an initial combined investment of $4.6 million at the project's outset but scaled that back to $3.2 million when progress came to a halt. Other funding pledges include:

-- Monroe County, $2 million -- City of Key West, $1.3 million -- U.S. Maritime Administration, $1.3 million -- Tourist Development Council, $1 million -- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, $1 million

This leaves a funding gap of $1.85 million that needs to be raised either through private donations or more government earmarks.

District IV Commissioner Barry Gibson said the City Commission is "still interested" but that considering finances, the project "sounds like it's becoming an unreality."

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