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USS Hoyt Vandenberg unlikely to be sunk

Efforts to scuttle a 520-foot former military ship off Key West as an artificial reef now appear to be sinking faster than any vessel could.

The cost to put the USS Hoyt Vandenberg on the sea floor seven miles off the island is now $8.45 million — 3.9 times higher than the $2.1 million estimated when the project was proposed in 2001.

Now, Key West City Commissioner Bill Verge says it might be best just to cut losses and sell the Vandenberg to a scrap yard for around $2 million. That’s because banks helping finance the deal are starting to get skittish, he says.

“Well, it will be clean scrap, because they spent several million dollars cleaning it,” says County Commissioner Sonny McCoy.

The banks — BB&T, First State Bank and Orion — originally offered to invest a combined $4.6 million toward the scuttling but stopped funding it at $3.2 million.

Others financing the deal include Monroe County, the city of Key West (which holds title to the ship), the state and the U.S. Maritime Administration. However, none of the governmental agencies have released any money. All are waiting for the scuttling first — which increasingly looks like it won’t happen.

“If I had to place a guess, I’d say we’re going to scrap the deal,” City Commissioner Barry Gibson says.

“I feel badly that so many people did so much work,” Commissioner Teri Johnston added. “It looks like it’s not going to come to fruition. I would be very surprised in these economic times if someone had another million and a half to contribute.”

The ship is docked at Colonna’s Shipyard in Virginia.

 

Source: Divemeaster (http://www.divemeaster.com)

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