Category: Press Releases

FINANCE COMMITTEE APPROVES LEASE AGREEMENTS BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS AND PRIVATE BUSINESSES

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday and considered several lease agreements between the Department of Property and Procurement (DPP) on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) and private entities. All approved measures will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Lease Agreement between the DPP on behalf of GVI and Charles Electrical Services, LLC. For the premises described as Parcel No. 100 Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, consisting of approximately 1.143 sq. Ft. which is zoned “C” Commercial as shown on O.L.G. No. b9-278-170. The purpose is to renovate and used to operate as an office and warehouse for an Electrical Contractor. Policymakers voted and approved this lease agreement.

The term of the agreement is for 20 years. The annual rent is $10,143.0 paid in monthly installments of $845.25. “There is a clause in the rent abatement of 36 months. However, in the original agreement, the rent abatement was for 18 months. Can you expound?” asked Sen. Tregenza Roach. Vincent Richards, Deputy Commissioner of the Property and Printing of DPP, stated that the 18 months is a typo. The rent reduction is for 36 months because of the Hurricane Marilyn damaged property.  The client continues to pay for expenses to clean up. Once the building is in use for business, DPP will collect rent from the tenant.

GVI acting by and through DPP will enter into a proposed Lease Agreement with ERK Corporation for Parcel No. 48 Estate Nadir, No. 2 Red Hook Quarter, St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, consisting of 6,677sq. Ft. and zone W-1, shown on OLG No. D9-3897-T08. The property will be used to operate a catering service business. Senators voted and approved this lease agreement.

Emerson Knight, Sr. President of E.R.K. Corporation, stated that a permanent structure would further stabilize the business. “We need a brick and mortar location to promote expansion and have a consistent face to face contact with our customers,” said Knight.  Deputy Commissioner Richards added that the terms of the lease agreement are to all the business to expand, invest and improve government premises. This lease agreement is a long-term investment.

GVI acting by and through DPP will enter into a lease agreement with Quality Paving, LLC. For Parcel No. 149 Rem. Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands consisting of 4.51 U.S. Acres or 196,645 U.S. sq. Ft. The purpose of the property will be used to operate a paving company, asphalt plant, aggregate storage, offices, and a concrete plant. Senators voted and approved this lease agreement.

In response to a line of questioning by Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, President of Quality Paving Neil Carty stated that he is not partnering with anyone from the company Better Roads for this business venture. Warren Mosler is not an investor in this project. However, there are investors lined up once the lease is approved and Quality Paving, LLC intends on hiring thirty employees.

Separately, lawmakers also approved Bill No. 32-0123, a lease agreement between GVI through DPP on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Ricardo Barnes for the premises described as Plot# 22-1Estate Plessen, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands consisting of approximately 4.711 U.S. acres more or less as shown on O.L.G. drawing #4128.

However, senators voted to hold in committee Lease Agreement between DPP on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands and Industrious Auto Repair, Inc. for premise described as Parcel Nos. 51 and 51A Submarine Base. No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, consisting of 42,053 total sq. Ft., and Zoned “C.”

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2018 ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON PREPAREDNESS UPDATE

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St. Thomas- Members of the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety, chaired by Sen. Brian Smith, held a meeting at the Capitol Building to receive testimony on preparedness for the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season from officials of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) and the Virgin Islands Port Authority.

VITEMA’s 2018 Hurricane Season preparedness initiatives include informing the public via radio talk shows on “Preparedness Tip of the Week” in collaboration with FEMA, launching an interactive website and Alert VI an emergency notification system that alerts residents with texts and email messages. Alert VI operates in conjunction with FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. VITEMA is also disseminating information via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

“Although our efforts are focused on recovery from Irma and Maria, preparedness for the 2018 Hurricane season, in accordance to the National preparedness priorities, we continue to implement and maintain preparedness initiatives such as continuing the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign,” said Mona Barnes, Director of VITEMA. “Our Tsunami’s Readiness campaign and updating our training and exercise plan to include other hazards.”

Sen. Smith inquired, “After experiencing two hurricanes in 2017, what are the lessons learned?” Barnes stated that there were gaps in communications, sheltering plans, a point of distribution operations, patient evacuations, temporary power, and emergency route clearance. “The 2018 Hurricane Season, assisted by Federal Funds provided through disaster programs activated by the Stafford Act,” added Barnes.

Regarding the emergency shelters, Sen. Novelle Francis said, “A lot of people still have blue roofs, how many shelters are available?” Barnes stated that currently there are only two equipped shelters in the wake of a storm. VITEMA has collaborated with FEMA to obtain generators for five shelters. In total there are twelve shelters, but not all are structurally sound.  FEMA’s Public Assistance and Mitigation Grant programs provide funding to restore facilities.

To date, VITEMA received $1.3 billion and is expected to acquire $1 billion more from the Public Assistance and Mitigation awards. Some of the grant monies are used to replace/repair the emergency siren system for Tsunami alerts. VITEMA has satellite phones to communicate when a natural disaster hits the Territory. Lawmakers urged VITEMA to establish contracts with the private sector such as ferry services before the storms.

Separately, the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) shared an update on security at the airports and seaports. VIPA complies with all Federal mandates.  There is adequate staffing to implement security procedures, equipment to include the server are secured. Federal Authorities such as TSA and Customs and Border Patrol assist with reinforcing rules and regulations.

PHOTOS: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/

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32nd Legislature to Observe Hurricane Irma Anniversary

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ST. THOMAS – In commemoration of the anniversary of one of the most unprecedented hurricane seasons in the history of the Virgin Islands, Senate President Myron D. Jackson invites the community and first responders to join the members of the 32nd Legislature and staff in a time of remembrance to acknowledge and give thanks for our continued resilience and recovery.

A “Hurricane Irma Anniversary Observance” will be held on Wednesday, September 5, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall at the Capitol Building on St. Thomas. A “Hurricane Maria Anniversary Observance” is planned on St. Croix. The public is invited to participate.

The Virgin Islands continues to recover from the damage of both Category 5 storms. Hurricane Irma hit St. Thomas on September 6, 2018, and Hurricane Maria struck St. Croix on September 20, 2018. The activities follow the passing of Resolution No. 1845, to observe July 22, 2018, as a day of remembrance of the devastation and human suffering caused by these natural disasters and as supplication for protection during this hurricane season.

“The devastation and loss of life have been traumatic. We give God thanks for protection and blessings in seeing us through these difficult times,” President Jackson said. “If we all work together for the better good we will accomplish much. Let us be “United in Pride and Hope.”

For more information, call 340-693-3519.

 

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NOMINATIONS, COASTAL ZONE PERMITS/REQUESTS AND BILLS MOVES FORWARD

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the 32nd Legislature, chaired by Senate President Myron Jackson, convened in Legislative Session at the Capitol Building on Friday, to vote on items on the agenda to include nominations, a resolution, coastal zone permits/requests, and bills. All items approved will be forwarded to the governor for further consideration.

Senators voted and approved the nominations of Henry Schjang and Ronald Phillips to be members of the V.I. Racing Commission on the St. Croix District and Sheldon Turnbull to be a member of the V.I. Racing Commission on the St. Thomas District.

Sen. Janelle Sarauw and Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly stated that Turnbull was not familiar with the rules, regulations, and codes of the V.I. Racing Commission. Despite Turnbull’s lack of preparedness, Sen. Jackson said, “I want to give him an opportunity to prove himself as a member of the Commission.”

Regarding the nomination of Dr. Laura Palminteri to become a member of the V.I. Racing Commission on the St. Thomas District; senators voted to send it back to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further vetting.

“This a conflict of interest because how can she serve on the Commission although she is the only equine veterinarian in the Territory,” said Sen. Jean Forde.

Similarly, Sen. Kurt Vialet said, “Dr. Palminteri must decide because if she serves on the Commission, she will not be permitted to continue working as an equine veterinarian.”

Separately, policymakers voted and approved Bill No. 32-0237– An Act amending Title 3 V.I. Code, Chapter 25, Subchapter V, Section 555b to provide for minimum wage for employees of the Government of the Virgin Islands and its semi-autonomous agencies and independent instrumentalities. Senators shared their remarks on the bill.

Sen. Myron Jackson said, “It is time to provide government employees with a decent wage. They have made many sacrifices and deserve this raise.”

Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen noted that the purpose of this measure is to put an end to the “fiasco.” This bill ensures that the Executive Order is made into law even after the election is over. “If the governor wanted to increase the living wages for government employees and meant it to stick then legislation would have been in place. The law states that the Executive Branch cannot spend the public’s money without the authorization of the Legislature,” she said.

Sen. Tregenza also stated that “This bill prevents the governor from issuing an Executive Order to revoke the salary increases.”

Lawmakers voted and approved the following:

  • Bill No. 32-0173 – A Resolution honoring and commending The Family Resource Center for its services to victims and families in the U.S. Virgin Islands throughout the years
  • Bill No. 32-0249 – An Act Ratifying Governor’s approval of Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ29-16-W issued to Low Key Watersports, Inc Bill No. 32-0250 – An Act Ratifying Governor’s approval of Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ14-16(W) to the Brent Squire Revocable Trust c/o Brent Squires, Trustee
  • Bill No. 32-0251 – An Act ratifying the Governor’s approval of Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ-214(W) issued by the St. John Committee of the Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Commission to the Joseph John Marcus Trust
  • Bill No. 32-0254 – An Act ratifying the Governor’s approval of Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ-24-16W issued to Pillsbury Sound Land Company, Inc
  • Bill No. 32-0242 – An Act to amend Official Zoning District Map STZ-7 to allow for the rezoning of Parcel No. 48 Estate Thomas, No. 6A New Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to B-1 (Business-Central Business District)
  • Bill No. 32-0253 – An Act granting a use variance to Parcel No. 105 Remainder Estate Bolongo Bay, No. 3 Frenchman Bay Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to convert the variance granted for a bowling alley to a use variance for office and incidental storage use
  • Bill No. 32-0185 – An Act amending Title 23 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 10 Section 1005 relating to the Governor of the Virgin Islands and emergencies and major disasters
  • Bill No. 32-0232 – An Act amending Title 22 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 21, Section 514 and adding Chapter 22 relating to life and health reinsurance agreements
  • Bill No. 32-0233 – An Act amending Title 22 of the Virgin Islands Code adding Chapter 26 to provide for Annual Audit and Financial Reporting to meet the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and to update the Insurance Laws of the Territory placing them on par with other United States jurisdictions to give greater and more effective protection to the policyholders of the territory; and repealing Title 22 of the Virgin Islands Code, Section 222a
  • Bill No. 32-0234 – An Act amending Chapter 43 of Title 22 of the Virgin Islands Code by adding a subchapter II enacting the Property and Casualty Actuarial Opinion Act to meet the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in its model laws to update the Insurance Laws of the territory
  • Bill No. 32-0244 – An Act amending Title 27 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 1, Subchapter VII, Section 161 relating to the practice of optometry
  • Bill No. 32-0247 – Quitclaim Deed from the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands to Cyril LaPlace as Trustee of the Cyril A. La Place Trust for the following properties: Parcel No. 11-B Estate Dorothea, No. 6 Little Northside Quarter St. Thomas, Virgin Islands consisting of approximately 230 square feet more or less as illustrated on OLG NO. D9-9141-T016 dated March 14, 2016.
  • Bill No. 32-0119-An Act amending title 33 V.I. Code, chapter 81, section 2301 (e) relating to the limit of exemptions and credits to real property owners to exempt veterans, senior citizens and person with disabilities from exemption and credit limit
  • Bill No. 32-0258-An Act providing for the extension of the limitations period to file a claim under title 22 V.I. Code, chapter 33, section 820, subsection (a) paragraph (3) Hurricanes Irma and Maria and amending title 22 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 33, section 820, subsection (a) paragraph (3) to provide for a two-year limitation period for loss occurring as a result of an emergency or major disaster
  • Bill No. 32-0238-An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 27, section 715, subsection (b) paragraph (7) to require the Government Retirement System to seek the Legislature’s approval before implementation of any policy that impacts the member’s benefits

Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media

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THE GOVERNOR’S FINANCIAL TEAM SHARES FY 2019 BUDGET

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ST. Thomas- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony from the Governor’s Financial Team on the economic condition of the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) and an outlook for the amended FY 2019 Budget.

The FY 2019 amended to $1.317 billion funded by $1.078 billion in local, transfer, other revenue sources, and $238.66 million from Federal Grants. The amended budget proposals projects $38.5 million revenues from Limetree Bay Terminals totaling $170 million in new revenues because of rebuilding and restarting the refinery operations and growth in construction, housing, and infrastructure sectors; according to Julio Rhymer, Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“Is this a balanced budget and will there be a deficit for FY 2019?” asked Sen. Neville James.  Director Rhymer stated that the budget is balanced and there are no deficits for the upcoming fiscal year. The Territory received $215 million out of the $296 million in Community Disaster Loans in FY 2018. The Arc Light Capital LLC. is investing $1.4 billion into rebuilding the refinery on St. Croix. Additional revenues are from withholding excise and gross receipt tax.

Included in the supplemental budget, is Governor Kenneth Mapp’s Executive Order that states that all annual salaries of Executive Branch employees will increase to $13/hr. or $27,040 annum. “There is $1.26 million needed per pay period out of the $11.1 million. Therefore, a lump sum of $11.1 million is not required,” said Sen. Vialet.  Director Rhymer stated that the lump sum is preferred but not necessary.

“How much cash is at hand for GVI?” asked Sen. Novelle Francis. The Commissioner of the Department of Finance Valdamier Collens stated that presently there is $25 million. Sen. Francis inquired, “The 38.5 million from the Lime Tree revenues is separate from the $70 million from that deal, did GVI receive those funds?” Commissioner Collens stated that the $70 million was not received because the appropriation has not occurred. “The $70 million are monies the Governor wants to spend in FY 2018, not FY 2019,” said Sen. Neville James.  Collectively, the Governor’s Financial Team agreed.

Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria there is a steady decline in the Tourism Industry due to the destruction of the hotels. In FY 2017 there were 637,782 air arrivals in comparison to the decrease in FY 2018 in which there are 271,251 air arrivals or a loss of 57.5%. Similarly, in FY 2018, the Cruise Industry had dropped by 31.2% with only 920,960 cruise passengers compared to 1,976,569 in FY 2017. “What is the dollar value for the reduction of tourism?” inquired Sen. Novelle Francis. Julio Rhymer, Director of OMB, stated that there is an economic loss of approximately $10 million.

The Construction jobs have increased to 24.7% for FY 2018. Currently, there are 2,050 construction jobs in comparison to the 1,647 in FY 2017. Donnie Dorsett, the Senior Policy Analyst of the Bureau of Economic Research, stated that this is “healthy growth for that industry. “Construction jobs are temporary whereas employment in the Tourism Industry has proven to last a lot longer,” said Sen. Janette Millin Young.

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“Considering that Main Street is under construction, what is the economic impact on the economy?” inquired Sen. Jean Forde. Delbert Hewitt, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, said, “The biggest financial decline on Main Street is the retail stores. The value of lost business is unknown.”                     ###

BILL TO INCREASE LIVING WAGE FOR GOV. EMPLOYEES MOVES FORWARD

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St. Thomas- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, and voted to approve several measures including Bill No. 32-0237-An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 25, subchapter V, section 555b to provide for minimum wage for employees of the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI), its semi-autonomous agencies and independent instrumentalities.

“This bill was originally introduced at the beginning of this term when the economic state of the Virgin Islands was declining,” said Sen. Forde. “Since then, we have seen the improvements in corporate investments and businesses that now afford us the opportunity to enact these wage increases.”

Bill No. 32-0237 was initially proposed in February 2017 by senators Jean Forde, Kurt Vialet, and Marvin Blyden. On July 30, 2018, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp released the Executive Order 437-2018 and 438-2018 with the intent to provide a living wage to government employees. However, the Executive Order wasn’t implemented until August 1, 2018. Explicitly, the Executive Order states that all annual salaries of Executive Branch employees will increase to $13/hr. or $27,040 annum. The base salaries of social workers, teachers, and other vital government workers will also rise.

“We know the realities of the financial state of the Territory. Was an analysis conducted before issuing the Executive Order?” asked Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. Julio Rhymer, Director of Office and Management and Budget stated that the cost of living in the Territory is significantly higher than the mainland, but there is a reduction of salaries in the same positions on the mainland. The $27,040 salary gives employees an ability to qualify for homeownership programs. “How will GVI finance the living wage increase?” inquired Sen. O’Reilly. Director Rhymer stated that supplemental income totaling $11 million would cover the raises. Based on a five-year projection of the economy, GVI can sustain the increase.”  However, Sen. Positive Nelson stated that this is “unreal, unrealistic, and unsustainable.”

The breakdown of the $11 million is as follows: the raises for government employees is an estimated $4 million to $6 million and the wage increase for unionized employees is $5 million. “How much money was set aside for non-unionized employees?” asked Sen. Tregenza Roach. Director Rhymer stated that separately, approximately $15 million for non-unionized employees and $10 million for the Department of Education.

Sen. Dwayne DeGraff inquired, “Will monies from the Property Tax and Sin Tax be used to support the living wage increase?” Director Rhymer stated that there are other funds set aside such as the ArcLight Deal. The wage increases are not financed by either tax. “The last minimum wage increase was in 2005,” added Sen. Vialet. “The Sin Tax and Property Tax has nothing to do with the increase of today.”

Separately, policymakers voted and approved the following bills below. All measures adopted will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

  • Bill No. 32-0229 – An Act amending Title 23 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 10, Subchapter I, Section 1004 requiring the Government of the Virgin Islands to enter into contracts before June 1 of each year in preparedness for hurricane season or any emergency or major disaster
  • Quitclaim Deed from the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands to Cyril LaPlace as Trustee of the Cyril A. La Place Trust for the following property: Parcel No. 11-B Estate Dorothea, No. 6 Little Northside Quarter St. Thomas, Virgin Islands consisting of approximately 230 square feet as illustrated on OLG NO. D9-9141-T016 dated March 14, 2016.

However, the following was held in committee:

  • Bill No. 32-0101 – An Act appropriating $100,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund to Calypso, Inc. for continuing musical education for the youth of the Virgin Islands and;
  • Bill No. 32-0076 – An Act to amend title 33, chapter 3, by adding section 43k allowing for the reduction of the gross receipts tax of one percentage point for established businesses that show 12% year over year revenue growth
  • Bill No. 32-0256 – To amend VIC Title 9 by adding a new Chapter 14 to address Consumer and Commercial Loan activities and to add a new chapter related to Consumer and Commercial Loans

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Dwayne DeGraff, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Janelle Sarauw, Neville James, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Jean Forde, Janette Millin Young.                                                  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                           ###

NOMINATIONS FOR THE V.I. RACING COMMISSION MOVES

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, held a meeting at the Capitol Building to vote and approve the nominations of Sheldon Turnbull and Laura Palminteri, MD. to serve as a member on the V.I. Racing Commission for the St. Thomas-St. John District. The nomination was sent by the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands Kenneth E. Mapp as outlined in Section 16(c) of the Revised Organic Act of 1954, and Title 3, Section 65a of the V.I. Code.

Turnbull stated that although he is not an expert in the Horse Racing Industry, he has participated in various capacities. “I am a fan and a broadcaster for over twenty years. I have been involved in discussions concerning horse racing and its survival and growth in the Virgin Islands numerous times,” said Turnbull. Sen. Janelle Sarauw inquired, “What research have you done regarding marketing on the mainland?” Turnbull noted that horse racing in the U.S. is very different in comparison to the Virgin Islands because locally there are limitations. However, interisland racing draws the most excitement amongst residents.

Some of Turnbull’s goals are to unify the rules and operations between horseracing in both Districts and to have a balanced racing calendar between the Clinton E. Phipps and Randal Doc James Racetracks. “How would you balance the horse races between both districts?” asked Sen. Francis. In response, Turnbull said, “There is not a balance between holiday weekend races. Previously, there was a conflict with scheduling races, which hurts the industry. Therefore, he will tackle that issue.”

Dr. Palminteri has over twenty years of experience working with thoroughbred racing in the Territory. She has a veterinary medical background and has worked as a track veterinarian for Yonkers Raceway, Meadowlands Racetrack, Monticello Racetracks, Belmont Racetrack and Goshen Raceway. “As a member, I would strive to elevate and modernize the standards of racing in the Territory and to make it as safe as possible for both the animals and jockey,” she said.

“Do you see the Horse Racing Industry becoming lucrative for participants?” asked Sen. Janette Millin Young. Palminteri said, No, because financially horse racing barely breaks-even. Promoters are needed to attract visitors from the mainland to help the industry to grow locally.

Some senators expressed concerns of conflict of interest as it pertains to Palminteri becoming a member of the commission although she is the only veterinarian specializing in equine care in the Territory. In response, Palminteri stated that neither positions affect her role in horse racing from a medical viewpoint because she must examine each horse before the race.

Separately, lawmakers voted and approved the following bills below. All items approved will be forwarded to the full body for further consideration.

  • Bill No. 32-0173 – A Resolution Honoring and Commending “The Family Resource Center” for its services to victims and families in the US Virgin Islands throughout the years;
  • Bill No. 32-0244 – An Act amending Title 27 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 1 Subchapter           VII, Section 161 relating to the practice of optometry;
  • Bill No. 32-0245 – An Act amending Title 19 of the Virgin Islands Code, Part II, Chapter 15, Section 221 to define urgent care facilities and stand-alone facilities and section 223 to accept urgent care facilities from the requirement of getting a certificate of need mandating that these entities must take the MAP, Medicare, and uninsured patients;
  • Bill No. 32-0185 – An Act amending Title 23 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 10, Section 1005 relating to the Governor of the Virgin Islands and emergencies and major disasters

Senators present are Novelle Francis, Positive Nelson, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, Janelle Sarauw, Sammuel Sanes, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, and Jean Forde. http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/

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ALL FOUR COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT PERMITS MOVES FORWARD

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ST. JOHN- Members of the Committee on Housing, Public Works, Waste Management and Planning, chaired by Sen. Marvin Blyden, held a meeting at the Cleone Henrietta Creque Legislative Conference Room on Wednesday, and voted favorably for Coastal Zone Management (CZM) permit Nos. CZJ-2-14(W), CZJ-14-16W, CZJ-24-16W, and CZJ-29-16W. All permits approved will be forwarded to the full body for further consideration.

“All of the CZM Permits are for continued use. Thus far, there hasn’t been any complaints or violations by the permittees. I do not see any issues with the CZM Permits that are before me today,” said Sen. Marvin Blyden.

CZM Permit No. CZJ-14-16W-allows continued use and occupancy of an existing 50’x6’ floating dock in Fish Bay, St. John. CZM Permit No. CZJ-29-16W- allows for the installation of a 70’x6’ floating dock in the nearshore area of Cruz Bay, St. John. CZM Permit No. CZJ-2-14W-allows continued use and occupancy of an existing 100’x5’ dock and 6500 ft2 of submerged lands surrounding the dock structure seaward of Lovango Cay, St. John. CZM Permit No. CZJ-24-16W-allows for the continued use and occupancy of an existing 12’x12’ rectangular floating swim platform, an existing 6’x4’ water access walkway and three swim buoys near Cruz Bay, St. John.

“The reason for the docks are significant. Some of the docks will alleviate stress for the elderly and disabled population,” said Sen. Brian Smith.”

Similarly, Gregory Richards, Representative for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) noted that DPNR supports all the CZM permits because the permittees were compliant over the years. “DPNR Commissioner and the St. John Committee of the V.I. Coastal Zone Management Commission has found these four CZM permits consistent with the policies and standards of VIC Title 12 Chapter 21 for the V.I. Coastal Zone Management Program.”

Sen. Sammuel Sanes asked, “At any time were there any complaints on any of these entities?” In response, Richards stated that although there was not a public outcry, in the past some residents submitted letters of complaint. “Was there a physical inspection conducted for the CZM permits?” asked Sen. Sanes. Richards stated that an environmental inspection was done prior.

As it pertains to CZM Permit No. 29-16W, Sen. Myron Jackson inquired about the community contributions of Low Key Watersports. Ann Marie Estes, President of Low Key Watersports, said, “The company donated snorkel gear for a Snorkeling Program that taught residents how to snorkel. Post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria Low Key covered 100% of medical and dental insurance for employees.”

Senators present are Marvin Blyden, Janette Millin Young, Sammuel Sanes, Myron Jackson, Janelle Sarauw, and Neville James.

V.I. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND THE WEST INDIAN COMPANY LIMITED SHARES FY 2019 PROJECTED BUDGET

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, to receive testimony from the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDOA), and the West Indian Company Limited on the FY 2019 budget appropriations.

VIDOA General Fund request is $4,013,625. The budget is a 12% reduction in comparison to the FY 2017 appropriation of $4,587,000. VIDOA is mandated to receive $500,000 due to Act No. 6836, the Agriculture Sustainable Act. The combination of the General Fund and the required monies totals the FY 2019 budget request for the General Fund to $4,513,625. The budget breakdown is as follows: Personnel services and fringe benefits represent 85.5% and operating expenses is 14.4%. Additionally, VIDOA will also receive $1,000,000 from the Tourism Agriculture Revolving Fund. The Department anticipates Federal Funds totaling $339,262.

“Considering that there is a 12% reduction in the FY 2019 budget, how will it affect VIDOA?” asked Sen. Tregenza Roach. Carlos Robles, Commissioner of VIDOA, stated that Federal Funds allows the allocation to groups of farmers.  Sen. Vialet also inquired, “Did VIDOA receive contributions from the Casino Fund?” Delreese Brown, Director of Administration and Management at VIDOA stated that VIDOA received funds in the third quarter of FY 2018.

Post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria, VIDOA is collaborating with FEMA, VITEMA and Witt O’Brien to develop Project Worksheets to repair or replace the infrastructure, buildings, and equipment damaged because of the storms. Currently, the Department has eleven vacancies that are critical for operation. Despite challenges, VIDOA managed to meet with VINGN and the Department of Human Services to begin discussion on making wireless internet access for farmers markets throughout the Territory.

Sen. Roach inquired, “When can local farmers access SNAP Farmers Market Technology Program?” In response, Commissioner Roble said, “Internet access will allow the Dept. of Human Services and VIDOA to engage with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for the installation of EBT card reading devices at each of the farmer’s markets.” VINGN has assessed the Bordeaux Farmer’s Market and is developing an implementation plan.

Separately, Clifford Graham, President, and Chief Executive Officer stated that for FY 2019 the Miscellaneous Income projected at $141,368. “However, no itemization was submitted to verify the dollar amount.” FY 2019 budget is $4,375,074. The budget is an increase in comparison to the $3,281,854 appropriated for FY 2017. Personnel, fringe and Capital Outlays are $1,575,000 for FY 2019. WICO’S Expenditures and projections are $13,978,640 for FY 2019. Some of their goals are to complete recovery work on the property, complete the FY 2018 Audit, and to finalize the acquisition of the Havensight Mall from GERS.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Janelle Sarauw, Novelle Francis, Dwayne DeGraff, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                            

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VIRGIN ISLANDS CARNIVAL AND OTHER ENTITIES SHARES FY 2019 PROJECTED BUDGET

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, to receive testimony from officials from the Virgin Islands Carnival, Festival & Cultural Organization of St. John, The Crucian Christmas Festival, The Department of Tourism and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority on the FY 2019 budget appropriations.

The recommended FY 2019 budget for the Virgin Islands Carnival is $545,000 the Festival & Cultural Organization of St. John FY 2019 budget is $320,000, and the Crucian Christmas Festival FY 2019 budget is $520,000.

“If there is nothing to hide, why hasn’t the V.I. Carnival Committee provided detail information on all the monies received?” inquired Sen. Nereida O’Reilly. Halvor Hart III, Executive Director of the V.I. Carnival stated that the information on the document, “Transaction Detail by Account” has the breakdown for the $545,000.  “Although the $545,000 is detailed, there is missing information for the additional $292,371 given to the committee through various sponsorships,” said Sen. Vialet. Hart stated that he would compile the information and submit it to the Senate.

“This is disrespectful to the first branch of government that documents were subpoena and still there is a lack of transparency for the use of government funds,” said Sen. Janelle Sarauw.

Sen. Tregenza Roach inquired if it is possible that carnival and festivals can be self-sustaining to the point where government funds are not needed? “This will boil down to charging people who attend the concerts in the village,” said Davidson Charlemagne, President of the Crucian Festival. Leona Smith, Chairperson of the Festival and Cultural Organization of St. John added that economic sustainability is contingent upon the state of the economy.

The Virgin Islands Carnival, there were 369 complimentary tickets for the Prince and Princess Show, 369 complimentary tickets from the Queen Show and 301 complimentary tickets disseminated by the Calypso Competition. “Why were 33% and 25% of complimentary tickets distributed, when these are revenue generating events?” asked Sen. Vialet. Hart stated that complimentary tickets distributed for intermission performances such as majorettes, bands, and singers.  “This is an enormous amount of free tickets compared to low sales,” said Sen. Vialet.

Smith stated that the Festival and Cultural Organization of St. John disbursed 20 complimentary tickets. Charlemagne noted that there were six complimentary tickets distributed by the Crucian Christmas Festival.

Separately, the Department of Tourism and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority shared the FY 2019 budget. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of the Department of Tourism, shared that the budget request for FY 2019 is $20,668,404. Out of that, the General Fund is $2,283,404, and the Tourism Revolving Fund is $18,385,000. Additionally, carnival activities are $1,385,000, Sports Tourism development is $1,000,000 and marketing/promotions is $16,000,000. The breakdown for the General Fund budget request is as follows: $1,440,889 for personnel, $585,540 for fringe benefits, $22,000 for supplies, $159,123 for other services and charges, and $75,852 for public utilities.

Commissioner Doty stated that some of the goals and objectives for FY 2019 include, working with operators and attractions to implement recommendations on St. Croix, supporting the Bureau of Economic Developing “Made in the Virgin Islands” program and create mechanisms to cooperatively market and to establish innovative ways to market cultural activities and events to develop channels to increase visitor participation.

Robert Graham, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority stated that the FY 2019 budget is $9,553,554.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Janelle Sarauw, Dwayne DeGraff, Neville James, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, Myron Jackson, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly.                                                  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                           ###

 

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