Category: Press Releases

COMMITTEE UPDATED ON THE HURRICANE RECOVERY PHASES, PROJECTS AND TIMELINES

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to receive an update post-Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria on entities administered to assist with the hurricane recovery phases of the Government of the Virgin Islands to include projects and timelines.

“This is not a budget hearing. This meeting is about the hurricane recovery process. The public consistently has inquiries concerning the entities hired by the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) and what their roles are in the Territory,” said Sen. Vialet.

V.I. Public Finance Authority Executive Director Valdamier Collens shared the update. Witt O’Brien’s and Ernst & Young are the leading firms partnering with GVI to assist with the hurricane recovery process.

The primary responsibility of Witt O’Brien’s are program management and implementation of FEMA’s Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs such as HUD’s Community Development Block Grant and the Disaster Recovery Program. Thus far, Witt O’Brien has developed damage description, scopes of work, and the creation of project worksheets and Hazard Mitigation Grant application Territory-wide. Short terms tasks include WAPA debris removal, Sheltering Temporary Essential Power Program and the HUD Community Block Grant.

Ernst & Young, tasked with assisting GVI with compliance, monitoring, oversight and transparency for Key Grant Programs such as FEMA Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs; monitoring FEMA Community Disaster Loans and Commercial Insurance Claims. Some of their assignments include assisting V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) with addressing public assistance assignment for GVI applicants and private non-profit applicants. As of May 26, 2018, 237, project worksheets are totaling $1,055,057,798.30 that is funded by FEMA.

The timetable for completion of worksheets and target dates are currently unknown due to challenges such as cost estimates, developing scopes of work and finalizing worksheets due to administrative appeals. Completed projects should occur within 18 months of the start date. However, GVI can request an extension if necessary; according to Executive Director Collens.

“There are a lot of project worksheets that are going through VITEMA. I don’t believe that VITEMA is sufficiently staffed to review all of them promptly. Many of the small businesses are unable to sustain themselves without payment for their services,” said Sen. Marvin Blyden.

Similarly, Domingo Camarano, Vice President, AECOM shared an update on Emergency Home Repairs VI Program (EHRVI). To date, there are 1900 repaired homes. There are 10,000 applicants and 7,400 households eligible for repairs. “Hurricane season is upon us, how many homes out of the 10,000 are already completed?” asked Sen. Janelle Sarauw. Vice President Camarano stated that there are 1500 repaired homes with 5,000 more to be completed by the August 15, 2018 deadline.

“Considering that the deadline is in two months, what is the weekly average of completed home repairs?” inquired Sen. Blyden. In response Darryl Griffith, Executive Director, V.I. Housing Authority stated that there are 50 completed homes per week.

The value of AECOM’s contract is $186.6 million. Invoices were sent and reviewed by Witt O’Brien’s, Ernst & Young and others.  However, the FEMA-funded program has yet to receive payment for their services stated Vice President Camarano.  “Payments seems to be delayed because the federal guidelines are not designed to meet structural needs of homes built in the Virgin Islands.  Sheetrock, cleaning or repairing cisterns, and replacing downspouts are construction repairs that are heavily needed for the homes Territory-wide,” said Sen. Vialet.

Executive Director Griffith shared the financial breakdown of EHRVI funded through a FEMA Progress Worksheet (PW).  The first PW totals $186,650,000; this covers construction for in-home repairs. FEMA obligated the funds, and it is currently available. The second PW totals $152,899,348. This PW covers construction management, mobility, a call center, insurance, and program management. However, the monies were not obligated.

Separately, lawmakers received testimony on the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, acting through the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement(“Lessor”) and Industrious Auto Repair, Inc. (“Lessee”).

Vincent Richards, Deputy Commissioner of Property and Printing Divisions of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and Procurement, shared the update. The lease agreement is for 20 years and is effective upon the approval of Governor Kenneth Mapp and the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. There will be an annual rent of $28,000 initially and is payable through monthly installments of $2,400. The terms of the lease include allowing a long-term tenant to invest and restore a government property damaged after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria and to expand existing operations.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Brian Smith, Marvin Blyden, Jean Forde, Tregenza Roach, Dwayne DeGraff, Janelle Sarauw, Novelle Francis and Positive Nelson.

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

SENATORS PLAN TO RECOMMEND STRUCTURAL CHANGES TO FISCAL YEAR 2019 PROPOSED BUDGET

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ST. THOMAS– The Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, convened at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on Tuesday to receive testimony from Governor Mapp’s Financial Team regarding the Overview of the Fiscal Year 2019 Proposed Executive Budget.

The Director of the Office of Management & Budget, Julio A. Rhymer, noted that with the assistance of the Federal Government and billions of dollars approved for the territory, the budget amount; $1.278 billion, reflects a sustainable balanced budget that includes a five-year forecast to provide fiscal guidance. It is funded by $851.34 million in local funds and $238.66 million in federal funds. The budget outlay includes $150 million in debt service payments and $38 million in income tax refunds.

Chairman Vialet commended the Financial Team on their efforts to address parts of their unfunded liability under GERS and that the infusion of money included in the proposed budget is $10 million more than usually received. He also stated the $131.69 million projected in new revenues were well justified in the documents submitted although, “There will be challenges trying to pass a budget without all collective bargaining agreements in place. If we cannot achieve a final cost before September, supplemental appropriations can be made for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.”

“The increase in funding presented must include a combination of austerity measures and creativity applied when considering the reassignment of our workforce. Entities such as the Bureau of Economic research should be placed under the Office of Management and Budget,” said the Chairman.

Chief Negotiator Tang-How stated though contract negotiations are ongoing, their bottom-line figure of $14 million is developed, adjusted and reviewed in collaboration with OMB to ensure accuracy. Members present agreed that further clarification and reports on those figures will be requested through the Chair.

The Governor proposed to address outstanding employer contributions to GERS with an additional 3% in its employer contributions; 20.5 to 23.5%, over the next three years and increase the benefits of retirement to $75,000. Through the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, the GVI also plans to acquire 290 acres (170 on St. Croix; 120 on St. Thomas) of non-performing assets from the retirement system to continue the $7 million annual contributions from the Matching Funds Revenues.

The Fiscal Year 2019 general fund expenditure budget request allocated $639 million to the executive branch departments and agencies. Majority Leader Neville James questioned the decision to reduce some allocations while boldly increasing others. He expressed his concern on the focus in creating this budget calling the reduction of $1 million in the Legislative and Judicial branches unfortunate. Sen. Janelle Sarauw asked if there were any plans considered to restore the 8% pay cut. Commission Collens replied, “My understanding as the law is written, we can begin to accumulate those funds; roughly $65 to $68 million owed, in 2021 by utilizing the Environmental Impact Fee.”

The members of the Governor’s Financial team present during today’s testimony: Valdamier Collens, Commissioner of the Dept. of Finance; Marvin Pickering, Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; Ira Mills, Tax Assessor; Office of the Lt. Governor; Attorney Natalie Tang-How, Chief Negotiator of the Office of Collective Bargaining; and Milton Potter, Director of the Division of Personnel.

Committee members present during today’s hearing: Senators Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Neville James, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Brian Smith, Tregenza Roach and Dwayne DeGraff. Non-committee members present include Senators Jean Forde, Novelle Francis, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Myron D. Jackson, Janette Millin-Young, Positive Nelson and Janelle Sarauw.

“As we continue this process, I encourage my colleagues and representatives from all agencies to consider measures that will make our government more efficient,” concluded Chairman Vialet.

The Committee on Finance will convene today at 9:30 a.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas to receive testimony on: The status of programs administered in the territory post hurricanes, the recovery phase and BR17-0719; Lease Agreement between the GVI, acting through the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement(“Lessor”) and Industrious Auto Repair, Inc. (“Lessee”).

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SENATOR RIVERA-O’REILLY’S BILLS RECEIVE FAVORABLE RECOMMENDATIONS

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ST. CROIX- The Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services, chaired by Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, held a committee meeting Wednesday at the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center where three essential proposed measures were considered.

The three measures sponsored by Senator Rivera-O’Reilly were: Bill No. 32-0197- to ensure the physical, mental, and behavioral needs of companion animals in shelters and other facilities; Bill No. 32-0177- an Act amending the Virgin Islands relating to renewal of nursing licenses; and Bill No.32-0212- an Act amending the Virgin Islands Code to allow for the pronouncement of death by registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Testifying on Bill No.32-0197 were Carlos Robles, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture; Randolph Knight, President, Lucky Paws Foundation; Dr. Bethany Bradford, Director of Veterinary Services, Daniel Rodriguez, Police Detective, V.I. Police Department; and Donna Nemeth, Director of Operations, Humane Society of St. Croix.

Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly said her Bill seeks to establish a minimum standard under which animal centers and other facilities operate. She added that the main objective is to make sure these animals are provided with the proper care in a humane manner.

Comm. Robles said the Bill provides a careful balance of establishing a solid regulatory framework for operations and management without onerous and counterproductive restrictions. Knight of Lucky Paws Foundation said for the Bill to be effective, there must be inspections and enforcement guidelines.

According to Dr. Braford, the bill addresses another level of animal welfare and protection of public health that has been lacking in the Virgin Islands. She added that there are two main issues in the bill that require additional comments: inspection and registration of facilities and animals and enforcement of the provisions in the Bill.

All other testifiers said they supported the intent of Bill No. 32-0197. The committee voted in favor and sent it to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

On Bill No. 32-0177, Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly said upon the request of the members of the VI Board of Nurse Licensure to alleviate what can become an overwhelming license-renewal process. She added that the Bill amends the current statute so that now license renewals would take place during the birth month of the license holder.

The Bill was given a favorable recommendation and sent to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration following an amendment to change the deadline to seventy-five days before the expiration date from October 15 and strike the sentence that indicates the validity of the license as being from January 1 to December 31.

Chairwoman Rivera-O’Reilly said, Bill, No. 32-0212 allow for the attending physician as well as registered nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners to pronounce the death of a hospice patient.

Claude Walker, Attorney General of the Virgin Islands said it is understandable that the traditional role of nurses and physician assistants should be expanded to include specific situations in which they may be able to pronounce death. For this reason, he added, his department has concluded that the overall intent of the Bill has merit.

Tracy Sanders, President of Continuum Healthcare Inc., said hospice services do not pronounce death, however, it will if the Bill becomes law.  The bill was amended and voted on with a favorable recommendation to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

Committee members at Wednesday’s hearing were: Chairwoman, Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Sammuel Sanes, Kurt A. Vialet, and Novelle E. Francis Jr.

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BILL TO CHANGE “HANDICAP” PARKING SIGNS TO “DISABLED” MOVE FORWARD

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, Jr., held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday, to vote and approve several measures including Bill No. 32-0055 for the Virgin Islands Public Works to replace public parking signs that refer to “Handicap Parking” making an appropriation from the Transportation Trust Fund for replacement of parking signs and other related purposes.

“We know that there is much to be addressed when it comes to removing the word “Handicap” from our disabled parking signs to be addressed when it comes to removing the barriers that are preventing individuals with disabilities from having complete inclusion,” said Julien Henley, Advocate and Trainer for the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands.

Sen. Francis inquired, “Are businesses in compliance with the requirements with parking spots for the disabled?” Henley stated that businesses do not have the knowledge to change. For example, one company painted their entire parking lot blue without access to an aisle. These parking spots have dimensions for a legal disable parking spot for a reason. The problem is that the public needs to be educated on this topic.

Sen. Francis inquired, “Are businesses in compliance with disabled parking spots?” Henley stated that businesses do not have the knowledge to change. For example, one company painted their entire parking lot blue without access to an aisle. These parking spots have dimensions for a legal disable parking spot for a reason. The problem is that the public needs to be educated on this topic.

Similarly, Sen. Sammuel Sanes said, “Educating the community on this matter is a must because a person may have a disability that is a not a physical or obvious one.”

Additional challenges that disabled people face are the lack of parking spots for the disabled, accessible side-walk curb cuts that lead from the parking spots to the entrance of the business and the costly and lengthy process of approving individuals to park in these parking spots for the disabled.

Ultimately, lawmakers voted to approve Bill No. 32-0055. The following measures also received a favorable recommendation

 

  • Bill No. 32-0146-An Act honoring and commending Irvin “Brownie” Brown Sr. for his significant contributions to the culture and music of the Virgin Islands by renaming the portion of General Gade, which runs from the intersection of Veterans Drive up to the intersection of Silke Gade “The Irvin “Brownie” Brown, Sr. Road
  • Bill No. 32-0148-An Act amending Title 1 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 11 by adding section 200i establishing the month of May as Virgin Islands Stroke Awareness Month

 

  • Bill No. 32-0170-A Resolution honoring and commending Lorna Lenise Freeman for her outstanding charitable performances to the community and her many contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands and for being a true ambassadress of the Virgin Islands
  • Bill No. 32-0055- An Act providing for the Virgin Islands Department of Public works to replace public parking signs that refer to “Handicap Parking”, making an appropriation from the Transportation Trust Fund for replacement of parking signs and for other related purposes
  • Bill No. 32-0064- An Act Amending the Virgin Islands Code, Title 3, Chapter 24, Section 431 providing for a registry of the elderly and persons with disabilities living alone
  • Bill No. 32-0129- An Act Amending Title 14 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 3A relating to human trafficking to enact the Virgin Islands Uniform Prevention of and
  • Bill No. 32-0129- An Act Amending Title 14 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 3A relating to human trafficking to enact the Virgin Islands Uniform Prevention of and Remedies of Human Trafficking Act and amending title 5, Chapter 303, Section 3541 relating to the statute of limitations for prosecuting the crime of Human Trafficking
  • Bill No. 32-0179 -An Act amending Virgin Islands Code, Title 24 Chapter 10, amending Sections 221, 228 and 230, relating to the apprenticeship standards

However, the following was held in committee:

  • Bill No. 32-0127- An Act amending Virgin Islands Code, Title 14 Chapter 60 Section 1191 to strengthen the loitering law and increase the sentence for loitering

All bills approved will be forwarded to the Committee on the Whole for further consideration.

Senators present are Novelle Francis, Jr.  Brian Smith, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, Jean Forde, Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Sammuel Sanes, Janelle Sarauw, and Positive Nelson. Photo: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                    ###

LIMETREE BAY TERMINALS, LLC ARGUES FOR MAJOR CZM PERMIT

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ST. CROIX--The Committee of the Whole, chaired by Senate President Myron D. Jackson, met on Wednesday in the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center where testimony was given on a Major Coastal Zone Management Permit.

Senators heard from several Limetree Bay Terminals L.L.C. management Executives regarding Major CZM Permit CZX-29-17 for a Single Point Mooring (SPM) to be constructed on the south of St. Croix. The project’s activities will be specifically located seaward of Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC Terminal Plot No. 9 Reclaimed Land, Christiansted.

In his testimony, Jason Gleason, Maine Terminal Pilot and Captain for Limetree Bay Terminals, said as Lead Superintendent in the Marine Department and Project Lead on the SPM Project, Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) are some of the largest vessels in the world often over 1100ft long and 200ft, wide and may have a draft of over 700ft.

He added that historically to call on St. Croix, a VLCC would need to be roughly half loaded, and so, this project will enable their customers to transport crude to and from the facility in full loaded VLCC, offering a much more efficient operation.

According to Gleason, the Limetree Bay SPM will transfer crude oil to and from the facility and with the upgraded crude pumps completed last year, they can load out at approximately 45,000 barrels per hour. He pointed out that, the SPM project has been designed to Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF); United States Coast Guard (USCG) and American Bureau #56 King Street, Hamilton House, Christiansted, St. Croix 00820 340-773-2424, Fax: 340-712-2397, E-mail: publicaffairs@legvi.org of Shipping (ABS) standard. Furthermore, the entire system is designed to withstand the extreme conditions often found in in the Caribbean region.

Senators, who expressed their concerns as they relate to the project’s impact on the ecosystem, was given assurance by Gleason that after an extensive environmental assessment and re-routing of the project to minimize environmental impact, it was determined that a few corals were still in the pathway of the project.

According to him, these corals will be transplanted well clear of the project by their environmental contractor, Bio Impact. They will also be constructing a man-made reef to provide additional habitat where some of the coral will be transplanted on both the south and north shores of St. Croix in areas already approved by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR).

Gleason added that during construction, Bio Impact will be monitoring for turbidity, the effect on wildlife, and any other issues. Moreover, Bioimpact will stop the work immediately if any issues arise, and that they will work with DPNR and the federal government to remedy prior to resumption of construction.

In respect to local employment, Gleason told Senators that many of the materials to construct have been procured and delivered to St. Croix, and with the ratification by the legislature, they will commence construction as soon as possible. The construction phase, he added, will result in employment for laborers, concrete workers, welders, inspectors and painters on St. Croix.

Other testifiers for Limetree Bay Terminals were: Joyce Wakefield, Environmental Specialist; Amy Dempsey, President of Bio Impact; and Jeff Gorman, Engineer, Lloyds Engineers. Senators at Wednesday’s Committee of Whole Hearing were: Senate President, Myron D. Jackson, Vice-President, Rivera-O’Reilly, Jean A. Forde, Neville A. James, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Positive T.A. Nelson, Tregenza A. Roach, Sammuel Sanes, Janelle K. Sarauw, Brian A. Smith, and Kurt A. Vialet.

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SEN. BRIAN SMITH HOSTS TOWN HALL MEETING TO DISCUSS STATUS OF CANEEL BAY RESORT AND BELLEVIEW APARTMENT COMPLEX

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St. John – The Office of Sen. Brian Smith, held a Town Hall Meeting at the Cleone Creque Legislative Conference Room on Monday, to discuss Bill, H.R. 4731 to extend the retained use estate agreement for Caneel Bay Resort, authorized by Delegate to Congress Stacy Plaskett and to learn the status of the restoration efforts of the Belleview Apartments Complex.

“I called this meeting to hear the concerns of the people of St. John and throughout the Territory. Everyone is angry, anxious and disgruntled because they do not know the status of Caneel Bay and Belleview Apartment Complex,” said Sen. Smith.  “Caneel bay is not just a place of employment it is a part of the community. Residents want Caneel bay to live up to their expectations and people want to know the status of their employment.”

“If the bill passed in Congress next month, how soon will employment at Caneel Bay begin?” asked Sen. Smith. In response, Brad Dow, Director of Engineer and Capital Projects at Caneel Bay stated that work will start work immediately. However, Attorney George Dudley said, “The opening of the hotel depends heavily on the timeframe to obtain all required permits.”

Sen. Smith requested a further explanation of the Lease Extension Agreement for Caneel Bay Resort. Director Dow said, “Currently, Caneel Bay has an agreement with the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) which was extended until 2023. However, the most expeditious way to get back to business is to implement a 60-year extension. The long-term extension is necessary for investors to recoup their investments.”

A Concerned Resident inquired about the much needed improved quality of treatment of employees of Caneel Bay when the hotel re-opens. Director Dow said, “The contract for the Economic Development Certificate mandates that 80% of employees are Virgin Islanders, 20% of management are Virgin Islanders, and training locals for managerial positions is also a part of the agreement. Caneel Bay can work on minimizing any mistakes that occurred in the past.”

Additional concerns from the residents include the economic downslide for businesses on St. John since the closing of Caneel Bay due to no tourists or visitors, and employee grievances such as non-unionized employees do not receive severance pay when the hotel closes seasonally and the notice of termination to all employees after hurricanes occurred which caused a rise in unemployment on St. John.

Separately, representatives of Belleview Apartments Complex were absent at the Town Hall Meeting. However, Sen. Smith shared that with his correspondence with officials of Belleview, they stated that all concerns as it relates to the Belleview Apartments Complex will be dealt with by the team this week. Construction will be completed in the middle of May.

Senators present are Brian Smith, Janette Millin Young, and Myron Jackson. Photo: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                                        ###

BILL TO PROVIDE A REGISTRY FOR THE ELDERLY MOVES FORWARD AND SENATORS RECIEVE UPDATE ON MEDICAL EVACUATIONS

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Health Hospitals and Human Services, chaired by Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, and approved Bill No. 32-0064 to provide for a registry of the elderly and people with disabilities living alone and to receive an update on medical evacuations post-Hurricane Irma and Maria.

“After hurricanes occurred many of the seniors were displaced. This legislation is significant in assisting persons to receive the necessary assistance as a result of a natural disaster,” said Sen. Dwayne DeGraff, Sponsor of the bill.

The Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for Bill No. 32-0064 includes keeping the data collected for registry confidential and not be disclosed other than to assist the individual in time of a natural disaster or if there is a medical emergency. If unlawfully disclosed, perpetrators can be fined up to $500 and/or imprisoned for one year. The Department of Human Services shall maintain a registry of persons 60 years and older who live alone and persons with disabilities who live alone.

Ana Valez-Martinez, Director of Herbert Grigg Home for the Elderly stated that there are many registries throughout the government but there isn’t a single registry that can be accessed territory-wide. Therefore, emergency agencies should partake in this bill.  “Implementation of a more comprehensive registry, would provide an opportunity for emergency response agencies to obtain information through the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management to facilitate better planning of critical services that these individuals need during natural disasters or other emergencies,” said Director Martinez.

“What is the estimated cost to get the registry started and how many staffers are needed to oversee it?” asked Sen. Janet Millin Young. Director Martinez stated that approximately $15,000 is needed to implement and monitor the system. Additional funds are required to hire two staff members. “Will the staff work full-time or part-time?” inquired Sen. O’Reilly. In response, Director Martinez stated that initially, staff will work full-time to manage and market the registry territory-wide. Employment status can be revisited the following year.

Ultimately, committee members voted favorably for the bill and its amendment. It will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration. Separately, lawmakers were updated on the status of medical evacuations and an evacuation plan in wake of a natural disaster.

As of April 6, 2018, there is a total of 796 patients that were medically evacuated from the Territory to Georgia, Puerto Rico, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana. 190 dialysis, classic and non-medical attendant’s patients off-island. Out of the 175 patients relocated to Georgia, 106 patients receive hemodialysis treatment, 21 patients are classic medical conditions, 48 are non-medical attendants and there were 49 patients who died; according to the Virgin Islands Department of Health Commissioner Michelle Davis.

“Did the department properly document the 49 patients who expired and the cause of their deaths?” asked Sen. Novelle Francis. Kathleen Arnold-Louis, Liaison for Medical Evacuees, Department of Health said, “I would have to say no we do not have proper documentation at this time. However, the Department requested Death Certificates for the deceased but that does not include the events leading up to the person’s death.”

Although the Government of the Virgin Islands did not have an evacuation plan in wake of two hurricanes, officials relied heavily on an evacuation plan from the Federal Government.

Commissioner Davis stated that the Federal Government standard operating procedures were followed for the evacuation of the residents. “The Federal Government coordinated and paid for the evacuation and the medical care of clients which included meals, lodging, transportation and the medical needs identified through December 30, 2017. The Federal Government is also paying for the return trip of all discharged patients.”

Sen. Sammuel Sanes said, “A plan is necessary before the next hurricane season. There needs to be a solid plan in place by the end of the week or the end of the month to ensure that the loss of lives after a patient is transferred to medical hospitals and facilities off-island does not occur again.” Chief Executive Officer of Juan Louis F. Hospital and Medical Center Ruben Malloy said, “There are many evacuation plans in place. VITEMA has a plan and the Department of Health has a plan. We are in a learning process and lessons learned are based on the events that took place after the storms.” Sen. O’Reilly said, “Without a written plan. Then a plan does not exist.”

Senators present are Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Janette Millin Young, Marvin Blyden, Sammuel Sanes. Novell Francis, and Dwayne M. DeGraff. Photo: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/

 

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REGISTERED APPRENTICESHIP MEASURE AND RESOLUTIONS PASS FAVORABLY TO RULES COMMITTEE

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ST. THOMAS On Thursday, the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs & Culture convened at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Chaired by Sen. Janelle K. Sarauw, the Committee received testimony and consider several measures related to Registered Apprenticeship and resolutions honoring Irvin “Brownie” Browne and Lorna L. Freeman.

Bill No. 32-0179, An Act amending title 24 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 10, (title 24, chapter 10, sections 230, 228, and 221) which would allow for the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) to comply with the federal code, CFR 29.13 (a)(1) and fulfill the final requirement for VIDOL to be recognized as a State Apprenticeship Agency. Proposed by Sen. Janelle Sarauw, the Bill involves the input of numerous agencies to provide the skills in demand according to labor market information and trends.

Catherine L. Hendry, Esq., Commissioner of the Dept. of Labor stated, “It needs to be a collaborative effort by High schools, Technical schools, UVI and employers in both public and private sectors. We need a workforce pipeline.” “The Dept. of Education, when called to testify asked, what does this bill have to do with them? It’s sad that the players involved have no idea what affects them,” added Chairwoman Sarauw. Post-hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Retail/Hospitality & Leisure industries are predicted to be impacted until the first quarter of 2019.

“Our people are being left behind. I understand that this is a collaborative effort, but I need assurances. When I speak to residents about using the resources at the Dept. of Labor, they are frustrated. They watch planes fly in full of workers, watching boats arrive on the South shore of St. Croix claiming we don’t have the skill set to complete these jobs. Our people are being left behind,” said Sen. Brian Smith. Construction is currently the main industry demand sector, while the demand for trained workers in the Healthcare, Information Technology, Business Administration, Trade and Transportation industries remain consistent. The measure for Registered Apprenticeship was favorably approved and forwarded to the Committee on Rules & Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No. 32-0146, a Resolution honoring and commending Irvin “Brownie” Brown, Sr. for his significant contributions to the culture and music of the Virgin Islands. “Anyone who has ever met Brownie will tell you, he lives under a love umbrella that he is always happy to share. You may cross paths even for a moment, but you will remember that full smile, his warmth, and his intent to make your moment better, your life greater,” stated colleague Anita Davis. In commemoration of his many contributions to the islands, the portion of General Gade, which runs from the intersection of Veterans Drive up to the intersection of Silke Gade is renamed “The Irvin “Brownie” Brown, Sr. Road”. Sponsored by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff, the measure was favorably approved and forwarded to the Committee on Rules & Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No. 32-0170, A Resolution honoring and commending Lorna Lenise Freeman for her outstanding charitable performances to the community and her many contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands and for being a true ambassadress of the Virgin Islands. The President of the Legislature or the President’s designee shall prepare and present a perma plaque copy of this resolution and the official Key to the Territory at an appropriate ceremony.

Jo Sandra Jones-James, Music Educator testified, “The Songstress firmly believes that Music is the universal language of the world, and as such, there is much responsibility to share and give back as much as possible. To this end, Lorna prides herself on the outreach work and musical collaborations she has had with her USVI community over the years.” Sponsored by Senators Janelle Sarauw and Dwayne DeGraff, the measure was favorably approved and forwarded to the Committee on Rules & Judiciary for further consideration.

The following Committee members present: Chairwoman Janelle K. Sarauw, Senators Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Janette Millin-Young, Brian A. Smith, Positive T.A. Nelson and Marvin A. Blyden. Non-Committee members present: Senate President Myron Jackson, Jean A. Forde and Dwayne M. DeGraff.

 

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LAWMAKERS APPROVE NOMINEES, CZM AND ZONING REQUESTS DURING LEGISLATIVE SESSION

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ST. THOMAS– On Wednesday, Members of the 32nd Legislature, convened in Legislative Session at the Capitol Building. Led by Senate President Myron Jackson, the Body considered zoning requests, CZM permits and several measures.

The meeting began with the consideration of the following Nominees:

  • Nelson Petty, Jr.– Commissioner, Dept. of Public Works
  • Elizabeth Armstrong (Reappointment)– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STX)
  • Stacy Bourne– Member, VI Casino Control Commission (STT/STJ)
  • Hubert Turnbull– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STT/STJ)
  • Julio Rhymer, Sr.– Director, Office of Management & Budget (OMB)
  • John A. Quelch– Member, University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees (STX)
  • Dina Perry-Malone– Member, VI Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (STT/STJ)

All Nominees were approved, however, Senators shared their concerns regarding their nominations and current issues in their respective agencies. “Our margin for error is minute,” Sen. DeGraff expressed. After thanking the Body, Nelson Petty, Jr., updated the Body on the status of Capital projects in the territory. “My focus has been on our capital projects and I am pleased to report three projects on St. Croix currently in the procurement phase and on St. Thomas, preconstruction began yesterday with the Veterans Drive project”.

The second block of the meeting considered the following Coastal Zone Management Permits and Zoning requests:

  • Bill No. 32-0153 – An Act ratifying the Governor’s approval of Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ-20-11W issued to David McDaniel and Cheryl McDaniel. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0154 – An Act ratifying Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-2-16 (L&W) issued to DUN RUN GOLF, LLC, for the continued use and occupancy of the existing reverse osmosis plant with 12” diameter, 140 feet intake line and 12-inch, 650 feet long outfall line located at Plot No. C-2-Q Estate Lovenlund, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0142 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 13AA Estate Contant, No. 2 Cruz Bay Quarter St. John from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to R-4 (Residential-Medium Density). The zoning request was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0181 – An Act granting a zoning use variance for Parcel No. 171 Estate Contant-Enighed, Cruz Bay, St. John Virgin Islands, to allow for the operation of a car rental business. The zoning request was passed and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0182 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 4-A Estate Cruz Bay Town, Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, from B-3 (Business-Scattered) to B2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood). The zoning request was approved as adapted and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0187 – An Act rezoning Parcel No. 6D Estate Thomas, New Quarter, St. Thomas from R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) to B-2 (Business-Secondary Neighborhood) and from the B-2 zoning designation granting a use variance. The zoning request passed in its original format and forwarded to the Governor.

“We make a way for the big businesses, but not for the small players. We need to show them that we are sensitive to the small businesses, families,  and individuals trying to establish wealth,” stated Non-Majority Leader, Sen. Positive T.A. Nelson. Similar comments were expressed by the members of the Body after two zoning requests were removed from the agenda during the 2nd block.

 

The following bills were considered after press time:

 

  • Bill No. 32-0168–An Act amending Title 22 VI Code, Chapter 39, designating current sections 951 through 983 subchapterI, Section 984 as Subchapter II, and by adding a subchapter III entitled, “The Standard Forfeiture Law of 2018 for Life Insurance,” which meets the accreditation in its model laws and updates the insurance laws of the Virgin Islands of the United States placing them on par with other United States jurisdictions thereby affording greater and more effective protection to the policyholders in the Virgin Islands. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0065–An Act to appropriate the sum of $500,000 to the Economic Development Authority for “energy efficient” retrofitting of the Industrial Park on the island of St. Croix. Sponsored by Sen. Neville James, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0178–A Resolution to honor to commend the ALL HANDS and HEART-SMART RESPONSE. Proposed by Sen. Jean Forde, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0188–An Act appropriating $3,500,000 from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund for maintenance dredging of the Schooner Bay Channel. The measure, sponsored by Senators Kurt Vialetand Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0147–An Act amending Title 27 VI Code, Chapter 1, Subchapter I relating to the special restricted licensing of physicians and subchapter II (a) relating to the practice of telemedicine; amending Title 19, Chapter 15, relating to the licensing, inspection and regulation of healthcare facilities and health services; and amending Title 33, Chapter 3, relating to exemptions from the payment of gross receipts on all Medicaid and Medicare payments. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0175–An Act amending Title 29 VI Code, Chapter 12 to strengthen the Economic Development Commission. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0189–An Act amending Title 18 VI Code to reprogram the appropriation of Act No. 7904 to conduct the 2018 primaries and makes the appropriation available until expended. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jean Forde, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0059–An Act to amend Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 9 relating to regulation of billboards. This bill enlarges the definition of “advertising device and bans the use of changeable 6 electronic variable message signs, digital billboards or smartboards that have animation, movement, or the appearance or optical illusion of movement. Sponsored by Sen. Myron Jackson, the measure was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0024–An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, section 1 to provide for the position of Curator and amending title 31 Virgin Islands Code to add a chapter 42 establishing the Preservation of Historic Government Collections Act and for other purposes. Sponsored by Senate President Myron Jackson, the measure was approved as amended by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

The Bills can be accessed in their entirety on our website via Bill Tracker module: http://legvi.org:82/

 

 

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COMMITTEE UPDATED ON THE STATUS OF EDUCATION POST-HURRICANES

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St. Thomas – The Committee of Education, Youth, and Recreation, chaired by Sen. Jean Forde, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony from education officials, on the status of the educational programs and facilities post-Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. However, the written testimony submitted by the Commissioner of the Department of Education Sharon McCollum stated that Governor Kenneth Mapp gave a directive preventing education leaders from attending the meeting today.

“We have done our best to bring all of the stakeholders to this committee meeting. We learned yesterday that officials from the Department of Education (DOE) will not be available until April 13th as instructed by the Governor,” said Sen. Forde. “I cannot see the justification for canceling today. This was a follow-up of from the school tours previously conducted in both districts.”

Although officials from the Department of Education were absent, leaders from the American Federation of Teachers were present to share an update.

President of the St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers (AFT) Carol Callwood stated that some classrooms have roof damage; air condition units need repairs and there are continued reports of mold and asbestos. “The cost and time needed to properly clean and repair the schools and activity centers before classes resume for the 2018-2019 school year have not been identified or at least have not been shared with us,” said President Callwood.

Similarly, Rosa Soto-Thomas, President of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers said, “Currently, in the St. Croix District, we continue to house thirteen schools in five buildings. Members who work during the afternoon sessions have reported that they have overstayed their welcome at assigned schools and are eager to return to their home school or temporary modular units.” Additional woes include extending the Collective Bargaining Agreement daily with the Government of the Virgin Islands which expired on August 31, 2015, to-date teacher’s salaries are based on the 2010-2011 pay scale and teachers are denied combined sick, personal and annual leaves.

“In previous meetings, the Commissioner stated that schools will be ready for the 2018-2019 school year. Where did you get the information from that schools will not be ready,” asked Sen. Novelle Francis.  In response, Carver Farrow, President of STT-STJ of EAA Union said, “I want to believe that all efforts are made by DOE to prepare for the upcoming school year. However, the best scenario is to order, set-up and make ready the modular structures by September 2018 and I hardly believe this will happen in the next five months.” Sen. Myron Jackson said, “We have to come to grips with long-term planning for our schools.”

Sen. Forde stated that the Education System in the Virgin Islands is not in a happy place. “Months after the storms, modular units should already be in place. On St. John, the modular units could be placed in the ballfield. On St. Thomas, the modular units could fill the grounds at the University of the Virgin Islands. Classrooms still aren’t ready for the 2018-2019 school year. Teachers are still lacking necessary resources. How long will this continue? We have concerns,” said Sen. Forde.

Senators present are Jean Forde, Novelle Francis, Kurt Vialet, Tregenza Roach, Neville James, Myron Jackson and Janelle Sarauw. PHOTOS: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/ ###

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