Category: Senator Brian A. Smith

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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LEGISLATIVE HOME NOW ON THE HORIZON FOR THE BIG ISLAND

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ST. CROIX– Senate President Myron D. Jackson and Vice-President Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly announced early today that a new site for the Legislature on St. Croix has been procured.

“We are excited to have a place to call home, our central and senatorial staff have worked in two separate locations far longer than we anticipated,” said Vice-President O’Reilly.

Shortly after Hurricane Maria’s passage, an active search began for a temporary legislative home to meet the needs of the general public.

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands currently operates out of two offices in Christiansted; 1108 King Street and #36-C Strand Street. “Immediately following the hurricanes, we began to explore our options for relocation. We attempted to reach out to the Office of the Governor for assistance. Upon being turned down, our efforts led us to the two properties we have been operating out of since January.”

“When I took office at the beginning of this term, I made a statement regarding the welfare of the employees of this Institution. It did not sit well with the local media and members of our community. I made a commitment to improving the standard of health, and quality of life for our employees on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.”

“I am reminded of the many locations of the Legislature we leased on Contentment Road and most recently at the Lagoon Street Complex. “It pained us greatly to have to move out of Frederiksted after Hurricane Maria,” he added.

Senate President Jackson noted the ongoing discussions pertaining to the impact of mold, and severe flooding conditions, and sewage issues in Frederiksted. The Members of the 32nd Legislature agreed that it was time to deal with it rather than deferring it to the next Body.

“We are looking forward to new beginnings at our new location, where people can come to the institution and be proud of not just the Senate, but what the building signifies for the community of St. Croix,” O’Reilly concluded.

This has been a long, frustrating road, said Jackson. “We are pleased to announce today that we have secured a safe, habitable working environment for our Staff and look forward to our continued productivity as the First Branch of Government,” concluded Senate President Jackson.

 

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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                                                                        ###

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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LAWMAKER UPDATED ON THE DEPARTMENT OF V.I. POLICE DEPARTMENT AND OTHER AGENCIES POST-HURRICANE IRMA AND HURRICANE MARIA

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St. Thomas – The Committee of Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety chaired by Sen. Brian Smith, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Friday, to receive testimony from the V.I. Police Department and other agencies on the status post-Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

 

The post-hurricane update for the VIPD included severe damaged sustained to the infrastructure of the department. Currently, there are several inhabitable operational centers, the some of the vehicular fleet both marked and unmarked are deemed inoperable, and there are diminished resources. Restoration efforts include consolidating remaining operation centers, and policeman are working lengthy work days and despite damage sustained to the vehicles, they are still in use stated Delroy Richards, Commissioner of the VIPD.

 

“Policeman are working 12-hour days, are they being paid for overtime hours?” asked Sen. Smith. Commissioner Richards said, “Overtime should be paid based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. My office has been working relentlessly to ensure overtime payment. In collaboration with my chief financial officer, I have certified a batch of overtime documents and personally delivered it to the Department of Finance.”

 

“Can you expound on the criminal element post-hurricane?” inquired Sen. Smith. Commissioner Richards stated that despite the state of the territory, the criminal enterprise continued. The data provided after the hurricanes indicated that there was an increase in burglaries of homes and businesses, larcenies and physical assault.

 

In a series of questions, Sen. Smith inquired about homicides in the territory and outside law enforcement personnel. Commissioner Richards stated that there were 50 homicides before the hurricanes. Since then, five more murders were committed. There are thirty-one New York State Troopers who were assigned to assist police officers on St. John.

 

Lawmakers also inquired about services to assist first-responders’ post-hurricane. “What did VIPD do to help officers after the storms,” asked Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. Commissioner Richards stated that VIPD provided catered food twice a day for officers, VIPD paid for hotel arrangements for some of them, Emergency Operation Center for disaster recovery was available, and FEMA distributed supplies to all first responders.

 

Sen. Jean Forde inquired about psychological services offered to police officers. Curtis Griffin, Assistant Police Commissioner of VIPD, stated that officers were sent to St. Croix to speak with the in-house psychologist and additional services were provided by federal agencies.

 

Separately, the Bureau of Information & Technology (BIT), V.I. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles also shared an update post-hurricane.

 

Angelo Riddick, Director/Chief Information Center of BIT stated that as a result of the damages to BIT facilities the temporary estimate to restore services is approximately $893,000. The monies will cover a digital signature application, Land Mobile Radio that allows for connectivity and continuation of operations, digital camera close circuit television, additional network system administrators, an enterprise architect and more space in the Microsoft Cloud Azure application to store data.

 

Claude Walker, Attorney General, shared the update for the Department of Justice. Post-Hurricanes, the department is investigating charitable donations to ensure the legitimacy of the donors. He also addressed the increase of the domestic violence stating that the Division of Mental Health Hotline is available to deal with psychological stress. The department continued to disburse child support checks that is deposited directly into the bank accounts of the parent.

 

Committee Members present are senators Brian Smith, Jean Forde, Novelle Francis, Dwayne DeGraff and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly.

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COMMITTEE RECEIVES TESTIMONY ON SECURITY IMPROVEMENTS AT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY AND FORENSIC LAB IN TERRITORY

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety, chaired by Sen. Brian A. Smith, met on Friday at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall to receive status updates and discuss challenges within the Department of Justice, Bureau of Corrections and the Virgin Islands Police Department.

Rick Mullgrav, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections noted the repaired gates, doors and sliders, in addition to the construction of the security check booth at the entrance of the Golden Grove facility. Renovations in the cafeteria and kitchen are currently underway and slated for completion by the end of April. Blower and exhaust fans were recently installed in the housing units to regulate the temperature in the housing units.

The husbandry program, tilapia farm, and vegetable farm programs remain active however, our other programs such as bee keeping, wood working, upholstery, and auto body repair were suspended due to the lack of funding and need of certified instructors. Funding was recently approved to install a perimeter fence, to regulate the traffic in and out of the facility and secure their livestock. Their most successful venture to date, is the video visitation feature, that allows families to communicate with their loved ones sent abroad to other correctional facilities.

This feature is available in both facilities on St. Croix and St. Thomas. “While we continue to make progress, the Bureau faces numerous challenges. As we are currently operating under two Settlement Agreements, we face the constant need to increase staffing, provide ongoing training, implement policies and procedures, and improve the Bureau’s infrastructure,” said Director Mullgrav.

Staff training on the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) policy will be completed in both districts by the end of June, while training in accordance with the mental health policies have been completed and approved. The bureau is currently working with the Department of Health to secure adequate placement for mentally ill prisoners and those deemed not guilty due to insanity.

During his testimony, Claude E. Walker, Esq., Attorney General of the Virgin Islands spoke about the Medical Examiner’s Office efforts towards establishing a new, state of the art forensic laboratory in the territory.

The lab will provide several services that are currently not available, such as DNA, drug and ballistics testing. When completed, the facility will be a significant tool in increasing the number of successful prosecutions and reducing the amount of time needed to solve crimes. The Criminal Division within the Department of Justice is in dire need of additional support staff and prosecutors to fulfill its responsibilities. This current fiscal year has a total of 285 new cases opened, with 79 felony cases and 53 misdemeanor cases on St. Croix.

There are currently 80 felony cases and 53 misdemeanor cases on St. Thomas. Attorney General Walker also noted the challenges within the Bureau of Investigation Division. This unit is responsible for all civil and criminal investigations. The staff within this division assist by conducting background investigations, serving subpoenas and discoveries, in addition to locating and transporting victims and witnesses to and from court.

“The most immediate needs for the Bureau include one additional agent for St. Croix; new and badly-needed equipment such as ammunition, bullet proof vests, radios, retractable batons, and surveillance equipment; as well as funds for training in the areas of interrogation, surveillance, investigations, and report writing,” concluded Attorney General Walker.

Delroy Richards Sr., Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Police Department emphasized the department’s desire to maintain and increase police control, rapid response to incidents, calls for service, effective investigation and solution of criminal acts, and timely apprehension of criminal perpetrators. Two major goals of the VIPD is Crime Prevention, to become fully self-sufficient by having all the necessary resources within the Virgin Islands; to include well trained and equipped personnel. The remaining testimony was given by Dennis Howell, Chairman of the Virgin Islands Parole Board.

The Virgin Islands Parole Board plans to improve their operations by: conducting on site parole board hearings, establish a parole board authority with proper staffing, educating the BOC staff on parole procedures and continue public education through town hall meetings. Chairman Howell briefly mentioned the implementation of program in which parolees pay an unspecified amount upon their release. “If you’re out on parole, you will pay to be out on the outside,” concluded Chairman Howell.

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