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VIEDA seeks USVI small manufacturers for the 2014 USVI International Artistry & Business Expo
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 30, 2014 at 3:50 PM AST

CHARLOTTE  AMALIE,  St.  Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands - July 30, 2014 - The V.I. Economic Development Authority's (VIEDA) State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Program is seeking exhibitors in the industries of food, gift and arts, beauty and wellness,  music,  jewelry, fashion, building and  industrial materials  to participate in its 2014 U.S. Virgin Islands International Artistry and Business Expo.   This expo will be held from September 19-21,  2014  at the Mark C. Marin Center (MCM Center) at Antilles School on St. Thomas.   This expo is co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the federal agency that awarded two grants to the Territory for the administering of the STEP Grant Program in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The 2014 U.S. Virgin Islands International Artistry and Business Expo will provide small manufacturers with the opportunity to network with international buyers from more than 10 countries, introduce their products to potential customers, learn from industry experts, and connect with potential investors.  This expo will feature some of the USVI's best small manufacturers that are interested in exporting their products and services to foreign markets.   The cost for exhibiting at this expo is $100.  The exhibitor registration deadline is August 7, 2014.  

"This business expo is another on-going initiative to accomplish the goals of the STEP Grant Program in the Territory which is primarily to help increase U.S. Virgin Islands exports. This is also an opportunity for our small business exporters to be introduced to foreign buyers so that they can increase their profit margins while creating jobs and tax revenues for our Territory," said VIEDA's Chief Executive Officer Percival E. Clouden.

The general public is also invited to attend the expo which will be held on September 19 at 5:00 p.m., September 20 from 8:00 a.m.  to 6:00 p.m.,  and on September 21 from  12:00 p.m.  to  5:00 p.m.

Booth display areas will be available for exhibitors to showcase and sell their products and services, and to perform live demonstrations.   Workshops that are designed to teach  the exhibitors and expo attendees how to successfully market their products and services to foreign buyers will also be held during the expo.  

According to USVI STEP Coordinator Nadine T. Marchena Kean,  "This expo would enable the VIEDA to better assist our Territory's small business exporters.  The 2014 USVI International Artistry and Business Expo will also provide these small business owners with exporting opportunities that will drive the need for increased production of their products and services through foreign buyers."

In 2011 and 2012, the U.S. SBA approved the U.S. Virgin Islands' grant applications to participate in the STEP Program.  To date, the Territory has been awarded more than $800,000 in grant funding to assist local small exporters.  In 2011, the VIEDA  was designated by USVI Governor John P. deJongh, Jr., as the agency to administer the STEP program in the Territory and has recently applied for a third grant for this program.

The STEP program is a three-year pilot program trade initiative that is authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.   It is designed to help small businesses grow, increase their exporting activities, and raise the value of the products and services of small business exporters.

For more information on exhibitor requirements and how to register,  contact Nadine T. Marchena Kean via email at  nmarchena@usvieda.org  or Linda Bailey at (340) 727-9247.

DE JONGH RECEIVES 2012 USVI ECONOMIC CENSUS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM AST
U.S. Deparment of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Survey & Programs, Company Statistics Division Statistician Geoffrey S. Hill, along with Assistant Division Chief, Cynthia D. Hollingsworth and Census Bureau staff member, Heydy Juarez brief Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. on 2014 USVI Economic Census. To the governor's left is Wharton Berger, Director of the Bureau of Economic Research.

U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau staff members visited the territory recently and presented the results of the 2012 U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Census to Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. during a Government House meeting on St. Thomas.

While information related to HOVENSA was disclosed, Census Bureau staff did report in 2012, 2,414 businesses in the Virgin Islands generated $6.8 billion in sales, employing 32,465 people and paying $1.1 billion in annual payroll.  In comparison, the 2007 Economic Census reported 2,583 businesses generated $19.5 billion in sales and employed more than 35,300 residents who earned over $1.1 billion. The official report, U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 Economic Census of Island Areas: Geographic Area Series for the U.S. Virgin Islands, was released during the meeting.

While noting specific census information related to the impact of both HOVENSA and the manufacturing sector were not disclosed due to reporting rules, Governor de Jongh noted he appreciated the efforts of the Census Bureau staff in "producing realistic estimates of the not only the Virgin Islands economy and U.S. Territories and Outlying Areas”. Census Bureau staff discuss the increase in professional, scientific, and technical services sector employment in 2012 from 2007 and the growth in women-owned establishments in the territory. 

The following Census Bureau findings were discussed during the presentation:

  • The U.S. Virgin Islands had 87 businesses with 50 or more employees in 2012, representing 3.6 percent of all businesses. These businesses accounted for 54.8 percent ($3.7 billion) of total sales. In 2007, 109 businesses had 50 or more employees, representing 4.2 percent of all businesses, and they accounted for 83.9 percent ($16.3 billion) of total sales.
  • The manufacturing sector accounted for 28.7 percent of total sales in 2012, the most of any sector. Sales totaled $2.0 billion. The manufacturing industry employed 1,984 people and reported $168 million in payroll.
  • Retail trade ranked second among sectors in share of sales, accounting for 19.3 percent of total sales in 2012. The sector had sales of $1.3 billion, employed 6,596 people and had $142 million in payroll. The largest increase in employment was in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector with 2,108 paid employees in 2012, up 738 employees from 1,370 in 2007.
  • In 2012, there were 311 women-owned establishments, up from 271 in 2007 (a 14.8 percent increase). The sales and receipts for women-owned businesses increased 19.9 percent to $247.4 million, from $206.3 million in 2007.

Census Bureau staff were impressed with the very high participation rate of local businesses in completing the 2012 Economic Census forms.  The results of the 2012 Economic Census will be used to revise the estimate Territorial Gross Domestic Product or GDP for 2012.  The 2012 Territorial GDP will be quantitatively aligned to the 2012 Economic Census and is used to derive TGDP for subsequent years until the next economic census year in 2017.  The Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research will collaborate with the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis to revise 2012 Territorial GDP utilizing the results from the 2012 Economic Census.  The revised 2012 Territorial GDP will be released when BEA releases the 2013 Territorial GDP later in August.  While in the territory, Census Bureau staff visited the University of the Virgin Islands' Eastern Caribbean Center to discuss 2012 Economic Census findings along with results from the U.S. Virgin Islands 2010 Population Census and 2012 Community Survey produced by the Center.

“These numbers indicate that path we are following on our investments and business development efforts are beginning to show results.  There is no ignoring the impact of the economic environment on our businesses over the last several years and those that closed, but initiatives we have been successful,” stated Governor de Jongh.

The U.S. Economic Census provides comprehensive information on the health of over 25 million businesses and 1,100 industries. It provides detailed industry and geographic source data for generating GDP estimates. The economic census is also the benchmark for measures of productivity, producer prices, and many of the nation’s principal economic indicators.  The Economic Census is the U.S. Government's official five-year measure of American business and the economy conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the business responses are required by U.S. law.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH HOSTS MEETING WITH VI BOXERS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 27, 2014 at 5:30 PM AST
Governor de Jongh greets Virgin Islands boxers John and Julius Jackson prior to the start of a recent meeting at Government House.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. hosted a recent meeting with Virgin Islands boxers John and Julius Jackson, their father Julian Jackson and officials of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation including Commissioner St. Claire Williams and Asst. Commissioner Stanley Smith.

The meeting, at Government House on St. Thomas, allowed Governor de Jongh to receive an update on the boxing program that the Jacksons administer at the Paul M. Pearsons Gardens housing community on St. Thomas and allowed for initial conversations about the feasibility of expanding the training program to the District of St. Croix.

GOVERNOR VETOES BILL 30-0337; DE JONGH SAYS THE LEGISLATURE’S HURRIEDLY ADOPTED VERSION OF THIS BILL WILL COST GENERAL FUND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN REVENUE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. on Wednesday nixed Bill 30-0337 returning it to the Senate with a scathing message about both the introduction of flawed legislation and a rush by the 30th Legislature to hurriedly adopt a bill that, should it become law, would cost the cash strapped General Fund of the government millions of dollars in revenue.

De Jongh, in explaining his veto to Senate President Shawn Michael Malone, provided a litany of objections to the Senate version of the bill, which was initially submitted by the administration in January.  The legislation would have authorized the establishment of a public corporation to receive, hold and manage the assets of Lonesome Dove Petroleum Company, Inc., as a subsidiary of the Government Employees Retirement System, to provide that any income the corporation realizes shall be used to fund the Government Employees Retirement System’s unfunded liability and for other purposes. 

Among the governor’s objections, the measure as passed fails to provide an acceptable mechanism for the company to continue to pay its outstanding tax obligation of approximately $30,000,000 to the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue. “Had anyone sought to discuss the amendment of my proposal before it was approved on the floor of the Legislature, we would have been eager to explain again that this corporation has been held for many years by an officer of the District Court of the Virgin Islands for the purpose of marshaling and conserving its assets to pay off a tax obligation owed by the company to the Treasury of the Virgin Islands.  After more than 20 years of litigation requiring the corporation to remain under the control of the Court, the receivership is ready to be concluded.   In order to move the Court to formally conclude the corporate receivership and turn the company over to the Virgin Islands, we must establish a suitable public institutional framework to enable the territory to exercise its right to dominion and control over the company.  This necessity is borne out of the need to keep the Company in existence and continuing to pay its tax obligation to the territory. Incidentally, the periodic payments to the Bureau are, as a repayment of a tax debt, free from federal taxation.  However, if there is a transfer of the assets to a Virgin Islands entity and spending of funds for whatever public purpose, any federal tax exemption would no longer apply.  Thus, an abrupt diversion of 100% of the proceeds of the company to the GERS would cost the territory’s General Fund millions of dollars in lost revenue, thereby lowering the amount available for any public purpose.  The assets must be transferred to a Virgin Islands entity which, under the auspices of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority, would hold Lonesome Dove and continue to receive its delinquent tax judgment payments. Only when those tax payments are received and entered into the official records of the Bureau is the territory free to direct those funds to any appropriate public purpose without federal tax implication,” de Jongh wrote in his letter to the senate president.

In addition, de Jongh noted that the Senate amendment to the bill not only changed the eventual home for the public corporation, but also changed it to a destination institution where it was neither sought, nor where it is conventionally suited.  “That is why my carefully considered proposal included placing the public corporation where others have previously and successfully been placed, i.e., the Public Finance Authority.  The Charter of the GERS Board contains only the vague grant of authority to “authorize the purchase and sale of investments.”   There is no mention of the GERS being able to own and/or operate a company much less one as specialized as the type of entity being administered herein,” de Jongh said, adding,“having the Company within the PFA is consistent with statutory purposes and will appropriately enable the territory to continue to receive long-owed taxes.  Additionally, any and all actions of the PFA are done with the approval of the Legislature and are subjected to your annual reviews.”

Perhaps the most important of the governor’s objections came as a result of what de Jongh described as “his exposure to Virgin Islanders of every walk-of-life (which) has led me to an overriding objective – making sure that every child resident in our territory knows affection and is well-cared for, well-fed, well-educated and the recipient of the best in quality medical care. Seeking this for our children is a worthy crusade.” De Jongh said these young people, our next generation of economy builders, of peace makers, must be prepared to cope and thrive in a new world fast approaching and waiting for no one person to catch up.  “In a time of hotly contested needs, my proposed bill gives us an opportunity to vote for the children whose lives will be enhanced by the funds this public corporation could bring to their education palette.”  He cited the 2013/14 School Year kindergarten entry test (known as Lap 3), conducted by the Virgin Islands Department of Education, wherein fifty-five percent (55%) of the children entering kindergarten were behind in language skills, and forty percent (40%) were behind in cognitive skills.  Moreover, approximately one out of four (25%) were behind in fine motor skills and more than one out of five (20%) were behind in pre-writing skills.  These scores have not been improving over the last several years.  “These are the areas where application of this funding for early childhood education could literally change lives while reversing these terrible trends.  My proposal also provided for one-half of the revenue paid by the corporation to be divided among our medical facilities, whose challenges are known and whose importance to our community is without dispute.”

In Wednesday’s letter the governor urged the Senate to set aside its normal route of a veto override and encouraged the lawmakers to take up the original legislation he submitted.  “To achieve the desired outcome in the vetoed measure, I propose that we work together on an acceptable mechanism that would allow for an eventual transfer of the assets to GERS when they are at their highest value, then to be monetized and applied toward the unfunded liability when we can mitigate the federal tax impact.  I believe such an approach would achieve all of these most worthy objectives and serve multiple groups in our community,” he said. 

De Jongh returned both the vetoed bill and his original proposal to the Senate this week and requested the Senate revisit the matter “so that the transition of these assets to the government can be conducted smoothly and without damage to the opportunities they represent.”

WAPA PROPANE TANKS ARRIVE ON ST. CROIX
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM AST

On Wednesday, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and Vitol Virgin Islands Corporation announced the arrival of the first shipment of eight empty LPG storage tanks.  Ten more tanks will follow the first shipment in the coming weeks for a total of eighteen tanks. 

The arrival of the tanks on Wednesday, July 23 marked a significant milestone for the project. The tanks arrived, and will be temporarily staged, at the V.I. Port Authority’s south shore container port on St. Croix.  The tanks will be barged to their final locations at the project sites at the St. Croix and St. Thomas generation stations once civil engineering is complete. Ten tanks will be installed on St. Thomas and eight on St. Croix. 

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., WAPA Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr., WAPA board members, the project management team, Vitol executives, government officials and media witnessed the unloading of the tanks at the container port.  All of the tanks will be installed with 100-percent redundant safety mechanisms and will be encased in earthen and concrete “mounds,” storing propane on-site at the power plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix. No power disruptions are planned due to ongoing construction. 

The largest tank weighs 315 tons, with a length of 165 feet, a diameter of 18 feet and a height of 30 feet. All of the tanks were fabricated by Belgium-based Geldof Integrated Steel Solutions, a leading European supplier for the storage, handling and processing of bulk solids, liquids and gases.

The arrival of the tanks was an important step in the Authority’s project to utilize the more affordable, cleaner-burning propane in power generation. The project, which entails building the infrastructure, converting seven (7) of WAPA’s GE turbines to burn propane, as well as supplying propane, is expected to reduce WAPA’s fuel cost by approximately 30%, or $90 million annually,  which will be realized by ratepayers. The project will also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by approximately 20%. Savings to WAPA’s customers is expected to stimulate the territory’s economy by giving consumers more money in their pockets and by releasing capital to create jobs.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH THANKS 30TH LEGISLATURE FOR APPROVAL OF VIPA-RELATED MATTERS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 23, 2014 at 1:40 PM AST

On the eve of a Special Session of the 30th Legislature called by Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. to address a critically-needed major coastal permit for the Virgin Islands, the government’s Bureau of Economic Research released results of an impact analysis conducted over the last few days to gauge the effect on the territory should it suffer the loss of more than a dozen cruise ship calls. The impact analysis was developed at de Jongh’s request following his call for Wednesday’s Special Session of the Legislature.

“We recognize the importance of the cruise passenger and crew member to our economic activity as do our competitors, therefore, I requested the Bureau prepare an analysis of what the loss ship calls would mean to our economy. The analysis concludes that the direct impact of thirteen fewer cruise ship calls, representing over 38,298 cruise passengers and 14,654 crew, amounts to $9,751,045 using the visitor exit study average of $224 per cruise passenger and $80 per crew member expenditures as estimated for the St. Thomas /St. John district,” de Jongh said today. In addition, he said, given the multiplicative impact of tourism related expenditures in the territory, the direct economic effect or impact of the estimated loss in $9,751,045 in cruise passenger and crew expenditures is equivalent to an estimated $18,363,655 loss in economic output.

De Jongh said it is important that his fellow elected leaders of the government not take lightly the importance of approving this permit for the Port Authority to continue the dredging project in a timely fashion. “We must face the reality that we stand to lose more than $18 million in economic impact to our economy should the VIPA not be able to complete the project by the November deadline. This has a direct impact on jobs that relate not only to when a cruise passenger or crew member spends, but also indirectly to the spending of that employee paid with those dollars which then circulates locally.    We cannot afford to wait, if we don't want them another port will take them.  An approval by the Senators only allows to begin the process towards the November 2014 deadline, as a federal permit is still required and a contractor must be selected."

At a time when the territory is seeing growing and renewed interested in St. Croix and while the cruise lines have looked favorably on the steps we are taking to improve the St. Thomas cruise ship destination, we can ill afford any action that will stall the completion of the dredging that is planned for the Crown Bay area, he said.

Read the testimony of VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe before a Special Session of the 30th Legislature today here. Dowe testified on two measures: Bill 30-0443: a coastal zone management permit which would allow the VIPA to accomplish dredging in the Crown Bay area prior to a November 2014 deadline and Bill 30-0447 which would authorize the VIPA to proceed with the refinancing of bonds to fund port infrastructure projects.

DE JONGH: THE POTENTIAL LOSS OF 13 CRUISE SHIP CALLS EQUATES TO MORE THAN $18 MILLION IN LOST ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 22, 2014 at 9:30 PM AST

On the eve of a Special Session of the 30th Legislature called by Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. to address a critically-needed major coastal permit for the Virgin Islands, the government’s Bureau of Economic Research released results of an impact analysis conducted over the last few days to gauge the effect on the territory should it suffer the loss of more than a dozen cruise ship calls. The impact analysis was developed at de Jongh’s request following his call for Wednesday’s Special Session of the Legislature.

“We recognize the importance of the cruise passenger and crew member to our economic activity as do our competitors, therefore, I requested the Bureau prepare an analysis of what the loss ship calls would mean to our economy. The analysis concludes that the direct impact of thirteen fewer cruise ship calls, representing over 38,298 cruise passengers and 14,654 crew, amounts to $9,751,045 using the visitor exit study average of $224 per cruise passenger and $80 per crew member expenditures as estimated for the St. Thomas /St. John district,” de Jongh said today. In addition, he said, given the multiplicative impact of tourism related expenditures in the territory, the direct economic effect or impact of the estimated loss in $9,751,045 in cruise passenger and crew expenditures is equivalent to an estimated $18,363,655 loss in economic output.

De Jongh said it is important that his fellow elected leaders of the government not take lightly the importance of approving this permit for the Port Authority to continue the dredging project in a timely fashion. “We must face the reality that we stand to lose more than $18 million in economic impact to our economy should the VIPA not be able to complete the project by the November deadline. This has a direct impact on jobs that relate not only to when a cruise passenger or crew member spends, but also indirectly to the spending of that employee paid with those dollars which then circulates locally.    We cannot afford to wait, if we don't want them another port will take them.  An approval by the Senators only allows to begin the process towards the November 2014 deadline, as a federal permit is still required and a contractor must be selected."

At a time when the territory is seeing growing and renewed interested in St. Croix and while the cruise lines have looked favorably on the steps we are taking to improve the St. Thomas cruise ship destination, we can ill afford any action that will stall the completion of the dredging that is planned for the Crown Bay area, he said.

USVI Economic Industry Sector

Direct Effect

 Transportation Warehousing & Utilities

 $844,379

Retail Trade

$14,733,405

 Arts-Entertainment & Recreation

$1,391,374 

 Accommodation & Food Services

$1,394,498 

Total Direct Effects

 

Output ($ Nominal)

$18,363,655 

STATEMENT BY THE GOVERNOR TODAY’S ACTION BY THE 30TH LEGISLATURE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 17, 2014 at 10:40 AM AST

The Virgin Islands Archives Council re-activated by Governor John de Jongh, Jr., in May 2014, held its second meeting on July 10, 2014, via video-conferencing technology with Council members participating from the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.  The Council was established pursuant to Virgin Islands Code principally to review the standards, regulations and procedures developed by the Territorial Archivist to carry out statutory responsibilities for custody, preservation and access to Territorial Archives collections and the management of government records and to make recommendations to the Governor with respect thereto.

The previous Virgin Islands Archives Council and SHRAB organized under Governor Alexander A. Farrelly was convened in 1989.  It was very active following Hurricane Hugo and the appointment of the Territory’s first Territorial Archivist, Alan Perry, an archives professional on loan to the Territory by the National Archives.  Within five years, however, Perry had returned to his mainland NARA assignment, and by 1993 the Council became increasingly inactive, and eventually dormant.

Twenty-five years to the day after the first meeting of the Council and SHRAB in 1989, the members of the re-activated Council held an organizational meeting on June 13, 2014, adopted bylaws, approved an ambitious meeting schedule through 2015, and began work on updating the Territory’s strategic plan for protecting and providing increased access to its collections.

The Council will also operate as the State Historical Records Advisory Board, or SHRAB, under regulations and guidelines of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grant-making affiliate of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). 

“I am looking forward to the work of this Council to ensure the preservation of and increased public access to Virgin Islands collections,” said Governor de Jongh.  “Effective records management and archives programs will promote transparency of government and the accountability of government decision-makers to the citizens being served in this Territory.  Our history as a people and as a government – whether documented on paper or electronically – must be preserved and must be accessible if we are to learn and grow from our past experiences.”

Governor de Jongh confirmed that Council membership consists in part of eight heads of government departments and agencies, or their authorized designees.  These ex officio members are Attorney General Vincent F. Frazer, Esq.; the Director of the State Office of Cultural Education, Racquel Berry-Benjamin, representing the Commissioner of Education; Commissioner of Finance Angel E. Dawson, Jr.; Director of the Office of Management and Budget Debra Gottlieb; Lieutenant Governor Gregory R. Francis; President of the University of the Virgin Islands David Hall; and Territorial Librarian Ingrid A. Bough.  In addition, and in recognition of the increasing importance of electronic records in government recordkeeping, Bureau of Information Technology Director Reuben Molloy will serve ex officio as Advisor to the Council.

In accordance with statutory requirements, the Governor also made four appointments of members resident in each of the government districts:  two from the District of St. Thomas-St. John and two from the District of St. Croix.  Resident appointments from St. Thomas-St. John are Andromeda Keating Childs, serving a two-year term, and Danish Consul Søren Blak, serving a four-year term.  Resident appointments from the District of St. Croix are Olaf Hendricks, M.D., for a two-year term, and George F. Tyson, appointed for a four-year term.

The Council and SHRAB activities will be chaired by Territorial Archivist Susan Laura Lugo who, as the full-time professional overseeing the state archival program, was also appointed by Governor de Jongh and designated under NHPRC guidelines as the SHRAB State Historical Records Coordinator.

The re-activated Council’s organizational meeting occurred on the eve of the launch of the Danish West Indian Records Digitization Project website of the Danish National Archives, just one of the many significant projects the Council will be considering and monitoring over the course of the next several months as the Territory prepares to observe the Centennial of the sale and transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States on March 31, 2017.  The website may be accessed at http://www.virgin-islands-history.org.

For more information on Council activities, contact Territorial Archivist Susan Laura Lugo, C.A., at 340-774-0630 or via email at susan.lugo@dpnr.vi.gov.

STATEMENT BY THE GOVERNOR TODAY’S ACTION BY THE 30TH LEGISLATURE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 16, 2014 at 6:00 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Wednesday he is thankful to the 14 members of the 30th Legislature who voted on legislation that facilitates addressing critical financial needs of both the government and the territorial hospitals.  

De Jongh had called the Senate into Special Session today to address the legislation which resolves concerns raised about conditions under which the short-term financing, previously authorized by the Legislature, could be obtained by the government. The amendment provides the government with the flexibility required to negotiate the terms of the financing and paves the way for providing the monies to the two hospitals and to the Water and Power Authority and to the Sea View Nursing Home.

The administration’s financial team, the chief executive officers of both hospitals and that of WAPA and other members of the governor’s cabinet all appeared before the Senate today to make the case for passage of the legislation. De Jongh said both hospitals have expressed the urgent need for this funding, “particularly the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital, which has indicated its inability to meet next week’s payroll and purchase badly needed medications, and Schneider Regional Medical Center's pressing need to address some tax obligations. WAPA has also expressed its concern for the potential impact that the outstanding receivables from the hospitals have on their cash flow as well as their bond rating.  The Commissioner of Human Services has also indicated the potential for the disruption of long-term nursing care services without some assistance for Sea View, the only certified nursing home in the territory.” 

Additionally, de Jongh expressed his disappointment that the Senate voted to send to committee his proposal that would have provided flexibility for the sources of security that could be used for the authorized funding of a design/build contract for the Paul E. Joseph Stadium project, inclusive of little league field and festival village. “This is the second time that the 30th Legislature has flatly refused to consider this already authorized project that is presently in negotiations with a contractor – a contractor selected through the government’s procurement process. The project is vital to job creation and economic opportunity on St. Croix, we can ill afford to let a multi-million dollar project with so much potential for St. Croix specifically and the territory in general languish in the Senate. I remain hopeful that the committee of jurisdiction will move post haste to consider this most important project,” de Jongh said today.

SECOND TOWN HALL MEETING BY CFC YOUTH DEVELOPMENT GROUP SET FOR FRIDAY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 16, 2014 at 2:00 PM AST

The second town hall meeting hosted by the Governor’s Children and Families Council Youth Development Group is scheduled for Friday, July 18th at both Curriculum Center locations on St.Thomas & St.Croix.

There will be a professional facilitator in attendance at this meeting, who will help the group to accomplish one of its objectives – to create an accessible youth service database. This town hall meeting aims to bring all youth leaders, advisors or mentors together in order to have a discussion on the issues affecting our children, gain knowledge on existing programs and the lack thereof. 

The Youth Development Group was formed in 2013 under the leadership of Scott Bradley (Founder & Program Director of My Brother’s Workshop).  The group aims to advise the Children and Families Council on all matters regarding the welfare of the youth from nine (9) through twenty-four (24) years of age, assist in the unification and utilization of all databases in the Territory, as well as provide oversight of a unified system that provides information on services available to the youth from nine (9) through twenty-four (24) years of age to support academic success, reduce criminal involvement and is able to be integrated, measured and held accountable to ensure services, referral, monitoring, and follow-up for required youths.  The group is comprised of persons from various agencies, both public and private, who provide services directly for children and young adults. 

Please RSVP by contacting Sekoia Rogers: sekoia.rogers@go.vi.gov or 340-693-4316. 

GOVERNOR DE JONGH SIGNS CONTRACT FOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT STUDY FOR ST. CROIX
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has signed an agreement with TIP Strategies, Inc., for the development of a Comprehensive Targeted Competitive Industry Study primarily for St. Croix. The scope of the project includes the examination of potential opportunities for recruiting and developing new businesses that promote both job creation and private investment in the territory. The study will be completed and submitted by November 1, 2014.       

"Economic development and diversification has been the cornerstone of my administration," explained the Governor, "and combination of the Great Recession and closing of oil refinery has reinforced our need for a competitive industry report to serve as an industry, and especially as a blueprint for St. Croix's financial future."  He added, "I am confident that the study commissioned by the Bureau of Economic Research will provide invaluable information and ideas for the expansion of our economic base, with special focus on St. Croix."  

As outlined in the agreement with TIP Strategies, the deliverables include identifying needed technologies for St. Croix and the Virgin Islands, recommended public infrastructure and private capital needed, required supporting industries, industry support strategies to promote private investment in St. Croix and the territory and identify emerging opportunities to enhance existing firms on St. Croix. “The need for this competitive analysis was heightened by the HOVENSA closing and its benefit will be in the diversification of industries that we can attract to especially to St. Croix, while also putting in place support for our existing businesses in capitalizing the opportunities that we identify,” said Wharton Berger, Director of Bureau of Economic Research.  

TIP (Theory into Practice) Strategies is a privately-held economic development consulting firm, based in Austin, Texas.  The company, which was established in 1995, is dedicated to finding quality solutions for both public and private clients. The compensation for the development of the Comprehensive Targeted Competitive Industry Study is not to exceed $138,268 including travel and administrative expenses.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH JOINS 30 OTHER CHIEF EXECUTIVES IN URGING CONGRESS TO REAUTHORIZE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM AST

On Tuesday, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. joined with a bipartisan group of governors in sending a letter to congressional leaders urging swift action to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, whose charter expires in September.

The Ex-Im Bank is the official credit export agency of the United States, charged with assisting in financing the export of American goods and services to international markets. More than 90 percent of U.S. exports are privately financed. But in many cases private lenders are unable or unwilling to take on credit risks or enter unfamiliar markets. And in these cases, Ex-Im can provide loans, loan guarantees, or insurance to worthy businesses to promote exports and assist growth. In 2013 alone Ex-Im financed over $34 billion in exports and supported approximately 205,000 American jobs. Financing from the bank allows American businesses to compete fairly against foreign competitors who receive trade financing from their national export credit agencies.

In addition to those who signed the letter led by Governors Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Robert Bentley (R-AL), six other governors have written individually to congressional leaders requesting action to reauthorize the bank, bringing the total number of governors who have publicly called for reauthorization to 37.

Read the Inslee-Bentley letter sent to the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate states here

GOVERNMENT HOUSE ACKNOWLEDGES UNTIMELY RETURN OF LEGISLATION TO THE SENATE; ALL ITEMS PASSED DURING JUNE 18 - 19 SESSION BECAME LAW WITHOUT THE GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 15, 2014 at 3:40 PM AST

Government House today acknowledged an error with respect to the date on which Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. returned recently passed measures to the Senate. The bills in question had been passed in the June 18th and 19th session of the 30th Legislature and arrived at Government House on June 27th for the Governor’s review. By law, absent an adjournment of the Legislature, the Governor has ten (10) calendar days excluding Sundays to approve, veto or allow such legislation to become law without his signature. Thus, the bills delivered on June 27th were due back at the Senate on July 9th. Instead, based on advice and guidance from the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel, de Jongh returned the bills on Friday, July 11th, in essence, two (2) days after the date they were due. The effect of such late return of the bills to the Legislature is to nullify the vetoes as all matters became law without the Governor’s signature on the passing of the tenth day.
 
“My office made an error in the manner in which the ten (10) days for the Governor’s review were calculated,” said Nagesh V. Tammara, Legal Counsel to the Governor. As a result of the tardy submission, the pieces of legislation the Governor “vetoed” are instead law.
 
De Jongh said today he too regrets the error and restated his concerns with the measures he intended to veto last week. “While the measures in question are now law, I would like to note that the various bills I intended to veto have issues beyond the administrative oversight.  I draw the Legislature’s attention to some of these concerns.”

  • Bill 30-0188 is not consistent with the purposes for which the Peace Officer Training Fund was established. The monies are needed to fund the Peace Officers Standards Training Council and for providing training and equipment to law enforcement personnel.
  • The governor’s concerns with Bill 30-0262 is that it duplicates laws already on the books protecting against the making of false claims against the government.
  • There were a number of concerns will Bill 30-0377 to transfer the Massac Nursing Home to the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation. The concerns included ongoing negotiations regarding a proposed use of the building to be used for adults with disabilities. With approximately 20% of the territory’s residents living with disabilities, we must be vigilant in attempting to provide an established location to offer assistance and resources. Additionally, the legislation transfers the property to DSPR for a specific and limited purpose which could result in the property remaining empty and creating a burden on the agency.
  • Bill 30-0425 is an example of the Senate’s repeated scramble to pass special interest legislation with respect to the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park. The governor’s biggest concern with this measure is that the Legislature failed to follow any of the normal processes such as conducting hearings, committee review or allowing for open discussions with the Administration and independent agencies affected has not surprisingly produced an unacceptable result. The adoption of legislation in such a manner does violence to the deliberative process. The bill offers tax exemptions and benefits to tenants of the RT Park along with other waivers of requirements needed to qualify for the benefits.
  • De Jongh also took exception to a section of Bill 30-0427 based on the Separation of Powers Doctrine. The manner in which the applicable language of Section 5 is drafted - creating a Task Force with specific mandates over executive functions to be investigated and reported upon by a date certain – does not equate to what is reasonably considered either Legislative or Judicial Branch functions. While the goals of the task force are commendable, ensuring we adhere to the established system of government remains of paramount importance.
De Jongh said Tuesday he is hopeful that the Senate will review his concerns over the four measures he intended to veto and, where applicable, provide amendments to the existing laws to ensure the concerns are properly addressed.

DE JONGH: GOVERNMENT SELECTS DEVELOPER FOR HOTEL DEVELOPMENT ON WATER ISLAND
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 15, 2014 at 3:20 PM AST

On Tuesday, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. announced the selection of the Water Island Development Company as the developer to advance a first-rate resort and hotel project on Water Island. The selection is the result of the Expression of Interest (“EOI”) advertised by the government last September.

“A key project has been to again have a superior resort on Water Island that would complement other hotel offerings, while at the same time realize some meaningful economic activity on the island.  All of this, of course, must be achieved in a manner that maintains what is charming, environmentally appealing and respectful of what the island and community reflect” de Jongh said. “With the assistance of REVPAR International, a hotel development and management firm, who has successfully completed a range of similar projects in the U.S. Caribbean, Europe and Asia, we focused on the specific hotel development branding for the island, attracted several suitably qualified firms, and selected a company with whom we have begun lease negotiations.”

In early September, the Department of Property and Procurement, following an EOI process, advertised to gauge the level of interest for the development of a resort on Water Island and subsequently enter into a long-term lease agreement with the Government of the Virgin Islands. Over ten (10) firms participated in the proposal process and eight (8) named hotel brands expressed interest in the property.

The Water Island Development Company was chosen based on the collective experience of their team, who individually have financed and developed multiple ventures including resorts.  Stephen Evans-Freke, a principal in St. Thomas based Auven Therapeutics’, is the managing member. Other development team members include Bob Jackson, a developer of numerous multi-family projects; Peter Briggs, co-owner of John Foster Real Estate; Timothy Barber, Water Island property owner and founder of Keynetics, and Michael Graves of Michael Graves Foundation, along with other hotel development consultants and architects.

“Our undertaking this project is consistent with our commitment to economic development initiatives, but also with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s requirement when we assumed direct control in 1996 that we promote the economic development of Water Island for the benefit of the entire Virgin Islands and the Water Island residents.  We have been clear with each respondent on this objective and that community engagement is paramount,” said Commissioner of Property and Procurement Lynn Millin Maduro.  

The redevelopment of a hotel property on Water Island will have a significant impact on the government’s economic recovery efforts.  “Water Island boasts one more Virgin Islands opportunity to rebrand the Virgin Islands in one of the world’s most beautiful natural environments, with nearby airport and water transportations, an attractive beach and marina capabilities.  It is a valuable economic asset which will now be strengthened for the economic benefit of our entire territory,” emphasized Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

The hotel property on Water Island has been vacant and abandoned since Hurricane Hugo destroyed it in 1989.

DE JONGH CALLS LEGISLATURE INTO SPECIAL SESSION TO ADDRESS CRITICAL FINANCIAL MATTERS; REDEVELOPMENT OF PAUL E. JOSEPH STADIUM ON ST. CROIX
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 14, 2014 at 5:30 PM AST

Earlier today, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. called the 30th Legislature into Special Session on Wednesday to address critical financial needs of the government including an infusion of working capital to the two territorial hospitals. The proposed legislation also seeks to amend existing law as regarding borrowing funds and the development of the Paul E. Joseph Stadium on St. Croix.

In a letter to Senate President Shawn Michael Malone on Monday, de Jongh wrote that based on the discussions with the holder of the current cash-flow note and projections for the government’s financial position in Fiscal Year 2015, it is imperative that the government have the flexibility in the borrowing that was earlier authorized by the Senate. “Local financial institutions are unlikely to provide short-term financing to the Government without suitable provision for the eventual repayment of such financing upon maturity. As Act No. 7631 (Bill No. 30-0427) was silent on the subject, and since our projections indicate limited resources would be available upon maturity in 270 days, the proposed amendment provides the necessary flexibility to structure a financing that would meet the approval of local lending institutions. The amendment authorizes either the issuance of bonds or notes in anticipation of issuing bonds, or one or more loans with a provision for a term-out or conversion upon 270 days, with a maturity not to exceed 20 years from the date of the original borrowing,” de Jongh wrote.

The governor explained to Malone that he has approved authorizations for the territorial hospitals, payments to the VI Water and Power Authority and the Sea View Nursing Home however, that approval is contingent on the ability of the government to obtain the necessary funding. “Both hospitals have expressed the urgent need for this funding, particularly the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital, which has indicated its inability to meet the next payroll and purchase badly needed medications, and Schneider Regional Medical Center's pressing need to address some tax obligations. WAPA has also expressed its concern for the potential impact that the outstanding receivables from the hospitals have on their cash flow as well as their bond rating.  Additionally, the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services has indicated the potential for the disruption of long-term nursing care services without some assistance for Sea View, the only certified nursing home in the Territory.” De Jongh told the Senate that its approval of this proposal will give the administration the negotiating flexibility to meet with the banks and other financial institutions to try and meet these critical needs.  

Additionally, the governor’s proposal authorizes funding of a design/build contract for the Paul E. Joseph Stadium project, inclusive of little league field and festival village, for which negotiations with a contractor are currently in process. De Jongh said today, “The measure provides the Government the flexibility to pledge either Matching Fund Revenues or Gross Receipts Taxes to secure such financing, with the Community Facilities Trust Fund being applied, as security for repayment of any Matching Fund Revenue Bonds issued, or as an offset to the General Fund in an amount equal to the debt service allocable to the Paul E. Joseph Stadium Project and/or the Mars Hill Project, if Gross Receipts Taxes Bonds are issued.”

Milestone: Opening of all Lanes to Traffic - Frenchman's Bay Road
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 11, 2014 at 7:40 PM AST

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls today announced that beginning tomorrow, Saturday, July 12, 2014, all four (4) lanes  on Frenchman Bay Road (Route 30) will be open to traffic.

The contractor will be continuing construction activities on minor items of work such as the completion of the pavement markings, testing of traffic signals, installation of permanent signs,  and irrigation system at various locations thought out the project. 

Motorists are asked to proceed through the area with caution and comply with posted traffic signs and signals.

Listen to Commissioner Darryl Smalls' statement Part I, Part II

DPW COMMISSIONER ANNOUNCES TRAFFIC FLOW CHANGES ON ST. CROIX TO FACILITATE WORK ON MELVIN EVANS HIGHWAY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 11, 2014 at 10:40 AM AST

Commissioner of Public Works Darryl A. Smalls alerts the motoring public that the Melvin Evans Highway from the intersection of Route 64 (East Airport Intersection) and Route 66 to the intersection of Route 669 (Industrial Park Intersection) and Route 66 will be closed to all westbound traffic from July 11, 2014 to July 14, 2014 between the hours of 8:45 am to 6:30 pm.  Motorists traveling westbound will be detoured at the intersection of Route 64 (East Airport Intersection) and Route 66. Motorists should seek alternate routes including Route 70 (Queen Mary Highway) and Route 64 (Airport Road).

View the traffic control graphic here

There will also be road closures for the eastbound lanes which will be in effect from July 15, 2014 to July 19, 2014 between the hours of 8:45 am to 6:30 pm.  Motorists traveling eastbound will be detoured at the intersection of Route 64 (West Airport Intersection) and Route 66 and also at Route 669 (Industrial Park Intersection) and Route 66. Motorists should seek alternate routes including Route 70 (Queen Mary Highway) and Route 64 (Airport Road). The roadway closures are necessary to begin placing the asphalt surface course for a section of the Melvin Evans Highway between East Airport and Industrial Park Intersection.  The work will also include striping and guardrail replacement. 

View the lane closure graphic here

“We are asking motorists and other road users to reduce speed, pay attention to the posted construction signs and to follow directions of traffic control personnel while construction is in progress. The traveling public should avoid this area for the next three months while construction is in progress. The public’s patience and cooperation is appreciated,” Smalls said Friday.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH URGES CONGRESS TO EXTEND FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDING FOR THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 10, 2014 at 4:20 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has called on the United States Congress to replenish the Highway Trust Fund to avoid significant cuts to highway and transit funding that are scheduled to be imposed in the Virgin Islands and across the country starting August 1st, and to extend the statutory authorization for highway and transit programs which is otherwise due to lapse September 30th.

In letters to the leaders of four committees in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives that have jurisdiction over the Highway Trust Fund and transportation funding, Governor de Jongh wrote that the U.S. Virgin Islands—as well as other territories and states—“depends upon a steady and predictable stream of federal highway and transit funding for critically-needed transportation projects.  These projects not only address the pressing transportation needs of the Territory; they also sustain and drive economic activity while providing needed employment in the construction sector, a primary driver of our economy.”

In his submission, de Jongh noted that the “consequences of not extending federal funding beyond September 30th would be particularly severe in the USVI and the other small Territories.”  If Congress does not act in a timely manner, de Jongh said that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has announced it would conserve the remaining balance in the Highway Trust Fund by implementing a cash management program starting on August 1st.  If that program is implemented, the Territory’s access to federal highway funding for reimbursement would be limited.  Initially, USDOT projected that such funding would be limited to $12,800 monthly.  However, following the Governor’s letters—and similarly strong statements from officials in other jurisdictions—USDOT revised its initial projections and changed the limit for the Virgin Islands to $1.0 million monthly.  The Governor told Congress that the imposition of the funding limit has the potential to impact our current federal highway projects and the operations of our private highway contractors.

In his submission, de Jongh encouraged the committee leaders to collaborate with their colleagues to pass legislation in time to avoid these cuts.  Further, the Governor asked the leaders for increased highway and transit funding for the Territory when their committees consider a long-term reauthorization bill later this year or early next year.

“The issues surrounding the stability of the highway funding also impact two major projects that we have been working on for years – rehabilitation and safety improvements to Melvin Evans Highway and the Veterans Drives – and that we are very close to supporting with a bond issuance once we can obtain legislative approval,” stated the Governor. “These are two projects that have been in process for over fifteen years, and their importance to each island is paramount to ensure vehicular traffic and, with Veterans Drive, address traffic congestion.  This is in addition to their favorable economic impact on our community.”

# # #

Governor’s letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Ranking Minority Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

Governor’s letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-Louisiana)

Governor’s letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Michigan)

Governor’s letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) and Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia)

VI FIRE SERVICES NEWS RELEASE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 9, 2014 at 5:30 PM AST

Daryl A. George, Assistant Director of the Virgin Islands Fire Service, announces the training to all fire personnel in Rope Handling at Operator Level being conducted from July 8 – 11, 2014, 8:00am – 5:00pm each day in the St. Thomas/St. John District.  The training is being held at several sites during the 4-day sessions, with the practical training at the University of the Virgin Islands.

Mr. George said the Fire Service, in conjunction with VITEMA recognizes the importance of providing this kind of training, as it is designed to prepare Firefighters for use of ropes and other equipment to effectuate a comprehensive rescue operation and catastrophic events.    

In addition to the training this week, approximately sixteen (16) fire personnel were selected to attend a Low Angle Rope Rescue Training scheduled to be held from July 14-18, 2014.  Those selected Firefighters who are successful in the 5-day training will be certified as Technicians in Rope Rescue Operations and will be members of the newly created Task Force to conduct Urban Search and Rescue operations.

This is another great achievement that is consistent with the missions of the Fire Service and VITEMA to coordinate and facilitate joint efforts to implement our initiatives.

Mr. George extends his gratitude to Mr. Jim Bolton and Mr. Glenn McKinnon, and the other trainers from Fire Management Consultant Team, along with STT Rescue personnel for their full support and assistance to the Fire Service in realizing its goals and objectives in order to provide adequate and efficient training for our first responders in carrying out their duties and commitment to the residents throughout the Territory.

DPNR RESOLVING HIGH-RISK STATUS WITH GRANTOR AGENCIES
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 6, 2014 at 3:00 PM AST

Commissioner Alicia Barnes of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources highlighted the work of two divisions within the department that have been designated “high-risk grantees” by their federal grantors. “In light of the recent issuance of the government’s financial statements and the importance of our federal partners in funding our operations, we have had a singular focus on addressing their concerns,” stated Commissioner Barnes.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife was designated a High Risk Grantee by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) effective August 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014 as a result of their last audit.   
According to Mike Piccirilli, Chief of Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration of the USFWS, “The High Risk status had minimal effect on their grants.   However, it increased our workload and oversight significantly.  Cooperatively with the VI DPNR we implemented a High Risk Implementation Plan which required the VI DPNR to submit monthly reports identifying expenses with accompanying receipts and payroll charges.   Our staff reviewed these and only after confirmation that all expenses were linked to approved-grants did we release funding on a monthly basis. We recently met with Commissioner Alicia Barnes May 15, 2014 here in our office.   At this time they (DPNR) are in full compliance and we're confident that they'll continue at the current level of performance and we will release them July 31, 2014 of the High Risk Status”.

“I believe that the USFWS’ oversight assisted us refining and streamlining some areas to mitigate the type of audit findings taking place in the future.  We especially believe that the internal procedure to pay expenses has been reinforced to ensure that the federal funds are properly disbursed and reimbursement amounts are supported with source documents,” reiterated the Commissioner.
Commissioner Barnes also noted that DPNR enjoys a longstanding relationship with the United States Environmental Protection (USEPA) wherein the Department receives a number of grants covering water pollution control efforts, underground storage tank oversight, and air quality management concerns to name a few. These grants are utilized to perform the responsibilities borne by DPNR’s Division of Environmental Protection. 

“Over the course of the past few years, DPNR has been working with the USEPA to address a few of their concerns”, stated Commissioner Barnes.

The EPA’s concerns are relative to (1) findings from the 2007 and 2008 single audits, (2) findings from an onsite evaluation performed the EPA in January 2012, and (3) the Enterprise Resource Planning system (“ERP”).

By letter dated May 23, 2014, the EPA informed DPNR of its intention to designate the DPNR as a “high-risk” grantee. A designation which would place fiscal restrictions on DPNR’s numerous grants. While working collaboratively with the Department of Finance and the Office of Management and Budget, DPNR formally filed an appeal on June 20, 2014 of the EPA’s decision within the required thirty day period. DPNR again provided additional documentation to dispel the EPA’s concerns. Further, DPNR requested that the EPA rescind its decision to declare the Department as a high-risk grantee. The appeal is currently under the EPA’s review and DPNR awaits a response.

“With the guidance of the Department of Finance and OMB, we believe we have developed an approach that will give the comfort level that all costs are properly recorded in the Government’s financial system, and coupled with the submitted revisions to our corrective action plan and standard operating procedures, we are hopeful the ‘high-risk designation’ will not be approved,” explained the Commissioner. 

“We understand the diligence of our federal partners in the oversight of their grants, and with the continued guidance of the Department of Finance and OMB coupled with my program staff and Business office, we are addressing and resolving their concerns”, concluded Commissioner Barnes.

DE JONGH: V.I. GOVERNMENT TO PARTNER WITH ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY TOWARDS FURTHER DEVELOPMENT AND EXPANSION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY INDUSTRY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 3, 2014 at 6:00 PM AST
Governor de Jongh speaks with Robert Page, Provost of Arizona State University and Gary Dirks, Director of Global Institute of Sustainability during visit to Arizona State University.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Thursday that Arizona State University (ASU) is partnering with the Virgin Islands to assist in the development of sustainable environmental practices and education opportunities in the territory as well as support the expansion of the renewable energy industry.  

The Governor and ASU Provost Robert Page met recently at the ASU Tempe campus to formalize the partnership. The partnership, a product of ASU’s dedication to sustainability, education, entrepreneurship and academic enterprise, will unite world-class faculty from ASU with Virgin Islands officials in a common mission to transform the way in which greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste, wastewater, energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, and water conservation matters are managed in the Virgin Islands.           

Accompanying the Governor to the ASU campus to discuss opportunities and meet the subject matter experts were Commissioner of Labor Albert Bryan, WAPA's Executive Director Hugo Hodge, Waste Management's Executive Director May Cornwall, Energy Director Karl Knight and UVI's Caribbean Green Technology Center Director Wayne Archibald.  

"The value created by this partnership provides the various agencies of the government with the responsibilities for energy efficiency and conservation, waste management, energy education and entrepreneurship and expansion of our renewal energy platform with an institution that can provide in one location, the research capabilities and practical applications that support implementation in an expedited timeframe," de Jongh said.  "We have established a strong foundation and based on the work already done by the Energy Office, WAPA, Waste Management and the University, we are ready to execute on plans that will benefit our community on topics and areas that have long been discussed." 

This partnership is designed to help the territory advance upon its goals of reducing its fossil fuel consumption in 2025 by 60 percent from its 2009 baseline, provide education in renewable energy and environmental sustainability, evaluate grid reliability, explore landfill diversion options, and create sustainable economic development opportunities. "Our approach to entering into this relationship was comprehensive and based on a coordination that allowed the local agencies to come together and ensure that there was no duplication of effort", said Karl Knight, Director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office. "We hosted a delegation from ASU at the end of 2013 to explore the feasibility of this partnership, give them direct access to the issues and for our agency heads to meet them."

“We are excited to be partnering with the Virgin Islands and to help them develop new renewable energy practices and expand upon energy research and education,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “This collaboration is a great opportunity for the university to work side by side with the Virgin Island leaders, utilities, and university, to create solutions to sustainability challenges that face our communities locally and globally.”  

Arizona State has made a commitment to energy generation and sustainable practices by aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. The university has installed more than 78,000 solar panels across its campuses, initiated energy conservation standards for each of its buildings, and made utility infrastructure upgrades among many other accomplishments. This knowledge and practice will assist the Virgin Islands to meet its own clean energy goals. 
              
De Jongh said this partnership builds on the Energy Development in Island Nations partnership that was entered into in 2010 between the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Government of the Virgin Islands. “That relationship resulted in the development of a clean energy road map that has guided the deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment in the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands government is also actively pursuing relationships with the Carbon War Room and the Caribbean Challenge Initiative for collaboration on sustainability and environmental quality initiatives.”

GOVERNOR DE JONGH PROCLAIMS EMANCIPATION DAY ON JULY 3 THROUGHOUT TERRITORY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 2, 2014 at 2:35 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has signed a proclamation designating July 3 as Emancipation Day throughout the Virgin Islands.  Emancipation Day commemorates the abolition of slavery throughout the Danish West Indies by Danish Governor-General Peter von Scholten on July 3, 1848.  This event occurred 13 years before the United States of America adopted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, on December 6, 1865, thus making the Virgin Islands' proclamation of freedom the first one issued in a jurisdiction that would later become American soil.
 
"The significance of Emancipation Day should never be under-estimated," stated Governor de Jongh.  "Our enslaved ancestors struggled against harsh and inhuman conditions for hundreds of years prior to their release from bondage.  Rebellions had occurred before and been met with harsh measures, so the thousands of slaves that confronted Governor von Scholten in 1848 were courageous, determined, and willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom.  Fortunately, the Governor-General recognized that the abolition of slavery was inevitable and with little hesitation he issued the emancipation declaration."       

As stated in the proclamation signed by Governor de Jongh, "Emancipation Day is an event which by law is designated a public holiday because of its significant historical importance to the people of the Territory."  It further states, "July 4, 2014, is the 238th anniversary of the independence and birth of the United States of America, a nation that has given rise to the ideals of freedom and democracy, while championing the cause of human rights throughout the world.  These consecutive days have linked the never-ending desire for human freedom to the concept of government for, of, and by the people." 

In recognition of the 166th anniversary of the emancipation of slavery, the Governor called upon "all government agencies, residents, churches, and community organization to join me in remembering those who have suffered physically and mentally during the repressive times of slavery and tyranny, and also those who sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of the cherished ideals of human liberty and democratic ideals."  

De Jongh extended best wishes to all on Freedom Weekend. “On Thursday, we celebrate Emancipation Day and on Friday, we join the nation in celebrating American Independence Day. I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday weekend and I am looking forward to greeting our residents and visitors alike at the 60th Festival Celebration on St. John this weekend.”

Read the proclamation here

GOVERNOR DE JONGH: TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE- COLLABORATION WITH SUMMER PROGRAMS TO OFFER UNIQUE COURSEWORK FOR ELEMENTARY & MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM AST

The Governor's Technology Exploration Summer Initiative kicked-off this summer at three public schools and one non-profit agency offering courses in computer and Internet-related technology to students in fifth through eighth grade.  The initiative has been developed in conjunction with the Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant Program, which supports facilities that offer academic, artistic and cultural coursework when schools are not in session. The host facilities for all four summer camps have received 21st Century Community Learning Center grants to support both summer and after-school programs.

Listen to the Governor's Remarks Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

"We are committed to building a knowledge-based workforce and the best way to do this is to start with our youngest and include technology courses during the summer to supplement what is done during the school year.  We are all aware of the lightning speed at which technology is changing our lives.  Since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, nearly everyone carries a smart phone and new functions for this device and the more-recent tablets are being offered constantly," explained Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. 

"In order for to prepare our children to for careers in technology, they must have early access to the field. Through these first-ever tech camps, our students have opportunities to learn basic programming and application (app) creation, web design and photography, game design and graphic arts, and robotics. It's a new and exciting world out there based on technology, and we want to make sure that our young people are prepared participate," de Jongh added.

The four camps opened their doors to students last week, either on June 23 or June 24.  Courses are offered four times a week for two hours each, and will run until mid to late July.  Students attending the Boys & Girls Club on St. Croix are receiving instruction in a combination of photography, web design, and graphic arts, as well as app development. On St. John, the Julius E. Sprauve School is offering coursework devoted to robotics and graphic design. Campers attending Joseph A. Gomez Elementary School on St. Thomas are exploring a combination of photography, web design, and graphic arts, while those at Lockhart Elementary School are learning app development and computer programming.   
         
 There are approximately 40 students across the territory enrolled in the camps.  The coursework is being taught by qualified instructors with student assistants.  Funding for the instructional staff was provided in part by the Governor's Technology Exploration Summer Initiative.     

De Jongh said at the conclusion of the Technology Summer Camps, his office will host an open house on each island to display the work developed by the students.  Students will be on hand to discuss their creations and make brief presentations about their experiences attending the camps. The dates, times and locations of each open house will be announced later this month.   

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR HOSTS ANNUAL EQUAL EMPLOYMNET OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION OUTREACH EVENT
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on July 1, 2014 at 12:40 PM AST

On July 10th 2014 the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) will host the 2014 Annual Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Enterate Outreach Event at the Windward Passage Hotel on St. Thomas.  The outreach event will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

National representatives will be in the territory to help spread information to employers and employees about the different federal labor laws and the roles of various federal investigating and enforcement agencies.  The speakers participating in this event are as follows:

  • William R. Sanchez, Director San Juan Local Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addressing unlawful employment discrimination. 
  • David G. Marin, Assistant District Director San Juan Local Office of the Wage and Hour Division for the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) covering the Fair Labor Standards Act and Family Medical Leave Act. 
  • Vanessa Garcia, Supervisor Attorney San Juan Office for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) addressing workers’ rights under section 7 of the Act/Recent Board Laws. 
  • Mario Montejo, Benefits Advisor, the Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) will discuss financial awareness and all benefit plan.
  • Lavern Marsh Cole, Labor Relations Specialist of VIDOL and Dean Andrews, Director of the Virgin Islands Division of Occupational Safety and Health (VIDOSH) will discuss roles and responsibilities.

Lecturers will speak at the Windward Passage Hotel from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and there will also be an evening outreach from 6:00pm to 9:00 pm giving the general public further opportunity to attend and be informed by the EEOC/USDOL speakers.  All employers and employees within the business community, government agencies, human resource personnel, union representatives, and the general public are encouraged to attend.


Participants can register online at www.vidol.gov.  For more information on this public outreach event pleases contact Jenice Thomas at 340-776-3700 ext. 2074 on St. Thomas. 

VIRGIN ISLANDS NEXT GENERATION NETWORK (viNGN) PRESIDENT LARRY KUPFER COMMENTS ON RECENT COST SAVINGS FOR GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AS WELL AS MISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN AROUND BROADBAND NETWORK PROJECT
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 26, 2014 at 8:30 PM AST

~~ANNOUNCEMENT OF RECENT BUREAU OF TECHNOLOGY (BIT) CONTRACT & 84% COST SAVINGS~~

~~KUPFER: “VIRGIN ISLANDS NEXT GENERATION NETWORK (VINGN) NOT INVOLVED IN ANY LAWSUITS”~~

Larry Kupfer, President of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) Project, today commented on the recent announcement of the significant costs savings for the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) internet service contract with local internet service provider, Orbitel, which will reduce the agency’s internet costs from $210 per megabit to $33 per megabit, which is an 84% reduction in cost for access to much higher speeds.

“The savings realized by BIT is not an exception but is the norm, so what we are now seeing is what had been envisioned from the beginning of this project, which is access to incredibly high speeds on a much more secure and dependable network for greatly reduced costs”, said Kupfer. “The overall goal of viNGN is to make high speed internet access available to our ISP partners at a cost that is reasonable and affordable for all as the major investment in the infrastructure was underwritten by federal funds.  The BIT example is this reality and it is very exciting.”

He added that as the completion of the viNGN nears the finish line, “We now have agreements with eight new Internet Service Providers doing business in the Virgin Islands and are negotiating contracts with an additional five or six companies that are interested in doing business here.”

Kupfer was referring to the Tuesday announcement by BIT Director Reuben Molloy that the agency had recently entered into a contract agreement with Orbitel to provide internet access via the all fiber-optic high speed broadband network for $33 per megabyte which is an incredible 84% less than what the agency had been paying previously for Internet access.  

Kupfer went on to say that this was just the beginning of the cost savings that Virgin Islanders will soon see throughout the territory; “We will continue to work with local ISPs to make the viNGN high speed network available to everyone at greatly reduced prices.  This supports our public computer centers at libraries and community centers providing access to our residents for digital learning, small business opportunities and leisure. ”

Kupfer also addressed the recent rumors and misinformation being spread around the territory’s high speed broadband network. “Unfortunately, there have been those who continue to spread misinformation about the viNGN project as of late, with a lot of it just not being true.”

“One example of that misinformation is the recent statement made that viNGN was being sued by a local contractor, much to the contrary, viNGN has not been served with any legal activity to date, clarified Kupfer.

Additionally, Kupfer pointed out that the viNGN project has been an incredible benefit to the territory’s economy given the fact that the project continues to utilize local contractors and engage the local Virgin Islands workforce during the project’s entire development.

Kupfer also explained that viNGN has also kept their federal partners from National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) abreast of the recent attempts to portray the project in a negative manner. “One of the things we are proudest of at viNGN, are the great lengths that we have gone to in order to comply with all applicable procedures and requirements and I am very proud that our federal partners continue to give us high marks for the work we have done,” added Kupfer.

# # #

The viNGN is a subsidiary of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority (PFA). The PFA is responsible for oversight of the development of the grant funded “middle mile” fiber network and the PCC and SBA programs.

The Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) was established in 2010 as a public corporation. It is a subsidiary of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority (PFA). The PFA is responsible for oversight of the development of the grant-funded “middle mile” fiber optic network, the PCC program, and the Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) program. 

viNGN was funded primarily from four (4) grants provided by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as part of a federal program to stimulate economic recovery by expanding broadband infrastructure and adoption in the United States, its territories, and the District of Columbia, especially among unserved and underserved populations.  The program is called the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). 

          For more information regarding viNGN call (340) 715-8581 or visit www.vingn.com.

 

TIBBAR Energy supports VI Department of Agriculture Training Opportunity for Virgin Islands Students
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM AST

The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (DOA) in partnership with Kentucky State University (KSU), the Virgin Islands FFA Association (formerly the Future Farmers of America), and Tibbar Energy USVI, LLC recently launched a summer initiative for four Virgin Islands students to pursue summer training in the field of Agriculture at Kentucky State University. Beginning June 23 through July 25, 2014 the students will participate in intensive classroom and field activities in various aspects of agricultural science as a result of this collaboration. The goal of this joint effort is to expose young Virgin Islanders to studies and career opportunities in the diverse field of agricultural science. In addition, the students selected for participation are members of the Virgin Islands FFA Association who have expressed interests in specific agricultural professions, including agricultural communications, engineering, economics, and aquaculture production.

Commissioner of Agriculture, Louis E. Petersen, Jr. Ph.D., expressed his sincere appreciation to his colleagues at Kentucky State University for their overwhelmingly positive response to the Department of Agriculture’s request, Virgin Islands FFA Association Executive Director Dr. Eddie Williams, and Tibbar Energy USVI, LLC.  “I am truly pleased about the partnership that we have established” said the Commissioner.  “I am especially proud and appreciative of our private sector support from Tibbar Energy; without their monetary contribution our students and chaperone would not have been able to travel and benefit from this year’s exciting program. Tania Tomyn CEO of Tibbar stated that “working with programs like these is something Tibbar is committed to for the long term”.  
 
“In addition to assisting the DOA, Tibbar seeks to further re-vitalize agriculture in the USVI with its energy crop initiative which is another potentially important project for the island of St. Croix”, said Commissioner Petersen.

“In order to ensure the sustained growth, development and success of the local agricultural sector we must continue to train and involve our young adults in every aspect of the industry, and we are pleased that Tibbar continues to keep its commitment to partner with the Department of Agriculture to achieve this goal,” Tibbar continues to keep its commitment to partner with the Department of Agriculture to achieve this goal. said Commissioner Petersen. Furthermore, “This latest achievement also demonstrates the value and significance of public/private partnerships, especially considering the harsh economic challenges facing our agency and our community,” said the Commissioner.

The student beneficiaries are Jonathan Garcia (Central High School), Amy Athill (Central High School), Treston Benjamin (Charlotte Amalie High School), and Clemon Lewis (Ivanna Eudora Kean High School). “I am hopeful that our students will return even more enthused and encouraged about future prospects and careers in agriculture”, concluded Commissioner Petersen.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH RECEIVES ANALYSIS OF SENATE BORROWING BILL; LEGISLATION PROJECTED TO CREATE ADDITIONAL CASH FLOW CHALLENGES IN FISCAL YEAR 2015;
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 26, 2014 at 2:40 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Thursday he has been advised by the Commissioner of Finance Angel E. Dawson, Jr. and Budget Director Debra E. Gottlieb after their analysis, that the $50 million borrowing authorization recently approved by the 30th Legislature in Bill 30-0427 will not fully address the Fiscal Year 2014 projected cash flow shortfall and, as structured, will create additional cash flow issues in Fiscal Year 2015. 

Specifically, Bill 30-0427 suggests converting the government’s intra-year cash flow note into a deficit financing in the amount of $50 million to be retired in the next fiscal year. Bill 30-0427 also appropriates an additional $36 million from the General Fund to provide funds to our hospitals, WAPA and Sea View Nursing Home.  "Through their actions, the senators have increased current fiscal year 2014 projected budget shortfall from $27 million to $63 million, and only providing $50 million in resources; thereby leaving a remaining budget shortfall of $13 million.  Also, by moving the maturity of the deficit financing forward by 270 days after issuance, the legislation is moving the repayment of a new $50 million obligation to June of 2015 and thereby creating a $50 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2015, worsening an already difficult fiscal year 2015 budget situation," de Jongh noted, adding, "As currently structured the government will have to repay a $50 million loan from cash resources in Fiscal Year 2015 without creating a budget crisis, which is not practical given the financial landscape and our limitations."

The governor further stated that initial conversations with a financial institution suggest a deficit financing cannot be secured without some mechanism to repay the loan at the end of the 270 days required in the legislation. "No doubt, had the legislative leadership contacted the lender of the outstanding cashflow note, or discussed their intent with us, they would have learned that, at the very least, the legislation requires a term loan conversion provision. Such a provision would assure the bank that maturity of the note within 270 days, as provided in Bill 30-0427, will not trigger a repayment problem. A term loan conversion would essentially allow that financing facility to be converted into a long-term loan". 

In addition, Dawson noted that "the cost to the government of using a bank term loan would be more expensive on an annual basis than allowing the government to float bonds to fund the $50 million of working capital, which remains the preferred and lower cost option."

Dawson also noted that all the factors to access the capital market are in place, "the government has received favorable ratings from the bond ratings agencies on the proposed issuance and presently has access to the bond market. Also, while current market conditions offer very low cost funding to the government, it is by no means certain that one year from now funding would be available at current low interest rates or that other unknown factors would not impact our ratings or market access.  By not allowing the Administration the flexibility to access the lowest currently available source of funding, the Legislature may force the government to pay a higher cost of funding for a number of years."

During Fiscal Year 2014, de Jongh, members of his Financial Team and members of the 30th Legislature met on several occasions to discuss the Fiscal Year 2014 projected cash flow shortfall.  During those meetings, the Legislature was advised that although the Administration has implemented several measures to address and reduce the Fiscal Year 2014 projected cash flow shortfall, a $27 million Fiscal Year 2014 projected cash flow shortfall still exists. Gottlieb noted that until there is a clear path forward to resolving the fiscal year 2014 cash flow shortfall, she will have no choice but to continue to restrict allotments to departments and agencies and for miscellaneous appropriations.

De Jongh said that while he has not yet received Bill 30-0427, he is reviewing the options of whether to sign, veto, or call a special session.  "As a territory, we have done a tremendous job under difficult circumstances to create a stable environment in meeting our obligations to the community and managing our financial affairs in accordance with a consistent roadmap. My concern with this legislation is that it is not financially practical, and does not provide us with an effective path forward.”

TIBBAR Energy supports VI Department of Agriculture Training Opportunity for Virgin Islands Students
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM AST

The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (DOA) in partnership with Kentucky State University (KSU), the Virgin Islands FFA Association (formerly the Future Farmers of America), and Tibbar Energy USVI, LLC recently launched a summer initiative for four Virgin Islands students to pursue summer training in the field of Agriculture at Kentucky State University. Beginning June 23 through July 25, 2014 the students will participate in intensive classroom and field activities in various aspects of agricultural science as a result of this collaboration. The goal of this joint effort is to expose young Virgin Islanders to studies and career opportunities in the diverse field of agricultural science. In addition, the students selected for participation are members of the Virgin Islands FFA Association who have expressed interests in specific agricultural professions, including agricultural communications, engineering, economics, and aquaculture production.

Commissioner of Agriculture, Louis E. Petersen, Jr. Ph.D., expressed his sincere appreciation to his colleagues at Kentucky State University for their overwhelmingly positive response to the Department of Agriculture’s request, Virgin Islands FFA Association Executive Director Dr. Eddie Williams, and Tibbar Energy USVI, LLC.  “I am truly pleased about the partnership that we have established” said the Commissioner.  “I am especially proud and appreciative of our private sector support from Tibbar Energy; without their monetary contribution our students and chaperone would not have been able to travel and benefit from this year’s exciting program. Tania Tomyn CEO of Tibbar stated that “working with programs like these is something Tibbar is committed to for the long term”.  
 
“In addition to assisting the DOA, Tibbar seeks to further re-vitalize agriculture in the USVI with its energy crop initiative which is another potentially important project for the island of St. Croix”, said Commissioner Petersen.

“In order to ensure the sustained growth, development and success of the local agricultural sector we must continue to train and involve our young adults in every aspect of the industry, and we are pleased that Tibbar continues to keep its commitment to partner with the Department of Agriculture to achieve this goal,” Tibbar continues to keep its commitment to partner with the Department of Agriculture to achieve this goal. said Commissioner Petersen. Furthermore, “This latest achievement also demonstrates the value and significance of public/private partnerships, especially considering the harsh economic challenges facing our agency and our community,” said the Commissioner.

The student beneficiaries are Jonathan Garcia (Central High School), Amy Athill (Central High School), Treston Benjamin (Charlotte Amalie High School), and Clemon Lewis (Ivanna Eudora Kean High School). “I am hopeful that our students will return even more enthused and encouraged about future prospects and careers in agriculture”, concluded Commissioner Petersen.

BUREAU OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR PRESENTS 2015 BUDGET REQUEST
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM AST

Reuben D. Molloy, Director of the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) and Chief Information Technology Officer for the Government of the Virgin Islands, presented his department's Fiscal Year 2015 budget request to the 30th Legislature's Committee on Finance today.  As presented, the department's budget request from the General Fund is $2,158,973, or a five percent decrease over the amount requested for Fiscal Year 2014. This amount will cover the costs of personnel and fringe benefits, supplies, utilities, and other services. In addition, Molloy requested $1,900,000 from Miscellaneous Appropriations to cover the cost of software licensing ($1,100,000) for all government agencies and the cost of maintenance ($800,000) of the government's information technology infrastructure.

As part of his testimony, Molloy explained to the senators, "The Bureau of Information Technology spent Fiscal Year 2014 establishing the necessary infrastructure and in Fiscal Year 2015 we plan to ensure the USVI government leverages that infrastructure and maximizes its benefits to achieve our collective and individuals goals. Operational efficiency can only be achieved by balancing the deployment of skilled people, streamlined processes and innovative technology solutions." To support this statement, Molloy reviewed the BIT's accomplishments in the current fiscal year and plans for the upcoming one. He stated that the department selected Orbitel as the authorized Internet Service Provider (ISP) for broadband bandwidth needs using the fiber middle mile provided by viNGN. He added that the switch to Orbitel, which will occur shortly, will reduce the current cost per megabyte from $210 to $33, a substantial savings.  

In addition, he reported that the department had "successfully completed the installation and establishment of a private cloud for the Government." Mr. Molloy explained that the cloud "provides centralized virtual servers and storage services for government agencies as well as serves as the USVI Government's disaster recovery/business continuity platform." He also discussed the implementation of Microsoft Office 365 as the e-mail solution for Executive Branch departments, and stated that 71 percent are currently using it.

Other accomplishments that occurred in the current fiscal year included the upgrading of the Avaya Voice-over-internet-protocol telephone system to enable Executive Branch-access to all agencies from one telephone number; promotion of the established video conferencing infrastructure as a cost reduction and efficiency improving measure; day-to-day technical assistance and Help Desk support; training for four department employees in Lean Six Sigma; and establishment of an approval decision process for all government-wide Information Technology (IT) purchases.

Director Molloy informed the Committee on Finance that his department's objectives for Fiscal Year 2015 included the implementation of a government-wide IT security program; facilitation of the connection of all government agencies to the viNGN infrastructure; completion of the 911 Tower Site Enhancement Project which was started in June of 2013;  continued participation in the federally funded FirstNet State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP); connection of all remaining Executive Branch agencies to Microsoft Office 365; expansion of the unified telephone system and video conferencing infrastructure; and establishment of a government-wide content management solution.

PUBLIC WORKS COMMISSIONER: INTER ISLAND FERRIES ARE CLOSER TO BEGIN PROVIDING SERVICE BETWEEN RED HOOK AND CRUZ BAY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 25, 2014 at 9:30 AM AST

Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls said Tuesday that the latest addition to the territory’s mass transit system have edged closer to begin plying the waters between Cruz Bay, St. John and Red Hook, St. Thomas.
           
“Following the recent completion of inspections administered by the United States Coast Guard, the two new state-of-the-art passenger ferries, Red Hook I and Cruz Bay I, are now undergoing a final going over before being turned over to the two franchise operators, Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures,” Smalls said.

Smalls said Tuesday that in final preparation for being brought into service the vessels are undergoing a hull cleaning process and the application of a coating to maintain the efficiency and the life of the running gear. “The vessels are out of the water to facilitate this process. Since they arrived in the territory late last year, the ferries have been docked near the Crown Bay Marina.”

Additionally, the operating agreements between the Government of the Virgin Islands and the franchisees are presently in final review prior to execution by all parties. “While this been a long process to initiate service with the new ferries, I  thank and commend everyone involved for their commitment in ensuring that we have a comprehensive agreement that protects the new ferries, vital assets of the territory's transportation system.”

GOVERNOR’S SUMMER READING CHALLENGE KICKS OFF WITH THREE WEEKEND BOOK GIVEAWAY EVENTS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 24, 2014 at 3:10 PM AST
Governor de Jongh kicks off the annual Summer Reading Challenge with a book giveaway on St. Thomas Saturday. Similar events were held on St. Croix and St. John this weekend as well. Governor de Jongh poses with participants who won a scavenger hunt held as part of the Summer Reading Challenge kick off.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. kicked off this administration’s sixth annual Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge kicked off this past weekend with book distribution events held on all three islands. 

Listen to the Governor's Remarks

The St. Thomas event was held on Saturday, June 21 at Tutu Park Mall, while book giveaways were held at two locations on St. Croix - Sunny Isle Shopping Center Amphitheatre and during the V.I. Housing Finance Authority Expo at Sunshine Mall.  Books were distributed on St. John at the Festival Food Fair in Cruz Bay on Sunday.

Hundreds of students received one of the featured books.  They included: “Little Lenty” written and illustrated by Phillis Gershator; “One Lucky Duck: A Narrative of the Life and Times of Daisy” written and illustrated by Elaine Estern; “Malcolm and the Money Tree” written by Eudora Esdaille-Richardson and illustrated by Christopher Williams; and “Footprints into the Sunrise” written by Alscess Lewis-Brown.  There were additional books available donated by Scholastic and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands book bank.  WTJX TV Channel 12 also distributed reading materials to the participating students.  Authors were on hand to sign the books and students also received a tracking sheet in which they are required to return after reading five books in order to be rewarded for participating this year’s challenge. 

This year, the Summer Reading Challenge will end on Friday, August 15th.  To find out more information about the challenge, visit www.readfive.org or the Facebook page “Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge.”

DELTA AIR LINES TO RESUME ST. CROIX SERVICE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 20, 2014 at 3:00 PM AST

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (June 20, 2014) - St. Croix will welcome the return of Delta Air Lines this winter with nonstop air service from Atlanta.
 
The United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism announced that Delta Air Lines has strengthened its commitment to the Territory with weekly Saturday service from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix. The service will run from December 20, 2014 to May 10, 2015.
 
"We are committed to bolstering service to the entire Territory and these new flights are part and parcel of our strategy," said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
 
The new St. Croix service will operate on MD-88 aircraft with 149 seats, and will be backed by a joint marketing strategy between the airline and the Department of Tourism. Flights are scheduled to be available for purchase from June 21, 2014.
 
"We anticipate promoting this service throughout the Atlanta metro area, and in key feeder markets such as Alabama, Ohio, Minnesota and Tennessee," said Nicholson-Doty whose team will be reaching out to the private sector to develop packages and promotions to spur advance sales.
 
The Department's marketing strategy to support this flight includes utilizing digital and social media, and television. Additionally, several in-market activities targeting consumers, travel agents and Virgin Islanders will be organized by the Department.
 Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) Carlton Dowe welcomed the new service: "I would like to thank the Governing Board of the Virgin Islands Port Authority for approving the airline incentive which has been an important element in our negotiations with the airlines."
 
Governor John P. de Jongh Jr. said the new service will help boost not only tourism, but also the government's economic development plans across the Territory. "Tourism, small business development and information technology, including broadband, are key pillars of our economy, and we believe that this new air service will advance our efforts in these areas."
 
Commissioner Nicolson-Doty noted that efforts are ongoing to enhance additional lift to St. Croix.
 
For more information about the United States Virgin Islands, go to VisitUSVI.com, follow us on Twitter (@USVITourism) and become a fan on Facebook  (www.facebook.com/VisitUSVI). When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoy all the conveniences of domestic travel - including on-line check-in - making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever. As a United States Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passport from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.  

GOVERNOR DE JONGH WELCOMES CRUISE INDUSTRY EXECUTIVES TO ST. CROIX
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 19, 2014 at 5:15 PM AST
Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. welcomes cruise industry executives to St. Croix Thursday. From left to right: Federico Gonzalez-Denton, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line; Larry Stauffer, Disney Cruise Line; Michele Paige, FCCA President; Governor de Jongh; Colin Murphy, Norwegian Cruise Line.litigation.

A high-level team of cruise industry executives have assembled this week on the island of St. Croix to discuss the myriad of opportunities that exist on St. Croix for enhancing the Caribbean cruising experience for its millions of customers.

Listen to the remarks by Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty

Part I, Part 2

Listen to the remarks by Governor de Jongh:

Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Platinum Associate Member Advisory Council Conference meets from June 18 to 21 to also look at new infrastructure developments and activities across the territory and how they add to the attraction of the island and cruise passenger experience.

Governor John P. de Jongh Jr. declared the meetings "most productive because they highlight the attraction of St. Croix and how it  enables cruise companies to remain competitive, which benefits their passengers, while at the same time coordinating schedules to ensure better efficiency in the services they provide to our Territory and to the region.”

Assembled by the Miami-based FCCA, the team is being led by President Michele Paige, and includes senior executives in charge of shore excursions and port developments from Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Paige stated, "We'd like to thank the people of the Virgin Islands for the warmth they extend to our passengers and a special thanks to St. Croix for hosting our conference. Our gratitude also goes out to the territory’s government for recognizing the importance of infrastructure development - because without infrastructure it would be very tough for us to come here."

Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, said stake holders on St. Croix were honored to showcase the history, culture and the unique culinary diversity of the island to the cruise delegates as the Territory prepares for increasing numbers of cruise calls this summer.

Meeting at The Buccaneer Hotel the executives are being provided  tours of St. Croix, a dinner at Fort Christiansvaern,  a “block party” at the boardwalk in downtown Christiansted, and a tour of Port Authority properties.  Meetings will also be held with local stakeholders to discuss the opportunities and expectations of increased cruise ship calls.

 The schedule also includes a National Park Service Rangers guided tour of Buck Island followed by swimming, snorkeling and a hike around the island.

The visit culminates with a tour of the Ann E. Abramson Pier Facility, Jazz in the Park and a farewell dinner at Fort Fredrik.

De Jongh today welcomed the executives, updating more than 150 delegates in attendance.

STATEMENT BY THE GOVERNOR ON LEARNING OF THE OVERRIDE OF THE VETO OF THE MALONE AMENDMENT ON THE RTPARK
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 18, 2014 at 4:10 PM AST

I received the news of the Legislature’s action with respect to the so-called Malone Amendment radically altering the authority and structure of the RTPark with disappointment, but without surprise. Now I wait, as do the vast majority of the residents and voters and taxpayers of the Virgin Islands, to hear the rationalizations and explanations for this action. I await the defense to be offered by the eleven members of the 30th Legislature who have now voted for a second time to keep established, profitable businesses off our tax rolls through this special interest legislation.

Now the eleven senators who have confirmed their earlier action will have to face the people who will be justified in wanting to know why they should not be provided tax breaks as well. Now they will have to explain why expanding benefits to cable companies and RTPark consultants can be justified given our budget deficit. Now they will have to explain how they can give away this kind of money when we have a $30-plus million dollar budget deficit this fiscal year and when our workers are facing potential furloughs and our people are facing a reduction in government programs and services.  

I do not see how we will ever solve our budget dilemma when a majority of the present Legislature believes that what they did -- and how they did it -- is proper and correct. The voices of Virgin Islands taxpayers will surely be heard in the coming months. I stand with them in waiting for the answer to the question: Why would any senator vote this way?

GOVERNOR DE JONGH CONGRATULATES NEW PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has sent written congratulations to the Honorable Gaston A. Browne on his election as the new Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.  Prime Minister Browne was sworn into office on Friday, June 13, after his party, the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, claimed a landslide win in the general elections held on June 12. Governor de Jongh's letter to the newly-elected leader was dated June 16.

The governor expressed his best wishes "for a prosperous and productive 2014 and beyond," and also remarked on the comparable situations faced by the two leaders.  "I know firsthand the challenges of governance during the difficult economic recession that grips our jurisdictions. I understand that you have made the financial well-being of Antigua and Barbuda and its citizens your number one priority.  We share similar goals and desires for our constituents," he wrote.  Governor de Jongh also added that "I hope that we have the pleasure of meeting one day, as I believe we have much in common."

Prime Minister Browne, 47, is the youngest Prime Minister in the history of Antigua and Barbuda. Under the previous leadership of the United Progressive Party, the country's economic situation deteriorated to such an extent that the populace voted for a complete change in governance.

GOVERNOR AND MRS. DE JONGH EXPRESS CONDOLENCES ON DEATH OF GENEVIEVE LEWIS LIMA
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 17, 2014 at 12:25 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., and First Lady Cecile R. de Jongh expressed their sadness upon learning of the death of Genevieve Lewis Lima, the First Lady's aunt.  Mrs. Lima, affectionately known as "Genie", was the matriarch of the Lima family of St. Thomas.  She was a retired educator who worked for the V.I. Department of Education for over 30 years.

​"Cecile and I extend our deepest condolences to Aunt Genie's children, their spouses, and to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She was a remarkable woman and an inspiration to all those who knew her.  During her years in education, she was known for her high standards of achievement.  She touched thousands of young lives.  Throughout the Territory, people are mourning her death," said the Governor.

​Mrs. Lima was born Genevieve Edith Lewis, and was the eldest daughter in the large William G. Lewis family of Long Bay, St. Thomas.  Following her graduation from Charlotte Amalie High School, she attended and graduated from Hampton Institute.  She joined the Department of Education in 1943 as a home economics instructor at Charlotte Amalie High School and worked in that position for 19 years.  After a six-year break from education, she returned to the classroom in 1968 and worked at Wayne Aspinall Junior High School (now Addelita Cancryn Junior High School) for three years.  When Ivanna Eudora Kean High School opened, Mrs. Lima was transferred to the new school as chair of the home economics department.  In 1972 she was named Assistant Principal of the high school, a position she held until her retirement in 1979.

​Mrs. Lima is pre deceased by her husband Mariano Lima Sr. and Mariano Lima, Jr. She is survived by her sons Agustin and Jose Lima; three brothers and two sisters; her special friend Terrelyn Smock; dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and numerous relatives in the Lewis, Monsanto, Galiber, de Jongh, Morch and Joseph families.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH SUBMITS SPENDING PLAN MORE THAN $50 MILLION LESS THAN CURRENT BUDGET; HIGHLIGHTS FINANCIAL CHALLENGES WHICH CONTINUE TO CONFRONT THE TERRITORY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 17, 2014 at 10:30 AM AST

As promised, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. today submitted his administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 operating budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands. In a three-page transmittal letter which accompanied de Jongh’s financial blueprint for the operations of the government, he went to great lengths to highlight the financial challenges that continue to confront the government.

Listen to Governor de Jongh's remarks on the FY 2015 budget

“I am making this submission in the absence of a clear path to fill the gaps we currently have in Fiscal Year 2014 and am hopeful this will be clearer in your next session.  The challenges that we faced in Fiscal Year 2014 continue -- the Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget submission proposes a financial plan to address a budgetary gap of approximately $159.6 million -- but with the actions proposed we believe that the next fiscal year will start with a sturdier foundation,” de Jongh said Monday.

“Our community continues to face the economic and financial challenges resulting from the impacts of the Great Recession and the closure of the oil refinery, once our largest single employer and taxpayer.  We are continuing the process of adjusting to this ‘new normal,’ even as we are strengthening our foundation for the present and future. We are continuing to streamline services and reduce costs even as we maintain governmental operations, as we continue to make investments in our infrastructure and provide the means to generate private sector investment to grow and diversify our economy.  As I reiterated last year, there are no simple solutions to the profound challenges that confront us. We must continue to grapple with the difficult decisions that will each affect our financial viability and economic stability as a community in the coming years and that are necessary as we seek to continue to provide a high quality of life and range of opportunities for all Virgin Islanders,” he further said.

“In addressing specific issues de Jongh said that one critical challenge that he sought to address in 2014 was the unfunded liability of the GERS. This complex problem has grown year by year, and we can no longer ‘kick-the-can’ down for the next group to address. 

This is truly an issue that touches our entire community: our retirees who depend on its solvency to meet their living expenses each month, an entire workforce relying on its solvency down the road for their retirement, and a local economy for which the retirement system is a critical source of income and savings for all manner of businesses and investment. I submitted proposed legislation to this body this year that reflects the recommendations from the final report submitted to me by the Task Force on Pension Reform, comprised of private, public and non-governmental members.  There is no doubt the decisions required will be difficult and modifications to that legislation will be made and debated, but this is a challenge of the greatest urgency and it is time that we begin to move forward toward a long-term solution that brings solvency to the system at a price that we can meet year after year.”

A challenge in 2015 he said will be the reduction in the Internal Revenue Matching Fund’s contribution to the General Fund if Congress does not approve the extension of the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the cover over rate of $13.25. “We presently anticipate approval of the extension during the remainder of this calendar year and, if approved after the Department of the Interior’s (“DOI”) initial advance, we would request an adjustment as soon as the extension is approved.  However, we must remain cognizant that if the Congress does not approve the extender, not only will this result in lower cover-over revenue in Fiscal Year 2015, but in Fiscal Year 2016 we would have to repay DOI the additional advance received in Fiscal Year 2014,” de Jongh said.

The General Fund operating budget for Fiscal Year 2015 is $709.5 million, $51.7 million less than the current Fiscal Year 2014 appropriation level of $761.2 million, and $21.5 million less than the current Fiscal Year 2014 projected allotment level of $731.0 million. Our revenue projections are based on a 1.6% increase in net total taxes to $578.6 million, and an essentially flat Total Revenues (growth of 1.0%) at $594.3 million. The biggest impact is the $53.8 million reduction in the transfers to the General Fund.  The revenue actions required for this budget reflect the continuing fiscal challenges that we face in our core categories and with respect to our rum partnerships. This budget includes assumed spending of $709.5 million, a level of appropriations that is $51.7 million below the current Fiscal Year 2014 appropriation level. To support this level of appropriations, this budget will require a combination of revenue and expenditure initiatives.  A critical component of our revenue projections is our continued aggressive collection of past-due taxes.

“During the budget development process we have continued the policy of not filling General Fund supported positions unless deemed absolutely critical, reduced the appropriations to departments and agencies and eliminated programs and services that could no longer be sustained, streamlined processes whenever possible, and shifted costs to achieve more equity and efficiency.
I still maintain the priorities to law enforcement, healthcare and education positions within these parameters,” de Jongh told the Senate today.

The governor reiterated his commitment to working with the Senate as together a future of stability and opportunity is built. “I know that by working together we can achieve the goals that we share for our community and for our future.” In closing the letter which accompanied the budget, de Jongh reminded the Senate of the challenges that confronts the government.

“Each year, we have sought to take measures to deliver the leanest possible budget that still enables us to meet our public sector responsibilities. Fiscal Year 2014 is no different, yet it continues to rely on $30 million of borrowed funds. This is not our preferred path forward, but it reflects our preference for a moderate path toward fiscal balance to taking harsher actions with respect to personnel spending that would only do further damage to our economy and delivery of public services.”

The governor suggested that right after the Budget Overview is presented by the OMB Director and other members of the Administration’s Financial Team, a meeting be scheduled to discuss and review the revenue and expenditure options.

KEY ELEMENTS -- FISCAL YEAR 2015 BUDGET

  • Departments and agencies will start the year with an appropriation level four percent (4%) below the level of the prior fiscal year requiring the continued application of a variety of cost containment measures and the application of technology;
  • Continued aggressive collection of past-due taxes for Tax Years 2002-2008 via the Tax Collection Task Force and institution of court action, as required;
  • A distribution on the health insurance costs of employer/employee at 60/40;
  • Executing strategies to reduce overtime hours, with a concentration on Corrections, Fire and Police;
  • The issuance of one year of real property tax bills versus the collections of two years of property taxes that we realized in Fiscal Year 2014 and previous fiscal years since the resumption of the collection of real property taxes;
  • Institution of revenue initiatives that will generate $57 million in value;
  • Continued funding for implementation of Medicaid Expansion under the terms of the Affordable Care Act;
  • The negotiation of settlement agreements associated with environmental matters that will allow for remediation of certain parcels of property and the dedication of a portion to the General Fund;
  • Funding of the costs associated with the (i) monitoring of Excessive Force Consent Decree correction plan of the Police Department, (ii) the monitoring of the Golden Grove Correctional Institution consent decree of the Bureau of Corrections and (iii) the required Third Party Fiduciary pursuant to the 2002 Compliance Agreement and the 2012 United States Department of Education (USDOE) Special Conditions;
  • The Department of Human Services will provide training and technical assistance to child care providers with a locally designed curriculum that fosters a synergy between early learning guidelines and rules and regulations. This stage comes at the end of a pilot initiative with 24 child care and Head Start centers, part of our Quality Rating and Improvement System and ‘Steps to Quality’ to meet higher standards; and
  • Implementation of Common Core by the Department of Education to raise the standards in mathematics and English. We are providing the professional development to our teachers to support them as we adjust their teaching strategies. In March 2015, we will administer our first online tests to students in grades 3rd through 8th and 11th.
GOVERNOR TO LAUNCH SIXTH SUMMER READING CHALLENGE PROGRAM; ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TERRITORY-WIDE TO PARTICIPATE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 16, 2014 at 2:30 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. is for the sixth consecutive year encouraging young students across the territory to read as many books as they can over their summer vacations.

The sixth Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge Program will kick off on June 21, 2014 and continue through August 15, 2014. The initiative promotes literacy by encouraging children to read and helps them to discover and collect books that they can use to start their own personal libraries.

This year’s Challenge is open to all of the territory’s public, private, and parochial students between Kindergarten and 8th grade.

“Every year, the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge provides motivation for the territory’s youth to develop a passion for reading. The four previous Reading Challenge programs encouraged the territory’s children to discover knowledge and adventure on the written page, and open worlds of imagination towards becoming committed readers throughout their lives,” de Jongh said. “I look forward to launching the 2014 program, and encourage all students in Kindergarten through 8th grade to participate.”

Reading Challenge participants who keep track of their reading and complete five or more books will be invited to a Fun Day with the governor at the end of the summer to recognize their achievements. Participating students can learn more about the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge at www.readfive.org and are encouraged to visit the Facebook page.

As part of the kick-off of the 2014 reading program, featured books and special treats will be distributed on June 21st Tutu Park Mall on St. Thomas from 12:00-3:00 pm; on June 21st at the Sunny Isle Shopping Center in the Amphitheatre on St. Croix from 1:00-5:00 pm and at the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority Housing Expo at the Sunshine Mall from 10am -3pm; and on June 22nd at the St. John Festival Food Fair from 1:00 to 5:00 pm.

The Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge is a partnership between the Office of the Governor, the V.I. Department of Education, Virgin Islands Public Libraries and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. The governor also thanks TV2 for being this year’s key sponsor.

For additional information, contact: Sekoia Rogers, 693-4316

DPNR COMMISSIONER & ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCE SETTLEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LITIGATION CONCERNING FORMER ALUMINA FACILITY AND HOVENSA OIL REFINERY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 13, 2014 at 12:20 PM AST
DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes and Virgin Islands Attorney General Vincent Frazer speak during news briefing Friday on St. Croix. The two members of the de Jongh Administration announced the settlement of environmental litigation.

Alicia V. Barnes, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and Vincent F. Frazer, Attorney General, announced Friday that the Government of the Virgin Islands has reached a settlement with certain companies the government considers responsible for contamination of natural resources in the South Coast Industrial Area, which includes the Estates of Anguilla, Pearl, Hope, Figtree, and Jerusalem on St. Croix.  The companies sued by the government include both present and past owners and operators of (i) the former alumina refining property (St. Croix Alumina, L.L.C. (“SCA”),  Alcoa World Alumina, LLC (“AWA”); St. Croix Renaissance Group, L.L.L.P. (“SCRG”); Lockheed Martin Corporation (successor to Martin Marietta Alumina and Harvey Alumina) (“Lockheed Martin”), Virgin Islands Alumina Corporation (“VIALCO”); and Century Aluminum Company (“Century”)) and (ii) the neighboring oil refinery on St. Croix (Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation (“HOVIC”) and HOVENSA, L.L.C. (“HOVENSA”). All of these parties have now reached settlements with the government with the exception of VIALCO and Century.  The various settlements have an estimated value of $125 million to $145 million. This valuation includes both the payment of cash and the estimated costs to perform extensive environmental cleanup and restoration work with respect to the former alumina refinery property.

THE FORMER ALUMINA REFINERY PROPERTY

From the 1960's until 2000, Lockheed Martin’s predecessors, VIALCO, and SCA conducted alumina refining operations at the former alumina refinery property west of the HOVENSA oil refinery.  SCRG has owned the Site since 2002.  The site can be recognized by its unique mars-like landscape and large red hill of bauxite residue (a/k/a “red mud”), which is visible from Melvin H. Evans Highway and the airport.  With respect to this facility, massive quantities of red mud and caustic solution, among other wastes, were collected and disposed of onsite.

THE HOVENSA OIL REFINERY

Since the 1960’s, HOVIC and HOVENSA have operated one of the largest oil refineries in the world on St. Croix.  As a result of their operations, very large quantities of petroleum and other wastes have contaminated water underlying and near the oil refinery.

THE LITIGATION AND SETTLEMENT

In 2005, the government initiated the first of several lawsuits against the defendants concerning contamination of the South Coast Industrial Area.  The suits sought damages, the government’s investigation and cleanup costs, the performance of environmental cleanup and restoration work, penalties, litigation costs, and litigation fees.  The lawsuits alleged that the defendants’ operations injured and contaminated the public’s natural resources, including potential drinking water, the marine environment, plant life, and wildlife.

Pursuant to the settlements, SCA, AWA, SCRG, and Lockheed Martin (“Settling Alumina Parties”) have various responsibilities with respect to the cleanup and restoration of large portions of the former alumina refinery property.  The work to be performed includes covering and closing the red mud disposal areas, including the large red hill that is familiar to residents of St. Croix.  The cleanup work will contain the red mud so that it no longer blows onto nearby properties or flows into the waters of the Virgin Islands.  In addition, studies will be performed regarding whether contaminated groundwater is migrating into the shipping channel at the former alumina refinery property.  If the studies conclude that contamination is migrating into the channel, Lockheed Martin will take action to eliminate such discharges.  In addition to the estimated $58 million to $76 million in environmental remediation and restoration work and oversight costs to be funded by the Settling Alumina Parties, the Settling Alumina Parties are also paying the government a substantial sum to resolve the litigation. 

The initial settlement with respect to the former alumina refinery, which involved SCA, AWA, and SCRG, was approved, after public comment, by the federal District Court in 2012.  On June 10, 2014, the government and Lockheed Martin filed a new settlement with the federal District Court.  Comments on this settlement may be filed during the coming weeks.           

In addition to the settlements concerning the former alumina refinery property, the government has entered into a settlement with HOVIC and HOVENSA pursuant to which HOVENSA must make or cause to be made multiple cash payments to the government.  Part of the settlement provides the government with security interests (i.e., a lien and mortgage) in the refinery’s equipment, fixtures, and real property. If the required payments are not made by the end of 2014, the government may collect the payments by foreclosing on the refinery’s equipment, fixtures, and/or real property.

Pursuant to the various settlement agreements regarding the former alumina refinery property and HOVENSA refinery, the settling defendants are required to ultimately make cash payments totaling $67,250,000.00.



GOVERNOR DE JONGH DENOUNCES SENATOR’S CAMPAIGN OF MISINFORMATION; NO LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS BY DIAGEO, AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT NOT AFFECTED BY ORGANIZATIONAL REVIEW
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 13, 2014 at 9:50 AM AST

President of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN), Larry Kupfer, today advised Senate President Shawn Michael Malone that he would not be in attendance at Friday’s Committee of the Whole hearing called to discuss the Broadband Expansion Project Act and other matters. However, Kupfer used his letter to Malone to provide a detailed update on the work of viNGN which he says continues to yield immediate and tangible economic benefits as a result of the network build-out and other work in providing training and job skills as well as entrepreneurial development support, access to computer and access to the Internet.

“The economic contributions to the Territory of the broadband grants alone have been significant. Through the combination of federal government grant funding and local government funding, all of the grant-funded core backbone network construction work has been completed, and more than $35 million in construction contracts alone have been awarded, with the vast majority of the work completed by local contractors. Approximately $2 million in Gross Receipts Taxes has been paid to the U.S. Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue on behalf of our vendors, and approximately 500 jobs have been retained or created,” Kupfer wrote.

Kupfer departed the territory on Thursday to spend the weekend with his father and other family members on a trip that had been planned prior to President Malone’s scheduling of The Committee of the Whole hearing on Act 7257.  

In updating Malone and members of the 30th Legislature on the work of viNGN, Kupfer said that almost 300 community anchor institutions have been connected.  “We have now connected 258 Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) to our 100% fiber optic cable, open access, wholesale broadband network, with connectivity of up to 1 Gigabit each (i.e. 1,000 megabits), and 111 of these CAIs have proven connectivity to the Internet and are ready to receive faster and more reliable broadband services from their selected Internet Service Provider (ISP) or ISPs, powered by viNGN’s network. This includes CAIs on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.”  You may recall from our previous testimonies that viNGN’s network includes the connection of more than 300 CAIs which include public and private schools, public libraries, public safety entities, the hospitals, health clinics, the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and its Research and Technology Park (RT Park), and government departments and agencies.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH DENOUNCES SENATOR’S CAMPAIGN OF MISINFORMATION; NO LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS BY DIAGEO, AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT NOT AFFECTED BY ORGANIZATIONAL REVIEW
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 12, 2014 at 7:40 PM AST

Gov. John P. de Jongh, Jr. today denounced the actions of a St. Croix district senator who through public statements has sought to prey on the emotions of the public. Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly this week issued public statements suggesting widespread layoffs by DIAGEO and accusing the Department of Labor of being unaware of the staffing changes taking place at the rum distillery on St. Croix.
“Her comments are reckless and unfortunate especially for the residents of St. Croix who have already coped with the challenge of job security,” de Jongh said.

De Jongh said today that more than six weeks ago, an organizational review was undertaken by DIAGEO of its 74 employees at the distillery on St. Croix. As a result of the review, five persons will be leaving at the end of this month and two others at the end of the year. De Jongh said both he and the Labor Department are aware of the changes taking place and have been assured that DIAGEO’s employment levels will continue to exceed those required by its agreement with the VI government. 

Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan, Jr. said today that DOL recognizes that reorganization is a normal business practice and that the actions of DIAGEO violate neither local nor federal labor laws. 

“Quite frankly, I was rather surprised that the senator, who professes to be in touch with the concerns of the people of St. Croix, only became aware of this reorganization at DIAGEO two days ago. The senator issued a letter to the Department of Labor and before it had been received or responded to, she took to the airwaves with a campaign of misinformation to panic the people of St. Croix,” de Jongh said.

“At the end of the day, we have neither violations of labor laws and we have no violation of the government’s agreement with DIAGEO.  My focus continues to be on finding a buyer for the HOVENSA refinery; making sure all companies pay their fair share of taxes; ensuring that we can continue government operations despite our financial challenges and making sure that we create both jobs and opportunities for the people of the Virgin Islands, de Jongh said Thursday.

PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT DOH: Reports the First Locally Acquired Case of Chikungunya
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 11, 2014 at 3:35 AM AST

Remarks by Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett

(St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands)-On Tuesday, June 10, 2014 the Virgin Islands Department of Health confirmed two new cases of chikungunya virus.  The first case has been confirmed as locally acquired; the second case is an imported case with the patient having recent travel history outside of the Territory. One previous imported case was confirmed on May 12, 2014.  

Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett stated, “With the increasing number of confirmed cases reported in the Caribbean, the Department of Health has been proactively preparing for the introduction of the chikungunya virus into the Territory. The Department is working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Juan F. Luis Hospital, Schneider Regional Medical Center, VI Waste Management Authority and the VI Department of Tourism to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the virus.”

Chikungunya or Chik-V is a mosquito-borne viral disease similar to dengue that is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. Like dengue, chikungunya is spread by the Aedes species mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti, which is found in the Virgin Islands. These mosquitoes like to bite during the day. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease or specific antiviral treatment. Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and may include fever with severe joint pains (often in the hands and feet), headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.

Commissioner Plaskett added, “The Department of Health’s ‘Fight the Bite Campaign’ has in the past focused on dengue, the most common mosquito-borne disease in the Virgin Islands.  We now add another focus, chikungunya.”

All residents and visitors are urged to protect themselves against mosquito bites. Guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include:

  • use of insect repellent (with products containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of eucalyptus and para-menthane diol as an active ingredient),
  • wear long sleeves and long pants when possible, and
  • use mosquito proof screens on windows and doors.

Residents should also take special precautions to reduce mosquito breeding areas in and around dwellings, residences, and businesses.  These precautions include:

  • emptying standing water from containers, and
  • keeping tires in a dry place or punch holes in them so the water drains out.

Department of Health Medical Director, Dr. Marc Jerome, highlighted, “People experiencing symptoms of chikungunya should see a doctor. Healthcare providers should watch for other possible cases of chikungunya. People at increased risk for severe symptoms include newborns exposed during delivery, older adults (>65 years) and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

Chikungunya is reportable by law and all confirmed or suspected cases must be reported to the Health Department using the VI Notifiable Disease Form. Forms should be submitted via confidential fax at (340) 718-1508. Copies of the form, which have been distributed to health care providers, can also be found by visiting www.healthvi.org and downloaded under Forms and Applications via www.healthvi.org.

For more information, please visit the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health website: www.healthvi.org or call us at (340)773-1311.

DE JONGH: BOND RATING AGENCIES AFFIRM INVESTMENT GRADE BOND RATING ON PFA MATCHING FUND GROSS RECEIPTS TAXES BONDS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 11, 2014 at 11:00 AM AST

This week the national bond rating agencies Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s each affirmed their investment grade bond ratings on the Public Finance Authority’s Matching Fund Gross Receipts Taxes Bonds. In anticipation of the sale of approximately $120 million of Gross Receipts Taxes Bonds by the Public Finance Authority, Fitch Ratings confirmed its BBB rating and S&P confirmed its BBB+ rating on those bonds. In addition, Standard & Poor’s assigned a first time rating of A to the PFA’s proposed issuance of GARVEE Bonds, secured by a pledge of Federal and local transportation revenues

The Gross Receipts Taxes Bonds to be sold to finance projects currently under consideration by the Senate, including approximately $60 million to finance a range of capital projects, including the Paul E. Joseph stadium on St. Croix, critical closure costs for the Bovoni and Anguilla landfills, as well as other capital investment needs. If approved by the Senate, a further $71.5 million will fund General Fund, hospital and WAPA working capital requirements. The GARVEE Bonds will fund improvements to Veterans Drive in St. Thomas and Melvin Evans Highway on St. Croix, if approved by the Senate.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Tuesday these ratings affirm the stability of our bond ratings and will reaffirm investor confidence in our bonding program. “I would draw attention to two particular aspects of these rating actions. First, the GARVEE rating is the highest rating we have yet achieved, and together with the reaffirmation of the GRT ratings emphasizes that even as we have been dealing with extraordinarily difficult financial circumstances, we have continued to assure investor confidence and maintain market access. Second, it is important to note that even as Fitch sustained our bond rating, they lowered what they call their “shadow” general rating on the territory. In doing so, Fitch is recognizing what I have emphasized over and over: we must continue to take difficult steps, to make hard but necessary choices to regain the financial stability that we lost in the wake of the Great Recession and the closing of HOVENSA. It was not our preference to borrow once again for working capital, but we have not yet done all that we must do to assure our future stability. We are not out of the woods, but we are on a prudent path forward.”

“We are gratified by these rating actions, and look forward to Senate action so that we can complete these financings. We anticipate strong demand for our bonds when we bring our bonds to market, and we want to take advantage of current strong investor interest in our bonds and the continuing low interest rate environment,” added Commissioner of Finance and PFA Executive Director Angel E. Dawson, Jr. “We expect widespread interest in these transactions.”

EDUCATION COMMISSIONER ANNOUNCES CONSOLIDATION OF ST. JOHN PUBLIC SCHOOLS AT FACULTY/STAFF, PARENT AND STUDENT MEETINGS TODAY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 09, 2014 at 6:00 PM AST

At faculty, staff, and parent meetings today, Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory announced that St. John’s public schools will be consolidated during the upcoming 2014-2015 school year, with Guy Benjamin’s expected 73 enrollees moving over to Julius Sprauve. The move will help VIDE streamline its operations within the district, maximize dwindling resources, and – most importantly – remedy staff shortages in an effort to provide full classroom coverage to students.
“This was a difficult decision, it is not a decision we came to lightly,” Frett-Gregory said Monday. “We spent this school year getting input from the community at various Senate, community and parent meetings held on St. John. We have further conducted a number of early registrations in an effort to boost the school’s enrollment numbers and while we would like to wait until summer to see if those improve, the reality is that we must move forward, finalize the logistics and give our parents time to plan.”

During the meeting, Frett-Gregory detailed several challenges, including a continual drop in the student population at Guy Benjamin, a scarcity of teaching resources within the district and – like many other departments and agencies within the government – a need to tighten the department’s budget in the wake of significant budget cuts.

Guy Benjamin’s population dropped from over 100 students in the 2011-2012 school year to 88 students at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The 2013-2014 enrollment reached a low of 57 students. Because of the low numbers, both the kindergarten and first grade classes – with 10 and nine students, respectively – were moved over to Julius E. Sprauve School during the current school year.
Even if these 19 students returned to Guy Benjamin, the enrollment, which is now at 57 students, will only increase to 76 students for the new school year and continuing to operate the school at this point, with the same budget, would not be efficient, Frett-Gregory explained. She said the early retirement incentives offered to government employees in the 2011 Economic Stability Act has further led to staffing shortages at both St. John schools and the consolidation would also help ensure that there is adequate classroom coverage for students.

“Consolidating school campuses is always a difficult decision but we are fortunate on the island of St. John to have an outstanding option at Julius E. Sprauve School, with many teachers, fellow students, and a principal that the students are already familiar with,” Frett-Gregory said. “I wish to thank the many parents who expressed to me their understanding at the direction we are taking next year and offered their support to make the transition to Sprauve School a smooth one for each and every student. “

Schools across America and as nearby as Puerto Rico have had to close or consolidate campuses as governments have redirected their limited resources. “We have tried for a number of years to rationalize the continued opening of the school, but with a forecast for significant funding reductions in the next fiscal year, and to ensure that we do not compromise student instruction and the effective use of our teachers, I support the decision reached by Commissioner Frett-Gregory and her leadership team,” said Governor John P. de Jongh Jr. “In considering possible alternative uses for the facility that will benefit  the Coral Bay community, I have directed the Commissioner of Public Works to perform a cost analysis on the school to determine the feasibility of turning it into a multi-purpose facility. There is no intention on the part of the government to shutter the school and divest the community of this vital public asset,” he added.
GOVERNOR DE JONGH SUBMITS LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS BUDGET SHORTFALL AND FUNDING FOR OTHER CRITICAL NEEDS INCLUDING HOSPITALS, WAPA, CAPITAL PROJECTS & LANDFILLS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 09, 2014 at 4:10 PM AST

Acknowledging an approximate $30 million dollar deficit in the General Fund operating budget and after meetings with members of the Legislature, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has submitted a bill that seeks to provide financial resources to address the budget shortfall.

“My proposed bill comes after numerous discussions with the Senators on a plan to address the shortfall and the cost-saving measures that we have implemented to close the budget shortfall. I have also provided funding for the two territorial hospitals so they can continue to provide patient care and to allow them to meet some outstanding obligations while re-establishing their credit with priority suppliers and provide resources needed for several capital projects in both island districts,” de Jongh said Monday. The bill will also provide funding to continue the process to close both the Anguilla and Bovoni landfills pursuant to the consent decree that exists between the Waste Management Authority and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“In order to address these critical needs, I am requesting authorization for the issuance of bonds…by the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority,” de Jongh wrote in a letter to Senate President Shawn Michael Malone accompanying the proposed legislation. “At this point in the fiscal year and with the need to balance ongoing government operations and avoid the very real potential of layoffs and the curtailment of vital government programs and services, I do not see another way to address our critical needs other than to accept that another borrowing is required.” He added that the need and request for this borrowing comes after a number of initiatives implemented by the Administration to conserve our limited cash resources and further reduce our costs have been effectuated. “These measures included obtaining an agreement by the U.S. Department of Interior to release our cover-over receipts at the rate of $13.25 per proof gallon, implementing a pro-rated four percent across-the-board reduction in allotments to executive branch departments and agencies, and the continuation of a limited hiring freeze. The totality of these initiatives resulted in a lower General Fund deficit as previously noted,” de Jongh wrote.

The major portion of funds realized from the authorized borrowing will be used to provide $30,000,000 in working capital for the General Fund, an additional $30,000,000 in working capital for the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center and Schneider Regional Medical Center, as well as $11,500,000 for payment of past due electric and water receivables due to WAPA, comprising $10,000,000 owed by the Hospitals and $1,500,000 owed by the Bureau of Corrections. “It is important to note that an equal part of our working capital request at $40 million is intended to put our hospitals on a much firmer financial foundation in the near term in order to allow them to pay some critical past-due obligations, re-establish credit access with vendors, lower their utility costs and provide time for them to strengthen their revenue cycles,” de Jongh said Monday.

He explained that the Administration has been extremely judicious in its use of borrowing as a means to meet our operating needs, and have made every effort to curtail our reliance on borrowed funds for General Fund working capital purposes, but the lingering impact of the Great Recession, further exacerbated by the closure of the HOVENSA refinery, continues to severely limit the Government’s financial flexibility. While Hess and Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”) are continuing their process to identify a new refinery owner and operator, the economic and fiscal impact of a change in ownership of the refinery will not materially affect the current year funding situation.

The legislation authorizes capital projects funding of $4,091,826 as follows: (i) $905,614 for the conclusion of the White Lady White Bay Road project on St. Croix, the Smith Bay Cemetery project, and Hurricane Earl debris removal; (ii) $1,186,212 to the Department of Public Works to complete the Ivanna Eudora Kean School Track; and (iii) $2,000,000 to augment the current funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration for relocation of the existing fire station from the western side of Fort Christian to a new facility. The Waste Management Authority executed consent decrees with the EPA requiring the eventual closure of our landfills located at Estate Anguilla on St. Croix and Estate Bovoni on St. Thomas. These projects have an estimated total cost of $67 million and a timeline for the terms of the decree to be implemented. The financing authorized in this measure will provide $23,840,000 for costs projected for the landfill closures in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

“This proposal would also authorize funding of a design/build contract for the Paul E. Joseph Stadium Project (inclusive of little league field and festival village) for which negotiations with a contractor are in process. The measure provides the government the flexibility to pledge either Matching Fund Revenues or Gross Receipts Taxes to secure such financing, with the Community Facilities Trust Fund being applied, as security for repayment of any Matching Fund Revenue Bonds issued, or as an offset to the General Fund in an amount equal to the debt service allocable to the Paul E. Joseph Stadium Project and/or the Mars Hill Project, if Gross Receipts Taxes Bonds are issued,” de Jongh wrote in his letter to Malone. The legislation also authorizes $70,000,000 for transportation projects (Melvin Evans Highway and Veterans Drive) to be funded with Grant Anticipation Revenue Bonds, or GARVEEs as they are commonly called.

The projects comprise a portion of the Melvin Evans Highway Project from West Airport road to Hannah’s Rest on St Croix in the principal amount of $30,000,000; and a portion of the Veterans Drive Project from the Long Bay Road/Lover’s Lane Intersection to Vendors’ Plaza on St. Thomas in the principal amount of $40,000,000. “The GARVEE Bonds would be repaid utilizing approximately 50% of the anticipated annual federal highway revenues and will not impact the General Fund. The territory has been working with the Federal Highway Administration on these projects for decades. The required studies and approvals have all been accomplished and the projects are ready to proceed upon receipt of the necessary authorization by this body. The Veterans Drive project has been in various stages of movement since long before the advent of my administration, and no major work has been done on the Melvin Evans Highway since it was opened to traffic in 1980,” de Jongh explained. “The commencement of these projects will allow us to match the tremendous work reflected in the completion of the Christiansted By-Pass with an equal effort on the Melvin Evans Highway and address congestion on the main artery between Long Bay and downtown Charlotte Amalie. De Jongh also through the legislation is seeking approval for certain projects funded from the Community Facilities Trust account, wherein the resources to immediately undertaken these projects are available. “These projects are geared towards roadwork, improved security measures, camera surveillance, and harbor dredging. All these projects have as the central core a focus on our historic areas and housing communities to improve activity in each accordingly,” he said Monday.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH SALUTES OUTSTANDING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES AT ANNUAL RECOGNITION AWARDS CEREMONY ON ST. THOMAS THURSDAY; ST. CROIX EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION CEREMONY SET FOR TODAY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 06, 2014 at 2:00 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. hosted the 25th Annual Employee Recognition awards ceremony Thursday on St. Thomas and will host a similar ceremony today on St. Croix. The ceremonies are dedicated to those government employees who have been selected as “Employee of the Year” by their respective departments and agencies.

“Since becoming Governor in 2007, I have been privileged to head an exemplary public service organization, the Government of the Virgin Islands. Once a year, we pay tribute to our public service employees during the Annual Employee Recognition Week or, as it is known nationally, Public Service Recognition Week. Since 1989, the Territory has participated in this national commemoration by producing its own special events involving our most dedicated public servants,” de Jongh said at the ceremony held at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef resort on Thursday afternoon.

He noted that public employees are the face of our government. They provide the most direct interaction with our clients, who are the residents and oftentimes visitors of the Virgin Islands. Public service is often not recognized for its value to our community or society. “It may not be the type of work that is considered prestigious or glamorous or exciting or profitable, but in many ways it is the most important. Those individuals who choose public service as a profession actually convert the ideals of democracy into daily services that benefit everyone,” the governor said.

In remarks prepared for the event, de Jongh noted that “despite very difficult times economically, our public service workers have continued to maintain standards of operation, find better and more efficient ways to complete assignments, and provide valuable services to the citizens of the Virgin Islands. I know this has not been easy, but I am thankful for your support, consideration and understanding.”

MEETING OF THE VIPFA BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 05, 2014 at 1:30 PM AST
Governor de Jongh chairs Wednesday's meeting of the VI Public Finance Authority Board of Directors.

On Wednesday, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. chaired a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority. At the meeting, the board approved the renomination of Leona Smith, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Roosevelt David and Alda Monsanto to the Board of Directors of the West Indian Company, Limited. WICO is a wholly owned subsidiary of the VIPFA.

The PFA board members also received an update on ongoing projects at Wednesday's meeting.

Ten New Heavy Duty VITRAN Buses are Headed to the Territory
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 04, 2014 at 12:20 PM AST
Newly constructed heavy duty VITRAN buses were subject to final inspection last week before shipment to the territory. The buses should arrive in the Virgin Islands within the next 30-45 days.

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls spent several days on the mainland last week conducting final inspections of ten new heavy duty VITRAN buses that are headed to the territory in the next month and a half. The buses, which totaled $4.7 million, were paid for by Federal Highway Administration funds. St. Thomas and St. Croix will each see four new buses added to the VI transit system while two buses will run the route on St. John. .

This week, Smalls is at another bus facility conducting similar inspections of twelve medium duty buses that will soon be added to the VI bus routes in both island districts. The smaller buses, which totaled $2 million, were Federal Transit Administration funding.

Interiors of the newly constructed heavy duty VITRAN buses.
MEDIA ADVISORY--MY FEELINGS ARE A WORK OF ART CONTEST AWARDS CEREMONIES
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on June 04, 2014 at 10:00 AM AST

Media Partners,

Governor and Mrs. de Jongh will host awards ceremonies on Thursday and Friday of this week for the "My Feelings Are A Work of Art Contest". The ceremonies are scheduled for Thursday at 9 am at Government House on St. Thomas and Friday at 10 am at Government House in Christiansted, St. Croix.

The contest sought to increase awareness about the importance of maintaining good mental health, as well as to identify, recognize, support and encourage young Virgin Islanders who demonstrate talent in the visual arts. The first place winners artwork will have the honor of being on display in Government House in St. Thomas from May to October 2014 and will be featured in the online publication, VI Source. The second and third place winners will receive honorable mentions and will also be featured in the VI Source publication. The artist and the school he or she attends will be recognized.

Both ceremonies are open press.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH SAYS FISCAL YEAR 2015 BUDGET WILL BE DELAYED
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 29, 2014 at 5:50 PM AST

Governor John P. deJongh, Jr. today advised Senate President Shawn Michael Malone and the members of the 30th Legislature that the submission of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget - the Governor’s eighth and final spending plan for the operations of the Virgin Islands government - will be delayed. In his letter to the Legislature, Governor de Jongh announced the delay and estimated that the official submission of the budget will take place no later than June 16.

De Jongh also informed the Senate President that, “of the many challenges that have impeded the development of the Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget submission, two outstanding issues remain the most prevalent:

  • The Fiscal Year 2014 $40 million projected cash flow shortfall, which has yet to be addressed by the Legislature;
  • The delay in updating the government’s financial management system (the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System) because funding requested to do so in FY 2014 was not appropriated;

The Governor highlighted the fact that dating back to last November his administration has met on several occasions with the senators to address the current $40 million dollar shortfall in this year’s budget and despite those meetings, “we still await the Legislature’s recommendations to address this shortfall.” Additionally, deJongh said, “the lack of upgrades to our ERP System has created substantial difficulties and delays in our ability to input a new fiscal year budget into the system. We anticipate that the Legislature will shortly approve the requested funding for these critical updates.”

The Governor highlighted the fact that dating back to last November his administration has met on several occasions with the senators to address the current $40 million dollar shortfall in this year’s budget and despite those meetings, “we still await the Legislature’s recommendations to address this shortfall.” Additionally, deJongh said, “the lack of upgrades to our ERP System has created substantial difficulties and delays in our ability to input a new fiscal year budget into the system. We anticipate that the Legislature will shortly approve the requested funding for these critical updates.”

Given the fact that Virgin Islands law requires the submission of the annual budget by May 31st of each year, the Governor went on to reassure Senate President Malone and the 30th Legislature that, “my Administration will continue to work collaboratively with you and members of the 30th Legislature…throughout the upcoming budget process to bring about solutions for the people of the Virgin Islands as we move forward in this very challenging economic environment.”

Read the Governor's official letter here

Listen to the Governor's remarks here

GOVERNOR’S CHILDREN AND FAMILIES COUNCIL INVITES COORDINATORS OF YOUTH PROGRAMS TO TOWN HALL MEETING
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM AST

A town hall meeting aimed at bringing together all youth leaders, mentors and advisors is scheduled for Friday, May 30, at 9:00 am at the Department of Education Curriculum Centers on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

The meeting, to be held via video conference, is being hosted by the Governor’s Children and Families Council Youth Development Group. “We hope that tomorrow’s meeting will facilitate a discussion of the issues affecting children while allowing participants to gain knowledge of existing programs,” said Sekoia Rogers, Special Assistant to the Governor.

The Youth Development Group was formed in 2013 under the leadership of Scott Bradley (Founder & Program Director of My Brother’s Workshop). The group aims to advise the Children and Families Council on all matters regarding the welfare of the youth from nine (9) through twenty-four (24) years of age, assist in the unification and utilization of all databases in the Territory, as well as provide oversight of a unified system that provides information on services available to the youth from nine (9) through twenty-four (24) years of age to support academic success, reduce criminal involvement and is able to be integrated, measured and held accountable to ensure services, referral, monitoring, and follow-up for required youths.

The group is comprised of persons from various agencies, both public and private, who provide services directly for children and young adults.

For additional information, please call 340-693-4316.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH APPLAUDS LOCAL GROUPS' EFFORTS TO TEACH SWIMMING
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 29, 2014 at 1:00 PM AST

"I want to acknowledge and congratulate the coalition of the Boys & Girls Club of St. Thomas, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Marine Vocational Program, which have joined forces to teach children how to swim," stated Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. "With the first two-hour swimming lesson on May 17, 23 members of the Boys & Girls Club of St. Thomas have been given the opportunity to learn an important and potentially life-saving skill. As an island Territory, it is so important that Virgin Islanders know how to swim, as well as enjoy and utilize the beautiful waters surrounding us for recreational and possibly commercial purposes."

According to a media release issued by the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament, which operates and funds the Marine Vocational Program (MVP) under the Learning for Life platform of the Boy Scouts of America, the swimming lessons were provided to the children at no cost by the MVP. In turn, the MVP is supported by the local business community, charitable trusts, and the marine and sports fishing industries. Transportation to the St. Thomas Swimming Association pool in Red Hook, for the children, their parents and staff of the Boys & Girls Club, is being provided by Tropic Tours.

"I am so enthusiastic about this initiative and the number of groups and individuals involved. Cooperation on this magnitude speaks so well of our community and its ability to identify needs and then meet them. As our youngsters complete the six-week program and become proficient in swimming, they can then become more involved in other marine endeavors, like snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and fishing, to name just a few water activities. A whole new world awaits them," stated the Governor.

The mission of the MVP is "to teach Virgin Islands’ youth the skills they need in order to follow a career path in marine tourism, commercial marine industries and associated marine-related support services," as stated in the original media release. The Boy Scouts' program, Learning for Life, is open to children in the Boys & Girls Club of St. Thomas who are not currently enrolled in scouting.

MEDIA ADVISORY--CEREMONY SCHEDULED TO TRANSFER CONTROL OF THE VI HOUSING AUTHORITY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. will host a ceremony on Friday, May 30, 2014 to formally transfer control of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority from the federal government to the Government of the Virgin Islands. The VIHA has been in federal receivership since 2003.

At the Government House, St. Thomas ceremony, de Jongh will be joined by officials of both the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, HUD, and the VI Housing Authority.

The ceremony, which is open press, will begin at 2 pm.

SAHARA DUST IMPACTS TERRITORY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 28, 2014 at 9:30 AM AST

Commissioner Alicia Barnes of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources informs the public of an air pollution alert for dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa.

The dust causes the skies around the Virgin Islands to be hazy, which reduces the visibility and results in poor air quality. As a result of the dust storms and a rise in warm air, the sand rises above the desert. These sandy dust particles are transported from the North African desert westward over the Atlantic Ocean across the Caribbean.

Carlos Anselmi, Meteorologist Intern, at the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico has confirmed that there are traces of Sahara Dust over the territory and the satellite indicates it will show a stronger presence over the next week.

While this haze may not be an immediate threat, persons with allergies or respiratory ailments should remain indoors when possible, and consult their physicians or healthcare professional for further guidance.

Sahara dust storms pass through the region several times a year, but mainly in the spring and throughout the summer months.

For more information contact the Division of Environmental Protection at 773-1082 or go to www.nasa.gov or http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/current/TIST.html

DIV OF PERSONNEL, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE GESC HEALTH INSURANCE BOARD PRESENT “GVI’s BIGGEST LOSER” SUMMER COMPETITION
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 26, 2014 at 1:30 PM AST

The Division of Personnel, in partnership with the Government Employees Service Commission Health Insurance Board, wants to help employees reach their weight loss goals for 2014 and is pleased to present the “GVI’s Biggest Loser.” This 12-week summer competition is designed to challenge and empower government employees to lose weight the healthy way. With a Certified Fitness Trainer in each district, participants are required to form teams of five (5) and must participate in fitness assessments that include monthly weigh-ins and weekly boot-camp classes. Participants will also receive modified exercise plans, weekly nutritional tips and fun facts by email.

This initiative is open to government employees covered under the GVI’s Group Health Insurance Plan and each participant must obtain medical clearance from a licensed physician. This competition is part of the Division’s Wellness Program, which has a mission of “Helping Employees Achieve Long Term Health”. Personnel Director Kenneth L. Hermon, Jr. stated, “The health benefits of regular physical activity are far-reaching. It reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, and other chronic diseases prevalent in our local community. It also lowers health care costs and improves the quality of life.”

The GVI’s Biggest Loser officially launches June 9, 2014 in both districts, but leading up to the launch, participating teams are required to complete an Initial Fitness Assessment in each district on Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.

Interested employees need to first register their teams with the Division of Personnel by Friday, May 30, 2014 in order to participate in the “GVI’s Biggest Loser” and compete for a chance to win the grand prize. For contest rules and the official entry form, visit: www.dopusvi.org or contact your GVI agencies’ HR office. For more information, please contact Ms. Jervon Ottley at 774-8588 ext. 5114.

GOVERNOR JOHN P. DE JONGH, JR. AND VIRGIN ISLANDS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY MEET WITH TOP TAX ADVISORS IN ATLANTA
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 27, 2014 at 12:05 PM AST
Governor de Jongh takes a question from the audience during his presentation at a tax benefits seminar and reception in Atlanta last week.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. along with top officials from the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority participated in the USVI Economic Development Summit in Atlanta this past week.

The two-day summit hosted by the USVI Alliance brought together Virgin Islanders from academic, industry and government sectors to collaborate on economic development strategies.

While in Atlanta, the VIEDA capitalized on the opportunity to meet face-to-face with site selection consultants based in the area. Additionally, the VIEDA hosted a tax benefits seminar and reception for 20-plus targeted tax and personal wealth management advisors.

“Atlanta is a prime market for the U.S. Virgin Islands to deliver its message of a place of promise, opportunity and prosperity,” de Jongh said. “Many executives within the tax community have heard of the USVI’s unique tax incentive programs, but this seminar gave them the chance to learn in more depth how the USVI can help the businesses they advise.”

Led by a presentation from the Governor, the tax benefits seminar was delivered to a standing-room-only crowd. The seminar also included remarks by Jennifer Nugent-Hill, Assistant CEO and Chief Operating Officer of the VIEDA; insight from the Governor’s legal counsel Nagesh Tammara; a compelling company testimonial from Timothy Hayes, Executive Vice President of Ocwen Mortgage Servicing, Inc.; and a call-to-action by Commissioner Albert Bryan, Chairman of the VIEDA Governing Board.

During the summit, the VIEDA delegation also participated in the “Building an Economic Ecosystem” panel, which educated summit attendees on the Economic Development Commission (EDC) tax incentive program. De Jongh delivered the summit’s keynote address, noting how the USVI’s diversification of industries will lead to economic success in years to come.

Listen to Governor de Jongh's remarks:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Applications available for the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation 2014 Annual Summer Sports Camps
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 27, 2014 at 11:45 AM AST

Commissioner St. Claire N. Williams of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation announced that applications are now available for the 2014 Annual Summer Sports Camps that will be conducted from June 30th through July 25th to coincide with the Department of Education School Lunch Program. He noted that the Department will have about thirteen (13) sports and enrichment camps territory-wide where each participant will receive skills training in their favorite sport to include baseball, tennis, basketball, and swimming. “The camps are designed for children with a true interest in a variety of sports and recreational activities and are open to boys and girls, ages 7 to 15”, stated Commissioner Williams.

He encourages early registration for the summer sports camp programs for they are very popular, reasonably cost and space is limited and outlined that applications can be obtained on St. Croix at the Department’s LBJ Gardens Main Office, the D. C. Canegata Recreation Center, Renholdt Jackson Recreation Complex and the Vincent Mason Pool in Frederiksted; on St. Thomas at the Department’s Main Office in Sub Base, Winston Raymo Recreation Center and Alvin McBean Recreation Complex; and on St. John at the Cruz Bay Recreation Center.

For additional information, the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation Offices in their respective island can be contacted.

Governor's Conference Call with Representatives of Environmental Resource Management and Compass
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. hosted a recent conference call with representatives of Environmental Resource Management and Compass to review the proposed fundraising and construction of the Marine Research and Education Center at Salt River Bay National Park and Ecological Preserve on St. Croix. The call was an update on the project status in preparation for a meeting with the U.S. National Park Service's Development Advisory Board later this year.

De Jongh was joined at Government House by Policy Advisor Colette Monroe. Participating in the call was Michael Bayer representing ERM; VI Energy Office Director Karl Knight and three representatives of the Compass Group: Nick Scully, Christi Shields and Carol Thornton.

STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR JOHN P. DE JONGH, JR. MEMORIAL DAY 2014
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM AST

Monday is Memorial Day, our national holiday for remembering and honoring those who died in service for our country. The first known observance of “Decoration Day,” as the holiday was originally called, was in May of 1866, following the devastating losses from the Civil War. Now, nearly 150 years after that very bloody war between the states, we continue to lose military men and women engaged in protecting our country's interests. Just within the last 100 years, the blood of American soldiers, sailors, marines and air force personnel has been spilt on battlefields across the world, from Europe to Southeast Asia to the Middle East to Africa and the Caribbean. Even today, Memorial Day, American military men and women are on duty in several foreign locations, safeguarding our freedoms and the liberties of our allies.

In the Virgin Islands, Memorial Day has been an important holiday since the territory was acquired by the United States in 1917. Our brave men and women have served in nearly every American military conflict since that year, and even today are deployed in far-flung trouble spots. On this special day, it is our obligation to perform gestures of remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As a community, we will hold graveside ceremonies for our fallen heroes, followed by parades on both islands. I urge all Virgin Islanders to participate in these planned activities or to develop personal, meaningful ways of honoring our military dead.

In the Virgin Islands, Memorial Day has been an important holiday since the territory was acquired by the United States in 1917. Our brave men and women have served in nearly every American military conflict since that year, and even today are deployed in far-flung trouble spots. On this special day, it is our obligation to perform gestures of remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As a community, we will hold graveside ceremonies for our fallen heroes, followed by parades on both islands. I urge all Virgin Islanders to participate in these planned activities or to develop personal, meaningful ways of honoring our military dead.

No matter where you are on Memorial Day Monday, take a few moments to reflect on those who sacrificed themselves for our freedoms. Please bow your heads at 3 p.m. for the National Moment of Remembrance and offer a silent tribute to our lost heroes. Let us make sure that the true meaning of Memorial Day will never be forgotten, and neither will the valiant Virgin Islanders who died defending our nation. Please mark this solemn holiday with true respect.

As Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Virgin Islands National Guard, I pray for the safe return of our soldiers on duty in foreign locations, and salute our fallen military personnel. We are duty-bound to honor their sacrifices. May the souls of our departed heroes rest in eternal peace.

Memorial Day Ceremonies
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM AST

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, 2014, the American Legion District Number 10 along with the Office of Veterans Affairs will do its part to honor our veterans. District Commander Charles David and Veterans Affairs Director Harry Daniel announced that the Territory has several events planned for Memorial Day. In addition to the Memorial Day parade, Post members plan to place flags on all veterans' graves in the cemeteries in the Virgin Islands and attend church service at a church of their choice on Sunday, 25 May. The Legion, in conjunction with the Virgin Islands National Guard 73rd Army Band will perform and sponsor a Pre-Memorial Day Concert at the Vern Richards Veterans Park in Frederiksted, St. Croix starting at 5:00 p.m. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to remember those who have died in our nation's service, he said.

Our mission this year is quite clear, David said, and that is to Honor and Remember all veterans who gave their lives in the service of our country, and to recognize and thank all veterans, past and present, who have served our country in the Armed Forces of the United States; the National Guard; the Reserves; and our Allies; and have thereby kept us free.

The Memorial Day ceremony will be hosted by the Enrique Romero Nieves American Legion Post #102 on St. Croix and by the Patrick U. George American Legion Post #90 on St. Thomas. The traditional observance at the cemetery has a long history and is scheduled as part of this years Memorial Day observance. American Legion Post will decorate the graves of fallen comrades with flags. The event on St. Croix will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Bassin Triangle, Christiansted where a parade will start and move on to the Christiansted Cemetery for a graveside service at the grave of Comrade Ralph Munchez, Sr. The parade will then continue on to the Christiansted waterfront where a seaside service will be conducted and honors rendered.

After the parade and graveside/seaside ceremony, a special honors ceremony will take place at the Christiansted Bandstand. During the ceremony, Major Glenda Mathrine Lee, Human Resources Officer of the Virgin Islands National Guard will present the 2014 Memorial Day address.

On St. Thomas, the ceremony will begin at 9:30 at Western Cemetery #1 with a graveside ceremony. The parade will then move down Main Street to the Emile White Memorial for a seaside ceremony. This ceremony has long been a tribute to Navy Veteran Emil White and all those who have paid that ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to live free. As we always say “Freedom is not Free”. The parade will then proceed to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Veterans Park for the official Memorial Day Ceremony. Dr. Lee Carl Whitaker, Medical Director for the St. Thomas community Base Clinic will present the keynote address.

Celebration on St. John will include graves decoration and church service attendance.

Troops from the Virgin Islands National Guard, JROTC from all High Schools, will participate in the parade again this year along with Boys Scouts and school bands. The theme of the parade is “Honor and Remember!” according to Director Daniel and Commander David.

We would like that all Virgin Islands residents fly the American flag on Memorial Day to express appreciation to all veterans and current members of the Armed Forces by joining the nation at 3 p.m. as we observe The National Moment of Remembrance, a tribute to our fallen and their survivors.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH APPOINTS 14 MEMBERS TO CENTENNIAL COMMISSION; V.I. LEGISLATURE ADDS TWO MEMBERS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 20, 2014 at 5:00 PM AST
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty speaks during a recent meeting of the newly-appointed Centennial Commission. To the commissioner's left is Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. today announced his appointees to the Centennial Commission, a "special and temporary" commission established for "the purpose of formulating plans and making preparations to commemorate and celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States of America", in accordance with Act No. 7157 enacted in 2010.

The Act was amended in January of this year to specify that the Centennial Commission must include six residents of St. Croix, six residents of St. Thomas, and three residents of St. John, all to be appointed by the Governor. In addition, the commission is to include the Presidents of two Virgin Islands organizations which foster the ongoing relationship between the Virgin Islands and Denmark. The enabling legislation also provides that the President of the Legislature appoints two senators, one from each district.

De Jongh said today, "I selected individuals who are active in the community and have held leadership positions in various organizations ranging from cultural commissions to academia. I wanted to ensure that the Centennial Commission represents the strength and diversity of the community, and that the Commission members appreciate not only that the future of the Virgin Islands grows out of our cultural and social ties to Denmark and the United States, but that the future we build together is one which we can all embrace and understand."

The Governor's appointees from St. Croix are: Sonia Jacobs Dow, Al Franklin, Gerville Larsen, Hans Lawaetz, Eugene Petersen, and Pamela C. Richards Samuel. The St. Thomas appointees are Cecile R. de Jongh, Lois Hassell-Habtes, Marilyn Krigger, Ronald Lockhart, Clement Magras, and Roy Watlington. There are two appointees from St. John, Pat Harley and Robert O'Connor, with a third to be appointed in the near future. Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone has appointed Senator Myron D. Jackson from the St. Thomas-St. John District and Senator Sammuel Sanes from the St. Croix District to serve on the Commission. The body has elected Mrs. Richards Samuel as its chair and Mr. Larsen as its vice-chair.

"The Transfer Day Centennial is an opportunity to showcase the Virgin Islands on a grand scale and help others appreciate the contributions of Virgin Islands to the Nation since we became U.S. citizens," continued the Governor. "I also envision that our Centennial celebrations will include an open dialogue on the struggles that our ancestors overcame to ensure the liberties we enjoy today. Also part of these celebrations must be an exploration of our cultural inheritance from Denmark, the United States and Africa. By understanding our past, I am confident that we can foster a future of greater economic opportunity for all. I believe that the Centennial Commission can help us all better define and understand who and what we are as Virgin Islanders. I believe that the Commission appointees understand the importance of their task, and will successfully develop a full array of events, seminars, discussions that will focus the world's spotlight on the Virgin Islands," he said.

Act No. 7157 established a separate fund within the Treasury of the Virgin Islands to provide resources for the Transfer Day anniversary celebration, which is to "commence on or before August 4, 2016 and terminate on December 31, 2017." The legislation also specifies that the Commissioner of Tourism is responsible for establishing the policies for the expenditure of all monies contained in the fund.

Listen to the Governor's remarks here

GOVERNOR DE JONGH CALLS FOR ALL IN THE GOVERNMENT, THE SENATE AND THE COMMUNITY TO WORK TOGETHER FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 19, 2014 at 10:25 AM AST

By his actions late tonight in which he vetoed proposed changes to the economic development policies of the government, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. called for all parties to work together to develop a modernized and effective framework for economic development of the territory incorporating the best practice of the EDC and RT Park. The governor reviewed his actions as well as his proposals for how to move forward in a letter to Senate President Shawn Michael Malone.

Read the Governor's letter to Senator Malone here

Read the Attorney General's Opinion here --- Part 1

Read the Attorney General's Opinion here --- Part 2

GOVERNOR DE JONGH TAKES ACTION ON MEASURES PASSED IN THE 12TH SESSION OF THE 30TH LEGISLATURE
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 19, 2014 at 10:15 AM AST

Read the Governor's official letter to Senator Malone here

Late tonight, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. took action on various bills enacted in a recent session of the 30th Legislature. The text of de Jongh’s transmittal letter to Senate President Shawn Michael Malone follows:

Beginning with the several zoning measures, I have approved the following:  Bill No. 30-0353, rezoning Plot Nos. 148 and 149-C Estate Carlton, St. Croix from R-3 (Residential – Medium Density) to B-3 (Business-Scattered); Bill No. 30-0354,  rezoning Plot Nos. 293-1, 293-2 and 293-3 Estate Barren Spot, St. Croix from R-2 (Residential – Low Density – One and Two Family) to B-2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood); Bill No. 30-0359, granting a zoning use variance for Parcel No. 3 Estate Mafolie, No. 8F Northside Quarter, St. Thomas to allow for professional offices; Bill No. 30-0360, rezoning Parcel No. 43 Second Division Estate Thomas, St. Thomas, from R-2 (Residential – Low Density – One and Two Family) to B-2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood); Bill No. 30-0361, rezoning Parcel No. 68D, Estate Lindberg Bay, St. Thomas from P (Public) to (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood); Bill No. 30-0362, granting a zoning use variance for Parcels Nos. 15 and 15B Remainder Estate Smith Bay, Nos. 1, 2 and 3 East End Quarter, St. Thomas, to allow for professional offices and repealing Act No. 7173; Bill No. 30-0364, granting a zoning use variance for Parcel No. 41-4-6 Estate Frydenhoj, No. 3 Red Hook Quarter, St. Thomas to allow for a guesthouse; Bill No. 30-0369, rezoning Parcel No. 159A Estate Submarine Base, No. 6 South Side Quarter, St. Thomas, from P (Public) to I-1 (Heavy-Industry); Bill No. 30-0371, to rezone Plot No. 246-L Estate Glynn, St. Croix, from A-2 (Agriculture Zone) to R-2 (Residential – Low Density – One and Two-Family); and Bill No. 30-0372, granting a zoning use variance for Plot No. 18-D Estate Plessen, St. Croix to allow for water distribution and the operation of a small guest house.

Specific to Bill No. 30-0363, rezoning Parcel No. 62-5 Estate Thomas, No. 6A New Quarter, St. Thomas from R-1 (Residential – Low Density) to R-5 (Residential-High Density), it must be noted that the property has recently been subdivided, thereby changing the acreage subject to the aforementioned rezoning designation.  Thus, notwithstanding my approval, further amendments will be necessary to ensure consistency with this subdivision. 

I have approved Bill No. 30-0004, which is intended to further the use of alternative energy throughout the Territory.  Enabling third party entities to develop small to mid-sized renewable energy generators, which are smaller than utility scale systems but larger than the currently sanctioned net metering systems, is consistent with the trend in energy policies nationwide. 

However, implementation of the Feed-In-Tariff by both the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and the Public Services Commission (“PSC”) will come with challenges if additional time for the submission of the power purchase agreements is not granted and funding limitations must be addressed in order for the PSC to properly exercise its oversight.

Because Bill No. 30-0013, establishing Bullying Prevention Education and Gang Resistance Education Training within the Territory’s public schools, will also further my intent to institute an anti-gun violence program as set forth within the supplemental budget appropriation proposal submitted on January 27th of this year, I have signed it into law.  The importance of teaching our young people about the scourge of bullying and gang activity can hardly be underemphasized.  Therefore, though the measure presented to me is a positive addition to the current public school health curriculum, I must express my concern that the program encompassed in this Bill, unlike my proposal, has potential negative implications on our federal education dollars and we must be careful not to interfere with the receipt of such critical funding.  Moreover, amendments to the Education Initiative Fund, submitted to this body nearly a year ago, are necessary to ensure the funding is directed as mandated by this measure. 

While I have approved Bill No. 30-0023, amending title 33 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 83, to require an assessment of the cadastral and land records housed in the Office of Lieutenant Governor, this body must remain vigilant over the feasibility of such an endeavor without a properly identified funding source to accomplish this costly task, especially in light of the current fiscal situation.

STATEMENT BY GOVERNMENT HOUSE GOVERNOR JUAN F. LUIS HOSPITAL
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM AST

The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital continues to grapple with serious financial challenges. As a result of an ongoing effort by the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue to collect outstanding taxes, action was taken against the cash assets of the JFL Hospital. While the Bureau cannot comment on specific taxpayer cases, Government House can confirm that an action was taken and a compromise was arrived at by the end of the day today.

As part of the ongoing effort to assist the JFLH during its fiscally challenging times, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. authorized the Office of Management and Budget and Department of Finance to once again today make an advance appropriation release to the JFLH in the amount of $1.2 million. Additionally, members of the administration’s financial team engaged conversations with bank officials to ensure that the payroll checks issued on Thursday would be honored. It is expected that additional steps will be taken next week to ensure that the next payroll this month is also met.

Throughout this process, the administration has kept the Legislature informed about the fact that JFL Hospital was utilizing its Fiscal Year 2014 appropriation at an accelerated rate and at that rate, the JFL Hospital’s annual appropriation would be exhausted well before the end of the fiscal year.

The emergency requests from JFL Hospital for Fiscal Year 2014 allotment advances has substantially disrupted the central government’s cash flow planning. Throughout the fiscal year the Administration has advised members of the 30th Legislature at various times of JFL Hospital’s precarious situation and as recently as last week, the Administration advised the members of the 30th Legislature that the situation at the JFL Hospital had gotten worse and that by June 2014, JFL Hospital would have been allotted their entire Fiscal Year 2014 appropriation.

Listen to the Governor's Remarks --- Part 1

Listen to the Governor's Remarks --- Part 2

Listen to the Governor's Remarks --- Part 3

Governor de Jongh Chairs Meeting of viNGN’s Board of Directors
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM AST
Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. chaired today's meeting of the viNGN Board of Directors.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. convened a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) this morning on St. Thomas.

The board discussed several matters, including the recent annual program site visit by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) team from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the status of implementation of each of viNGN’s federally-funded broadband programs, including its free Digital Literacy training programs; its efforts to encourage sustainable broadband adoption amongst all Virgin Islanders; its offering of access to free Public Computer Centers (PCC’s) on St. Croix and St. Thomas and plans to open PCC’s on St. John to the general public; its build-out of a 100% fiber optic, open access network and offering of low cost, reliable, high-speed broadband services to all Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) throughout the territory, so that the ISP’s can offer better and less expensive services to their customers which include businesses, government offices and residences; and, the overall operation of the network.

“This meeting was called to have a general discussion on many facets of the daily operations of viNGN as we continue the unprecedented build-out of a 100% fiber optic, high speed Internet network that is available to all ISP’s and is available across all of the Virgin Islands. The board was updated on these matters, as well as on the completion of the various Fiber Access Points (FAP’s) across St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas and the connection of more than 200 Community Anchor Institutions (CAI’s) that are ready for service from their selected ISP’s, powered on and enhanced by the viNGN network,” de Jongh said.

The Board of Directors was also informed that viNGN is up to date on the issuance of financial statement and grant program audits that are conducted by private, independent auditors and has begun efforts to complete its FY 2013 audits.

GOVERNMENT HOUSE COMMENT ON RESIGNATION OF GGACF WARDEN BASIL RICHARDS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 8, 2014 at 5:10 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has today accepted the resignation of GGACF Warden Basil Richards. Richards, who over the weekend informally advised the governor of his intent to resign, submitted a formal resignation letter on Wednesday. The letter was dated May 12, 2014 and is effective immediately.

Richards acknowledged that change is needed for both the correctional facility and for himself and his family. He wrote in the resignation letter that he could no longer resist the need to implement change for him and his family.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH EXPRESSES SHOCK AND SADNESS OVER DEATH OF DR. JAMES CLAYTON
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 14, 2014 at 10:40 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. today expressed his dismay and sadness at learning that Dr. James P. Clayton had died of lung cancer. Dr. Clayton was Medical Director and Chief Executive Officer of Cruz Bay Family Practice, Red Hook Family Practice, and Yacht Haven Family Practice. He relocated to St. John in 1990, and worked for the Government of the Virgin Islands for seven years before moving into full-time private practice.

"Dr. Clayton provided invaluable medical services to the people of St. John and St. Thomas," stated the Governor. "He believed that quality health care should be available to anyone at any time, and built his successful practice on that philosophy. This viewpoint helped him attract other qualified doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and administrative personnel, with the result that the staff at the three Family Practice centers are dedicated, caring, and extremely competent professionals. Dr. Clayton's enduring contribution to this community will be the excellent, family-centered health care services available at the three facilities. He will most definitely be missed."

"I truly admired Dr. Clayton," Governor de Jongh remarked. "He was extremely knowledgeable and always on top of the latest advances in medicine and medical technology. He strived to provide the best results for each patient, and propelled others to keep up with him. He loved the Virgin Islands and was known by his co-workers, patients and friends for being generous, compassionate and truly interested in the people around him. He became involved in the initiative, Healthcare for the Homeless, and donated electronic medical care records software and printers to the effort at its inception in 2012," remembered de Jongh.

"Cecile and I offer our deepest condolences to Dr. Clayton's wife Lee Eng Khauv; to his sister Vivian; to his associates at Cruz Bay, Red Hook and Yacht Haven Family Practices; to his many patients; and to his numerous friends and admirers in the Virgin Islands, United States and Canada," he said.

DE JONGH: U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS TSUNAMI READY; VIRGIN ISLANDS BETTER PREPARED TO SAVE LIVES FROM TSUNAMIS THROUGH PLANNING, EDUCATION AND AWARENESS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 14, 2014 at 10:20 PM AST
Governor de Jongh, VITEMA Director Elton Lewis and participants of the Ninth Session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Coordinating Group. The three day conference conference continues through Thursday at the Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas.

Addressing the opening the Ninth Session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Coordinating Group on Tsunamis, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. on Tuesday said that the Virgin Islands has been designated as Tsunami Ready by the United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. “We have worked long and hard for this recognition and as a result of our efforts, the territory is better prepared to save lives from the onslaught of tsunamis through our extensive planning, education and public awareness. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” de Jongh said today. TsunamiReady is granted by NOAA once certain requirements are met such as establishing an emergency operations center and a 24-hour warning point to receive tsunami information.

Over the last several years, the Virgin Islands has made significant achievements to reach Tsunami-Ready status including building two modernized 911 communications call centers, emergency operations centers, installation of an early warning siren system and tsunami signs, implementing a mass notification system, VI Alert, for instant alerts and enhancing tsunami education outreach and training programs. While no community is tsunami proof, de Jongh said, being deemed Tsunami Ready can help save lives. The recognition is valid for three year or through March 2017.

The governor used his remarks to welcome more than 50 scientists and emergency managers representing 17 countries and four scientific search organizations, coming together to continue the group's work to develop a Caribbean Tsunami Warning System to prevent loss of life and destruction of property. “The aim is also to mitigate against catastrophic economic impacts. The system will provide timely and accurate forecasts and warnings of coastal flooding and associated hazards due to tsunami, storm surge and hurricanes.” Countries represented at the conference include: Barbados, Colombia, Curacao, Dominican Republic, France, Haiti, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sint Maarten, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela.

In February 2013, de Jongh accepted UNESCO’s request for the territory to host the conference and tasked VITEMA with preparing for the arrival of international guests to the territory. The committee included officials from the Office of the Governor, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Property and Procurement, Bureau of Information Technology, the V.I. Police Department, the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association as well representatives of Innovative and Choice Communications.

The conference which opened today continues through Thursday.

May 13-15, 2014, the Virgin Islands will host the Ninth Session of the UNESCO IOC ICG/CARIBE EWS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 13, 2014 at 6:00 PM AST

On May 13-15, 2014, the Virgin Islands will host the Ninth Session of the UNESCO IOC ICG/CARIBE EWS, an intergovernmental coordinating group of international scientists and emergency managers working collaboratively to establish a Caribbean Tsunami Warning System. The group’s ultimate goal is to reduce the loss of life and livelihoods due to coastal hazards.

The conference will be held at the Sugar Bay Resort & Spa on St. Thomas, and this is the group’s first meeting on U.S. soil since its inception in 2005. UNESCO IOC ICG/CARIBE EWS stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions.

More than 50 participants are expected to attend the conference,  representing 17 countries, including; Barbados,  Colombia, Curacao, Dominican Republic, France, Haiti, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sint Maarten, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela. In addition, organizations represented will include the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, UNAVCO and
the Caribbean Tsunami Information Center. 

“We are honored to both host and be a part of the US delegation to this conference,” said VITEMA Director Elton Lewis. “All of the organizations and countries represented in the 9th Session of the ICG/CARIBE EWS are contributing significantly to evaluating risks and building tsunami programs that reduce the loss of life and the negative impact on economies.” 

The United States delegation attending the conference comprises officials from National Weather Service/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service(NWS/NOAA), the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, the VITEMA Director and Roy Watlington, St. Thomas native and scientist.  Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, manager of the NOAA Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program at Mayaguez, P.R., chairs the ICG/CARIBE EWS. “We are delighted and appreciative that the 9th Session of the ICG is being hosted by the USVI,” Von Hillebrandt-Andrade said.

“There have been significant advances and activities over the past year in  the region and look forward to the input of the Member States to continue strengthening our Tsunami Warning System.”

In February 2013, Governor John P. de Jongh Jr. accepted UNESCO’s request for the USVI to host the conference and tasked VITEMA with preparing for the arrival of international guests to the Territory. The committee  included officials from the Office of the Governor, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Property and Procurement, Bureau of Information Technology, the VI Police Department, the VI Hotel and Tourism Association as well representatives of Innovative and Choice  Communications. Watlington served as an advisor to the committee.

Bernardo Aliaga Of the UNESCO IOC Secretariat and Governor John P. De Jongh Jr. will deliver the welcome and opening remarks at the opening ceremony which scheduled to begin 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 13th.

TsunamiReady Recognition Ceremony

During the conference’s opening ceremony, Steven Cooper, Acting Director for NOAA’s Southern Region, Michael Angove, NOAA Tsunami Program Manager, and von Hillebrandt-Andrade, will officially recognize the US Virgin Islands’ as TsunamiReady. Earlier this year, VITEMA submitted applications for the US Virgin Islands – St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island to be recognized as a TsunamiReady jurisdiction.

TsunamiReady is granted by the NWS/NOAA once certain requirements are met such as establishing an emergency operations center and a 24-hour warning point to receive tsunami information. The British Virgin Islands will also receive TsunamiReady recognition at the ceremony.

Listen to the Governor's Remarks

Listen to VITEMA Director Elton Lewis' Remarks

Listen to UNESCO Secretariat Bernardo Aliaga's Remarks

Office of Veterans Affairs will be hosting Remembrance Walks & Veterans Fairs for All Veterans, Survivors and Military Families
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 9, 2014 at 4:20 PM AST

Come out Walk with us and get information on Local and Federal Benefits

Saturday May 10, 2014
St. Thomas Remembrance Walk 3:00 p.m. to 6 :00 p.m. from American Legion Hall in Sub Base to Franklin D. Roosevelt/Veterans Park

Tuesday May 13, 2014
St. Thomas Veterans Fair at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt/Veterans Park from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Thursday May 15, 2014
St. Croix Veterans Fair at the Office of Veterans Affairs Grounds in Estate Richmond from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Saturday May 17, 2014
St. Croix Remembrance Walk 3 :00pm to 6:00pm from  Fredericksted Post Office to the Verne I Richards Veterans Memorial Park

For more info call 340-774-6100 St. Thomas and 340-773-6663 St. Croix.

Refreshments will be served

Governor de Jongh and VI Delegation Travel to the British Virgin Islands for Sixth Meeting of the Inter Virgin Islands Council; Mutual Concerns of Both Territories Discussed at One-Day Meeting
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 9, 2014 at 12:05 PM AST
Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. and Premier of the British Virgin Islands Dr. Orlando Smith at today's Sixth Inter Virgin Islands Council meeting in Tortola.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. led a delegation of Virgin Islands officials to the British Virgin Islands on Thursday as the Sixth Inter Virgin Islands Council meeting was convened in Tortola today. The meeting provided the opportunity for both de Jongh and BVI Premier Dr. Orlando Smith to formally receive updates from the council’s various subcommittees on developments in areas of law enforcement, pleasure boating and sports fishing, tourism, energy, education and cultural preservation.

“I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Premier Dr. Smith and the BVI delegation to discuss these issues of great importance to both territories. Today’s meeting follows on previous meetings of the council held in 2012 and 2011 in which many of these same issues were discussed,” de Jongh said today. “These are core issues that affect the well-being of the people of both territories and I am pleased that through the council, we have developed a collaborative effort in addressing these various concerns ranging from law enforcement to solid waste management and the very important challenge of energy costs,” he added.

The Inter Virgin Islands Council (IVIC) was formed out of a Memorandum of Understanding executed by the leaders of both territories in 2004. The first meeting was convened on St. Croix in 2005. The council established twelve standing committees which meets regularly in both territories.

Secretary General of the IVIC, Attorney Richard T. Evangelista reported on other areas of mutual interest for both territories. “On February 28, 2014, VITEMA hosted a visit of a BVI delegation to receive an overview of the 911 call center, its operations as it is the BVI’s intent to building a similar facility to support all islands of the British Virgin Islands. The visit included a hands-on demonstration of the handling of a 911 call to the center as well as a tour of the Fusion Center and Emergency Operations Center.”

Evangelista, a Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor, also noted that de Jongh led a delegation of BVI officials to a Senior Executives Continuity of Operations orientation briefing. “The briefing was the result of planning between FEMA and VITEMA to ensure that in the event of man-made of natural disaster impacting the territory, operations of both the public and private sectors.”

Other developments include: joint territorial training on newly acquired microfilm equipment to digitize historical documents and data; meetings to discuss a U.S. Customs and Border Protection patrol facility at the Red Hook marine terminal on St. Thomas instead of St. John, a U.S. pre-clearance facility in the BVI, earlier operating hours for Customs and Border Protection to accommodate BVI residents and visitors travelling on early flights from St. Thomas.

There was also a discussion today about the solid waste incinerator at Pockwood Pond which has been in operation since 2011. “Since its commissioning, no open burning has taken place at the dumpsite and as a result, DPNR has not received complaints primarily from Coral Bay, St. John residents previously affected by the smoke from the dumpsite burning.

Governor de Jongh Expresses Sadness Over Death of Hotelier Lorette Resch
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 8, 2014 at 4:45 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the late legendary hotelier Lorette Resch. Mrs. Resch was the founder, owner and operator of the Island Beachcomber Hotel on Lindbergh Bay. She died on April 21 at the age of 86.

"Mrs. Resch was a trail blazer in the Virgin Islands tourism industry. Along with her husband, the late Michael Resch, Sr., she established the first beachfront hotel property in the Virgin Islands. The well-loved Island Beachcomber opened in 1956 and continues to operate today as a family enterprise," stated the Governor. "The couple expanded their operations and added the first car rental agency, Sun Island Car Rental; the Tropic Isle Hotel; Contant Great House; and Shibui, an award-winning mountain side resort. Not only did Lorette and Michael Resch invest in the Virgin Islands and spearhead marketing the Territory as a tourism destination, but they helped build the infrastructure that welcomed visitors to St. Thomas, in particular. Mrs. Resch handled the daily operations of the family's properties and was known for her attention to detail and high standards. We will always be indebted to both Lorette and Michael Resch for their enormous contributions to the hospitality sector of our economy," he added.

Mrs. Resch was the first woman elected to the Board of Directors of the Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association (CHTA). She received the prestigious Caribbean Hotelier of the Year, the highest honor bestowed by the CHTA, in 1984. She also served as an honorary member of the CHTA's Board of Directors. She was one of three founding members of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association, now the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association (USVIHTA). In 2010 Lorette and Michael Resch were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the USVIHTA.

Mrs. Resch is survived by her son Michael, daughters Nancy and Laurie, and their families. "Cecile and I offer our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Resch's family, friends, co-workers and admirers," concluded the Governor. "Lorette Resch was an unforgettable woman and she will be remembered as an unwavering advocate for the Virgin Islands."

DOH Investigates Death of Confirmed Case of Neisseria Meningitidis; Implements Control Measures to Prevent Spread of the Disease
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM AST

Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett said today that health officials investigated a confirmed case of Neisseria Meningitidis that resulted in death. DOH’s health officials have been in contact with the family to implement control measures to prevent an outbreak of the disease.

“Neisseria Meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause Meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis. This usually means the lining of the brain and spinal cord have become infected with the bacteria. The disease is highly contagious, spreading among people in close or prolonged contact. This is why it was of utmost importance to ensure that household contacts and persons who have had intimate contact with the infected person receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick and to prevent an outbreak,” Plaskett said.

The bacteria is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like cough and spit (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing). Symptoms, including high fever, headache and stiff neck, can appear two (2) to ten (10) days after infection, most often within three to four days.

Dr. Tai Hunte, Territorial Infectious Disease Physician, added "that an outbreak is defined as multiple cases in a community over a short period of time, sometimes having just two cases of the same strain can meet the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of an outbreak. While it can be very serious, meningitis can be treated with antibiotics that prevent severe illness and reduce the spread of infection from person to person. Quick medical attention is extremely important if meningitis is suspected."

Providers in the territory are asked to be vigilant for symptoms of meningitis and to report suspected and confirmed cases to the Department of Health using the VI Notifiable Disease Form. Forms should be submitted via confidential fax at (340) 713-1508. Copies of the form, which have been distributed to health care providers, can also be found by visiting www.healthvi.org and downloaded under Forms and Applications via www.healthvi.org.

For more information about Neisseria Meningitidis, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/indexhtml.

New St. John School Meeting Set for May 15 to Gather Public Input
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 7, 2014 at 10:15 PM AST

The Office of the Governor in partnership with the Departments of Education and Public Works announces a public scoping meeting to solicit recommendations for a new St. John School under consideration for the island of St. John.

The meeting will be held at the Julius E. Sprauve School cafeteria on Thursday, May 15 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Preliminary educational program requirements and key milestones in the process to date will be outlined.

“Each and every child on St. John should be offered an education that helps them achieve their highest level of success. As elected leaders, we need to re-examine everything we do in our educational system as our schools transition with changing demographics,” de Jongh said Tuesday, adding, “St. John is a perfect example of that. I look forward to engaging the St. John community in a vigorous discussion with positive results.”

Representatives from Education and Public Works, along with the architect of record, will be on hand to answer questions and seek input from the public on the planned approach for a new school on the island of St. John and possible alternatives.

This will be the first in series of open meetings at which the public will have an opportunity to provide oral and written comments.

V.I. Economic Development Authority to host Open House at its incubation program facility on St. Croix
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 6, 2014 at 5:40 PM AST

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands - May 6, 2014 – The V.I. Economic Development Authority (VIEDA) invites potential entrepreneurs, owners of small-midsized businesses, and the Virgin Islands community to attend an Open House for its first business incubator on Thursday, May 8, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The incubation facility of the VIEDA's Disaster Small-Midsized Enterprise Incubation Program is located at the William D. Roebuck Industrial Park at No. 4 Estate Negro Bay in Building No. 2 next to the Melvin Evans Highway on St. Croix, USVI.

The VIEDA is also appealing to existing owners of small to midsized businesses that have been affected by Tropical Storms Irene, Otto, and Tomas. During the open house, potential and existing entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to meet with designated business consultants and support services providers of this program that will provide counseling in various topics including marketing, accounting, tax preparation, or legal matters. This is one of several initiatives that are being implemented by the VIEDA to help local small to midsized businesses on St. Croix succeed.

The VIEDA is also appealing to existing owners of small to midsized businesses that have been affected by Tropical Storms Irene, Otto, and Tomas. During the open house, potential and existing entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to meet with designated business consultants and support services providers of this program that will provide counseling in various topics including marketing, accounting, tax preparation, or legal matters. This is one of several initiatives that are being implemented by the VIEDA to help local small to midsized businesses on St. Croix succeed.

Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center (VI SBDC), and the VIEDA’s Small Business Development Agency (SBDA) will also be present to talk about other support services and programs at their respective agencies that are available for business to accomplish their business goals.

Currently, there are 10 participants under the VIEDA’s incubator program, three of which are incubator tenants, and seven businesses that are outreach / virtual tenants that are located off-site.

According to the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA), the world’s leading organization in advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship, "Business incubation is a business support process that accelerates the successful development of start-up and fledgling companies by providing entrepreneurs with an array of targeted resources and services. These services are usually developed or orchestrated by incubator management and offered both in the business incubator and through its network of contacts. A business incubator’s main goal is to produce successful firms that will leave the program financially viable and freestanding." The VIEDA’s business incubator is a member of the NBIA.

In 2013, the VIEDA was awarded a grant for this program in the amount of $1 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (U.S. EDA). This grant provides the financial resources for business support services for entrepreneurs on St. Croix that come into the incubation program, and small businesses that were affected by Tropical Storms Irene, Otto, and Tomas. It also provides funding for the VIEDA to hire business consultants for the program. Businesses located off-site will also have access to the incubation program's services.

In addition to the availability of business advice from consultants and support services providers, this incubator offers access to high-speed internet (T1 Line) services, low-cost office rental space, and shared office equipment.

To RSVP for a meeting with a designated business consultant and a service provider during the Open House at the VIEDA’s Disaster Small-Midsized Enterprises Incubation Program facility, you can contact Lisa Ann C. James at 340.719.2037, or by e-mail at ljames@usvieda.org

For additional information about the VIEDA’s Disaster Small-Midsized Enterprise Incubation Program, contact Incubator Program Manager Cusa Holloway at 340.719.2037.

About the V.I. Economic Development Authority (VIEDA):

The V.I. Economic Development Authority (VIEDA) is a semi-autonomous government agency that was created on February 1, 2001. It is responsible for the promotion and enhancement of economic development of the U.S. Virgin Islands, namely: St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. The VIEDA assumes, integrates and unifies the functions of these five entities: Economic Development Commission, Industrial Park Development Corp., Small Business Development Agency, Government Development Bank and the Enterprise Zone Commission. The VIEDA accomplishes its mission by attracting multi-national investors to the territory to establish or relocate their business in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It also provides financial assistance for new and existing small to medium-sized businesses in the Territory.

About the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA)

The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) is the world’s leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship. Each year, it provides thousands of professionals with information, education, advocacy and networking resources to bring excellence to the process of assisting early-stage companies. An elected, voting board of directors representing the world's leading incubators governs the association. NBIA serves more than 1,900 members in over 60 nations.

MEDIA ADVISORY---PROCLAMATION SIGNING CEREMONY---
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 5, 2014 at 4:45 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. will host a proclamation signing ceremony at Government House St. Thomas at 9:30 am on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

Remarks will be offered before de Jongh signs a proclamation designating this month as Mental Health Month in the Virgin Islands; this week as Children's Mental Health Awareness Week and Thursday as Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.

This event is open press.

GOVERNOR DE JONGH ON CARNIVAL WRAP UP
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 5, 2014 at 4:35 PM AST

Some thoughts of the Governor as Carnival 2014 came to a close on Saturday night.

Governor's Remarks Pt. 1 (1.6MB)

Governor's Remarks Pt. 2 (1.7MB)

Governor's Remarks Pt. 3 (1.0MB)

Governor de Jongh Urges Congress for More CBP Funding and to be Allowed to Keep More of its own Customs Duties
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on May 5, 2014 at 2:35 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. submitted on Friday, May 2nd, written testimony to a U.S. Senate Committee urging Congress to intervene in the long-simmering dispute between the Government and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") over the responsibility for financing the costs of CBP’s activities in the Virgin Islands.

In his statement to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, de Jongh noted that although it is a territory of the United States, the Virgin Islands is outside of the “customs territory” of the United States, and is authorized by the Revised Organic Act to impose its own customs duties and similar fees to generate revenues for the local government. The territory has generated as much as $16 million a year in total duties and fees from local businesses in recent years, but the CBP has been retaining a substantial amount of these duties and fees to cover the cost of its operations and activities on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, leaving the Government with little or no net revenue.

De Jongh said that although CBP has withheld a full accounting of its use of Virgin Islands revenue, CBP’s diversion of funds is estimated to cost the Virgin Islands millions of dollars annually. For example, in Fiscal Year 2012 CBP retained all Virgin Islands customs duty revenue, collecting approximately $12 million in Virgin Islands customs duties, and charging the Virgin Islands over $12 million in costs. Those charges included over $1.5 million in federal immigration inspection costs, nearly $1 million in federal agriculture inspection costs, and as much as $3 million in federal customs costs. On top of millions in unreimbursed federal costs, de Jongh said that CBP took another nearly million dollars to pay for overhead for its Washington, D.C. headquarters.

According to the governor, CBP is authorized by statute to withhold its costs for collecting V.I. customs duties, but not for the federal activities it undertakes in the territory, such as border surveillance and enforcement of immigration and agricultural laws. CBP has claimed it is entitled to withhold additional amounts pursuant to a memorandum of agreement that the government executed with CBP’s predecessor agency in 1994, but de Jongh has argued that the 1994 agreement is outmoded and needs to be renegotiated.

According to de Jongh, CBP has indicated that it is willing to consider changes to the agreement, but unless Congress makes up the difference and provides CBP with more funding, it might have to cut back on services in the territory, including the pre-clearance services it provides at each of the territory’s airports and cruise ports. Since 2010, de Jongh has pushing to get CBP to seriously address the agreement and exorbitant costs allocated to the Virgin Islands.

In his written statement to Congress, de Jongh said, “CBP’s practices have deprived the Virgin Islands of the use of its own customs duties, causing an increasingly severe financial strain on the [territorial] government, and cannot be allowed to continue.”

The governor noted that CBP provides important services in the Virgin Islands which are essential to the tourism industry, including pre-clearance of passengers returning to the United States. “CBP performs pre-departure clearance of air passengers bound for the continental U.S. from many locations, including in the Caribbean, in the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Aruba. However, while CBP pays for its operations costs in Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Aruba with Customs User Fee funds and/or federal appropriations, in the Virgin Islands, CBP charges the Virgin Islands Government,” de Jongh said.

The governor added, “The preferential treatment of foreign Caribbean countries over a U.S. territory has no basis in logic or policy. Rather, it is an unintended consequence of changes in law and circumstances that have been perpetuated over time and through federal bureaucratic inertia. CBP must stop its improper use of Virgin Islands customs duty revenue for other federal purposes, and CBP should properly and fully apply immigration and agriculture user fee statutes and other applicable federal funding for its federal operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

In his testimony, de Jongh wrote, “I respectfully ask for [Congress’] clear commitment to direct CBP to: provide passenger pre-departure clearance in the U.S. Virgin Islands funded with the Customs User Fee funds and/or appropriations, as it does for similar activities in foreign countries; cease its use of Virgin Islands customs duty revenue to finance or fund the costs of other federal operations in the Virgin Islands, including, but not limited to, CBP operations governed by other federal user fee statutes and funds such as immigration and agriculture inspections; and finally, retain from the Virgin Islands customs duty collections only CBP’s documented and direct costs of collecting the Virgin Islands customs duties, and remit the balance of collections promptly to the Virgin Islands treasury.”

The governor also wrote letters to the Democratic and Republican leadership of the Homeland Security and Appropriations committees urging their support for the territory’s position.

Government House Calls Out Mistruths by Senator Gittens Around Carnival Public Safety Issues; Governor de Jongh Asks the Senator to Produce His Proposals or Stop Misleading the Public with Political Rhetoric
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 29, 2014 at 5:45 PM AST

On Tuesday, Government House challenged St. Croix Senator Kenneth Gittens to come forward and present his policies and discuss in detail which tactics presently employed by the Virgin Islands Police Department are not working and which new strategies should be employed. “We have heard constant chatter from the senator with absolutely no substance behind his statements. His political rhetoric is not only pointless, it is uncalled for at a time when we should be finding way to work together,” said Government House Director of Communications Jean P. Greaux, Jr.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. added that Gittens, who has chaired the Senate Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety Committee in the 30th Legislature “has developed a knack for discrediting the work of the Virgin Islands Police Department and VIPD leadership as they continue to battle the violent crime ills affecting our territory. The public is fully aware that such criticisms are not solutions and that next day commenting is only political gamesmanship.”

Greaux discounted any attempt in the public or on social media networks to link the recent shooting incidents to the Carnival celebration. “In one incident, a police officer engaged deadly force when in his judgment a detained gun-toting suspect was being questioned and acted erratically and in the second incident, it is believed that persons used the cover of Carnival to exact street justice. Both of these incidents are being investigated thoroughly.”

De Jongh said he is satisfied with the operations plan the police department has formulated and is executing to make the Carnival celebration a safe one for residents and visitors. “I met with Commissioner Querrard, Chief Foy, and their key officers to ensure that manpower would be strategically deployed, to ensure that there is increased lighting through the downtown area and that police officials continue to monitor and analyze street intelligence that is being gathered almost hourly. “There are circumstances such as those surrounding the two shooting incidents of Friday and Sunday that are unavoidable and unacceptable. I understand the real concerns of our community with these acts of violence and the need to feel safe as we enjoy Carnival. And based on the actions undertaken by our officers we have collected six unlicensed firearms, made several arrests and pre-empted some criminal activity being planned. Many of our officers will not get a good night sleep until Sunday evening.”

“Senator Gittens should understand his role as a member of the 30th Legislature. If he has suggestions to help improve public safety, we are all ears. The problem is that his criticism is not constructive input, it is merely unsubstantiated statements that equate to political rhetoric,” Greaux added.

Man Arrested for Transporting Illegal Weapon between St. Croix and St. Thomas
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 29, 2014 at 5:30 PM AST

A man who concealed a loaded semi-automatic pistol in his carry-on luggage was arrested upon arrival to St. Thomas from St. Croix at mid-morning today. Jamal Rivera is charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm as a result of an interagency enforcement operation aimed at curbing the transportation of both unlicensed guns and illegal drugs between the islands.

The interception of the firearm today brings to six the number of illegal weapons confiscated since last week Friday. The confiscation of the six weapons has netted three arrests. In today’s case, Rivera, 27, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at about 10 a.m. He arrived at the Cyril E. King Airport via Seaborne Airlines. A .45 caliber handgun was found in his bag.

A check of Rivera’s criminal background revealed several charges against him including reckless endangerment, third-degree burglary and second-degree murder.

“This initiative was just put in place and has already netted an arrest,” Virgin Islands Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe said Tuesday. Dowe said that the law enforcement initiative will continue throughout the carnival season. “I hope this will be a deterrent to those who believe it is easy to transport illegal weapons between our islands.”

The interagency enforcement operation is an effort of federal and local law enforcement agencies including: Transportation Security Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, V.I. Police Department, V.I. Port Authority Police and the Department of Justice. Agency representatives met recently and agreed to execute a proactive law enforcement initiative during the carnival season.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Tuesday afternoon that he is pleased that the the Carnival safety plan developed by Government House along with the V.I. Police Department, the local law enforcement community and our federal partners has begun to net favorable results. “Today’s gun interception and the confiscation of five other guns and three arrests over the last few days is evidence that a closely coordinated and executed strategy is effective. The proactive work of the VIPD in executing the Carnival operations plan is a small part of the overall law enforcement initiative that is in place to heighten police presence and visibility during the Carnival festivities and ensure a good time will be had by all residents and visitors.”

Illegal weapons confiscated since last week Friday include:

  • A semi-automatic pistol recovered on April 25 by VIPD Special Operations Bureau officers in an area between Fort Christian and The Professional Building;
  • A 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was recovered by VIPD Forensics Officers from the body of Clyde Norford after he was fatally wounded by police on April 26;
  • A semi-automatic pistol was recovered by both VIPD Forensics and Criminal Investigators on the night of April 27 at the scene of a shooting in the general vicinity of the Emile Griffith ballpark;
  • A .40 semi-automatic pistol was recovered by VIPD detectives on Monday at the scene of a shooting in the Oswald Harris Court housing community;
  • A 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was recovered this morning by VIPD Special Operations Bureau officers in the area of All Saints School on Commandant Gade;
  • A .45 caliber pistol was recovered by federal and local agents during today’s interagency law enforcement operation at the Cyril E. King Airport.

Taxi Stand Changes During Carnival Festivities
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 29, 2014 at 2:00 PM AST

Effective Wednesday, April 30th through Saturday, May 3rd taxi drivers and tour operators are advised that the taxi stand in the Vendors Plaza will be closed. Absolutely NO drop-offs or pick-ups will be permitted in the Vendor’s Plaza area, nor will any obstruction to the flow of traffic will be tolerated.

If there are cruise ships in port between Wednesday, April 30th through May 3rd, all taxi drop-offs and pick-ups in the town of Charlotte Amalie shall only be permitted on the taxi stand located at Guttets Gade which is located at the Veterans Drive intersection between First Bank and Pizza Hut.

It is imperative that taxi drivers and tour operators follow the instructions set forth in this Carnival Advisory. The Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission is wishing our taxi drivers, tour operators, and the community a safe and happy Carnival.

Government to Teachers Union: Cease and Desist Any Plans to Stage a Job Action Over School Calendar
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 28, 2014 at 3:00 PM AST

The leadership of the local chapters of the American Federation of Teachers union has been put on notice by the Government of the Virgin Islands that they should intervene and instruct its members to cease and desist from any plans they may have to disrupt classes beginning this week over the proposed 2014-2015 school calendar.

In a Friday letter to AFT local chapter presidents Vernelle de Lagarde and Rosa Soto-Thomas, the government’s Chief Labor Negotiator Valdemar Hill, Jr. wrote that “the government is in receipt of credible information indicating that several members of the teachers union are contemplating engaging in organized job action.”

“It is beyond our understanding that the AFT union members would engage in a job action that will jeopardize the education of our young people over the issue of the school calendar,” Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Monday. The restructured calendar as put forward by the Department of Education follows the letter of the law and includes an early start date for school, an extended Christmas break and spells out professional development days. “We understand that there are concerns about the calendar but the department must structure an annual school calendar that falls within the guidelines of the law which is what has been proposed,” he added.

De Jongh said that the members of the AFT and the others who have rejected the new calendar are reminded that the stalemate that exists today is a result of the actions of the 29th and 30th Legislatures which passed legislation to mandate that the new school year starts two weeks earlier to ensure that it ends before the Christmas break. “The action on the school calendar issue by the 29th Legislature was viewed by my administration as flawed policy and as such, I vetoed the bill; it was overridden and my attempts to have the 30th Legislature repeal the legislation were not successful.”

Hill said the information obtained by the government is that the unionized school teachers are planning sickouts beginning today; not planning to report to work after Wednesday; not reporting at all this week or coming in and not teaching and preparing packets of schoolwork to give students for them to complete next week at home and telling the students not to come to school because teachers will not be at the school.

Hill advised the union chapter presidents that any job action and or work stoppage on the part of AFT members would not only be a violation of the parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreement but a violation of law. “Any employee who engages in a work stoppage will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including discharge. Further, under Virgin Islands law, a union may be held legally responsible for any damages incurred by the Government as a result of an unlawful job action, even if the job action was not authorized by the Union.

Despite the continued expressions of dissatisfaction with the new calendar for the next school year, at the end of the day, Virgin Islands law requires that the Commissioner of Education set the school calendar, which is what was done, de Jongh added. “This is not a negotiable matter, the school year will begin on August 11 with the first semester ended on December 23 just before the Christmas break. The school year will end in early June.”

Governor Meets with Organizations on Pension Reform Legislation
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 28, 2014 at 10:20 AM AST

In the aftermath of the submission of Pension Reform Legislation to the 30th Legislature in March, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. met Friday with members of the Association for the Preservation of the Retirement System (APRS) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The organization's representatives from APRS were: R. Maria Brady, Mary D. Davis, Leonard Smollett, Helene Smollett, and Clovis E. Emanuel and from the AARP Ms. Ginny Dargan.

De Jongh discussed the need to work collectively to get the 30th Legislature to act on the Pension Reform Legislation; the projected deficit between GERS Contributions and Benefit Payments and Expenses (1 to 1 ratio of actives to retirees) as well as revised projections showing the projected unfunded liability for 2013 and Year to Date (February) 2014.

The discussion also focused on concerns about alternative investments, specifically they would like the System to avoid taking additional risks to filling funding gaps; the transfer of authority from the Board to the System, due to the substitution of “System” for “Board” in various sections and the possibility of two town hall sessions with the Governor and Legislature in attendance being hosted by the AARP for public education purposes.

The University of the Virgin Islands Announces $30 Million Gift for the Development of a Medical School
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 25, 2014 at 5:20 PM AST

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) received a $30 million gift commitment to help establish a state-of-the-art, Territory-wide medical school. Announced today by UVI President David Hall, the generous gift on behalf of New Generation Power (NGP) and its Chairman, Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, will serve as a major part of the foundation funding for the medical school.

The announcement comes one week after a unanimous vote by the UVI Board of Trustees allowing President Hall to commence the development phase for the medical school that UVI will develop in partnership with the Territory’s two hospitals – Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas and Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.

“This is a historic day in the life of the University of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands,” said President Hall. “Dr. Kathuria’s gift is the largest in the history of the University, and its impact will last for generations to come. Many Virgin Islanders will receive improved healthcare because of this generous gift,” he said.

Discussion and planning for the medical school began in 2010 with the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), which has been very instrumental in helping UVI move in this direction. Some BUSM students have been taking their fourth year electives at Schneider Regional Medical Center for the last two spring semesters.

“We congratulate our UVI colleagues on this generous gift,” said Dr. Karen Antman, dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. “The development of a medical school will attract medical faculty to the islands and foster collaboration among VI hospitals,” Dr. Antman said. “Graduates will consider establishing practices in the VI, raising the number of physicians and improving access to health care.”

The goal of the project is to develop a high-quality medical education program that relies heavily on the use of innovative teaching techniques, educational technology and community care training that produces knowledgeable and caring physicians committed to helping the Virgin Islands’ communities, President Hall explained. This transformative endeavor for the VI and the University will present an opportunity for the Territory to establish the only English-speaking medical school in the Caribbean accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the group that accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada.

According to President Hall, LCME-accreditation will ensure that UVI develops a high quality medical school that operates according to the highest academic standards. A medical school in the Virgin Islands would enhance the quality of healthcare, help address the nation’s and Territory’s anticipated physician workforce shortages in the future, help populate the physician workforce in the VI and Caribbean with the regions’ own residents and citizens, and contribute to economic development.

Dr. Kathuria, a global entrepreneur and innovator, has founded and built multiple businesses that have generated shareholder wealth and created numerous jobs worldwide. He founded NGP, a global developer, investor, owner and operator of infrastructure assets in three key areas – utility scale power generation, distributed generation, and mining exploration and extraction. Recently, NGP, a Chicago-based renewable energy company, together with UVI, signed a landmark power purchase agreement for a solar panel project on UVI’s two campuses.

Dr. Kathuria, who holds a medical degree, in describing his motivation for the gift said: “We are honored to be part of this historic endeavor that will significantly improve the healthcare of the people of the US Virgin Islands. Our goal with the USVI medical school is to establish new trends in providing health care using advanced technology such as remote healthcare monitoring and diagnoses, and cutting edge research that could lead to improved health outcomes for people globally.”

Virgin Islands Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has also committed to help provide funding for the medical school buildings, creating a public and private partnership that President Hall said is essential for success.

“By approving the development of the medical school just last week and endorsing the gift agreement with Dr. Kathuria of New Generation Power, the UVI Board of Trustees has taken a major step forward in the development of the Virgin Islands,” Governor de Jongh, Jr. said today. “The Virgin Islands is truly fortunate to be eligible for accreditation of its planned medical school. America's Liaison Committee on Medical Education is the accreditation body for medical schools in the United States and Canada, and it would also extend its authority to the Virgin Islands, as the only English-speaking United States territory in the Caribbean,” he continued. “This advantage over every other medical school in the Caribbean will put UVI's Medical School on the map and ensure its success.”

“I fully expect that the opening of the medical school will change the health care landscape of the Virgin Islands, as well as enhance the University of the Virgin Islands’ reputation as the preeminent learning institution in the region,” Governor de Jongh added.

Securing additional development and operational funding remains a goal for the project. The University estimates that $10 million from local and national donors is still needed to make the medical school a reality. Tuition costs are estimated to be below market for Caribbean medical schools and UVI hopes to enroll its first class in 2016-2017.

For more information, please contact Nanyamka Farrelly, interim director of Public Relations, University of the Virgin Islands, at nfarrel@uvi.edu or (340) 693-1056.

Listen to UVI President Dr. Hall's Remarks:

Listen to Governor de Jongh's Remarks:

GOVERNOR DE JONGH: DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO RECEIVE FEDERAL DOLLARS TO CONTINUE EXPANSION OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 25, 2014 at 5:00 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said today that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has notified the Department of Human Services that the Virgin Islands is eligible to receive a 2.2 percent funding increase to further expand the Medical Assistance Program. The increased funding is a result of stipulations in the Affordable Care Act.

De Jongh explained that the V.I. government complied with the federal requirement for eligibility by successfully demonstrating how the territory provided health benefits coverage since 2010 to all residents including childless adults on the territorial poverty level who received services at local health clinics and hospitals. “I was pleased to receive the letters from CMS which indicate the success of the strategic plan that I put in place as a healthcare legacy item for the territory during the Age of Health Reform and availability of additional federal funding.” He said this was made a priority during 2013 and 2014 to encourage an increase in Medicaid local match funding specifically to be used to expand the program both in terms of Medical services offered and new eligible person coverage categories. “I encourage all residents who are uninsured to visit the Department of Human Services to determine if they are eligible for coverage. For those persons who are deemed not eligible, members of my staff continue to dialogue with Insurance carriers and interested parties to develop a mechanism of coverage for gap populations who currently cannot find individual insurance coverage or affordable small group insurer coverage in our current market,” de Jongh said today.

The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) of 2.2 percentage points is a temporary increase to 57.20 percent federal share which will be applied through December 31, 2015 to MAP expenses for eligible enrolled clients. Increased federal spending allows for greater savings to the territory. For example, if $1million were spent through MAP under the current match of 55.00 percent, the federal contribution would be $550,000 and the local match would be $450,000. With the increase, the federal contribution would be $572,000 and the local match would be $428,000. With anticipated annual Medicaid expenses of $20 million, savings to the V.I. government would be $440,000.

The Virgin Islands government is also eligible for enhanced match to cover Medicaid benefits to a new population comprising of non-pregnant, childless adults – including the homeless - who were not covered prior to the Affordable Care Act. Human Services intends to cover this group in planned Medicaid expansion over the next few months. CMS will initially pay 78 percent of the cost to expand MAP to this new population and will increase their share to 90 percent by the year 2019. As this vulnerable population also potentially includes persons with some mental illnesses, this may go a long way to assist closing mental health system gaps in the territory for this specific population.

Human Services Commissioner Christopher Finch was encouraged by the news. “Although the 2.2 percent is a modest increase, it’s a step in the right direction. The federal share of 78 percent for childless adults is indeed exciting news. I want to thank the staff at Human Services, Government House and the consultants at Mercer Health and Benefits as well as the staff of the Region II CMS office who all worked on this project.”

Through use of the recently implemented Medicaid Management Information System, claims for this new population can be accurately identified which allows for better tracking of client utilization of services and management of scare and prudent spending of general fund coffers.

Additionally, de Jongh said was pleased by the additional news that a State Plan Amendment (SPA) for new physicians’ fees for services provided at both territory hospitals was approved by CMS on March 27, 2014. He explained that the change in the service rate to allow physicians to be paid by Medicaid at 100% of Medicare negotiated rates for either inpatient or outpatient services at the hospital serves to better ensure that referral gaps are closed for Medicaid patients. “This change does not preclude the hospitals for invoicing the Medicaid program for facility fees associated with the overhead of providing these procedures on-site at the facility.”

A complete list of the historic SPA’s submitted and approved by the federal government is attached, demonstrating positive momentum of the Medical Assistance Program to better serve the residents of the community who are eligible for these medical services.

Owner of Biggest Radio Station on St. Croix Arrested for Failure to File and Pay Taxes for Several Years
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 24, 2014 at 9:40 AM AST

Attorney General Vincent F. Frazer and Director Claudette Watson Anderson, of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, today announced the arrest of Jonathan Cohen, sole owner of JKC Communications (parent company of Isle 95, Sunny 99.5 FM, Mongoose 104.9FM, AM 970-WSTX & WSTX FM-100 radio stations), Clara Communications and Radio 95, for failure to file and pay corporate and individual income taxes for several years.

The arrest is one of many more to come from the Virgin Islands Department of Justice and the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue as a result of work that is being done by the Tax Collection Task Force which is jointly headed by Frazer and Watson Anderson.

“There are many individuals who continue to cheat the Virgin Islands government by failing to file and/or pay taxes and the task force is putting together the pieces of the puzzle needed to bring these individuals to justice,” Frazer said. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service assisted the VIBIR in the investigation of this case and will continue to assist the VI Government in the upcoming cases.

Cohen is charged with failure to file taxes for a seven year period from 2004 through 2010. The government alleges that Cohen and his corporations had collective gross income in excess of $10 million during the period of time alleged in the complaint and failed to pay taxes owed to the Government of the Virgin Islands. Cohen also failed to file gross receipts tax returns for the same period owed in gross receipt taxes to the VIBIR.

“For far too long, too many have been getting away with not filing or paying their fair share of taxes and through the work of the task force it is our goal to bring these individuals to justice and collect any outstanding payments owed,” Frazer said, adding, the arrest of Jonathan Cohen for his failure to file and pay taxes is just the beginning fruits of our labor in this combined effort.

BIR Announces Extension of April 30th Gross Receipts and Hotel Tax Return Deadlines
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 24, 2014 at 9:00 AM AST

Claudette Watson-Anderson, CPA, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue, announces the extension of the April 30th due dates for both the gross receipts tax return and the hotel room tax return.

Due to the upcoming Carnival activities, the St. Thomas offices at Red Hook and Nisky will be closed at noon on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, which is the actual due date for these tax returns. Taxpayers who are unable to file their gross receipts and hotel room tax returns by noon will be allowed to file their returns on Monday, May 5, 2014, which is the next business day for the St. Thomas District. These returns will not be considered late due to the administrative leave granted for the Carnival season. Returns filed after Monday, May 5, 2014 will be considered late and will be subject to interest and penalties.

Questions concerning the extended due date can be directed to the Office of Chief Counsel at (340) 715-1040.

Governor de Jongh Issues 2014 Carnival Proclamation
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 23, 2014 at 4:00 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has signed a proclamation which provides leave for government employees during the upcoming Carnival festivities. The proclamation notes that the Virgin Islands is this year celebrating the 62nd anniversary of Carnival which has evolved into one of the region’s top festivals.

Pursuant to Title 1, Section 171(b) V.I.C., “distilled liquor and drinks prepared therewith shall not be served in public places of refreshments between the hours of 9:00 o’ clock in the morning and 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon on Good Friday.” Violation of this subsection will result in a fine of not more than $200 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

The Governor authorized Commissioners and Agency Heads to grant administrative leave to non-essential employees in order to encourage greater participation in the Carnival festivities as follows:

DISTRICT OF ST. THOMAS-ST. JOHN ONLY:

  • Wednesday, April 30, 2014—Food, Arts and Crafts Fair Day---12:00 pm to 5:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 1, 2014---J’ouvert—8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

TERRITORY-WIDE:

  • Friday, May 2, 2014 – Children’s Parade Day --- 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The leave authorized by the Governor does not apply to essential employees or those on a regular or rotating shift nor does it apply to employees of the Department of Education who may be required to work in order to make up for instructional days lost as a result of the “odor incident” at Central High School on St. Croix.

DLCA Reminds Establishments of Good Friday Alcohol Ban
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 17, 2014 at 9:00 AM AST

Wayne L. Biggs, Jr., Commissioner of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs advises all bars, restaurants, and establishments that serve alcohol of their obligation to comply with Title 1, Section 171 of the Virgin Islands Code which prohibits liquor from being served on Good Friday. “Full compliance and cooperation of all establishments that serve alcohol is mandatory,” said Commissioner Biggs.

Pursuant to Title 1, Section 171(b) V.I.C., “distilled liquor and drinks prepared therewith shall not be served in public places of refreshments between the hours of 9:00 o’ clock in the morning and 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon on Good Friday.” Violation of this subsection will result in a fine of not more than $200 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs would like to wish everyone a safe and Happy Easter season.

An Easter Message from Governor John P. de Jongh and First Lady Cecile de Jongh
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 16, 2014 at 2:00 PM AST

On Easter Sunday, many of us will attend church services and listen to the story of Jesus Christ's last days and his resurrection three days after his crucifixion. This recitation reminds us that the true meaning of Easter is about sacrifice and the promise of new beginnings. We believe that Easter is the season for hope. Like the springtime around us, this oldest of Christian holidays celebrates rebirth and renewal.

Easter is celebrated differently around the world, and Virgin Islanders have their own ways of spending the long Easter holiday break. On St. Croix, for decades, one of our favorite traditions has been camping with family and friends at Cramer's Park. Over the years, thousands of Crucians have gathered annually for memorable days of camping on the beach. This is truly a unique Virgin Islands' custom. Easter egg hunts for children are also a local tradition. Eggs are a symbol of rebirth and have been associated with Easter since the Middle Ages in Europe. We enjoy coloring and decorating eggs, as people have done for centuries. Orthodox Christians dyed their eggs red to represent the blood of Christ, and the Chinese dye eggs when a child is born.

Like Christians, our Jewish friends and neighbors have an exceptional holiday at this time of year. They celebrate Passover and recite the story of their ancestors' exodus from Egypt and liberation from slavery. The eight-day Passover holiday begins on April 14 and concludes on April 22, coinciding with Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday this year. Easter and Passover are holidays of equal gravity, always in the spring.

Oftentimes, the problems of everyday living obscure the simple beauty of our lives. Hope for the future can be limited by our inability to see through life's challenges. As we listen once again to the Easter or Passover story, we understand that anything is possible and that faith helps us carry on. This holiday season we ask each of you to focus on all that is good and right in your lives, and be thankful for the blessings you have received. Open your hearts to those less fortunate and make a conscious effort to help others make their lives better and more meaningful.

As these two special holidays unfold, may we be the first to wish you a Happy Easter or a Happy Passover! May the promise of these holidays fill your hearts with joy!

DSPR advises the General Public that Cramer’s Park Facility is ready for the Annual Easter Camping Activity
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 16, 2014 at 11:25 AM AST

Commissioner St. Claire N. Williams of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation advises the general public that Cramer’s Park Facility is ready for the Annual Easter Camping activity which has become a traditional event on St. Croix.

Commissioner Williams noted that all minor repairs have been addressed with shower heads in place and that grounds maintenance enhancements have been performed. “In particular, staff did some landscaping of the area around the cabanas and picnic tables that has helped to expose the sand and enhance the area”, Commissioner Williams stated. He further noted that staff has been assigned to the facility to include lifeguards, custodial workers to maintain the restrooms and dispose of trash from the garbage receptacles throughout the weekend. “However, we are requesting the assistance of the public in helping to maintain a clean environment of the facility and to report any unwarranted acts of vandalism that would destroy and damage the property or that would affect the safety and enjoyment of the general public”, Commissioner Williams emphasized.

“The Department is also coordinating with the Virgin Islands Police Department to provide regular security patrol and to help in reducing vehicular traffic congestion”. “Therefore, everyone using Cramer’s Park Facility is asked to observe and follow all posted traffic signs and rules and regulations”. “The management and staff of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation wish everyone a safe Easter Season and an enjoyable happy camping”, Commissioner Williams concluded.

Governor de Jongh Meets with Federal Officials to Discuss Recent BTOP 5-Day Progress Visit on viNGN Broadband Network Projects; Federal Agencies Extremeley Pleased with Progress of High Speed Fiber Optic Infrastructure Development As Well As Existing viNGN Operations
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 14, 2014 at 5:15 PM AST

Governor John P. deJongh, Jr. met Friday with officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who had just completed a five day site visit to the territory in order to review the progress of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) Broadband Network and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Grants.

The federal officials reported that they were extremely pleased with the progress made under the federal broadband grants received by the territory. In particular, officials of the federal agencies commended the progress made by viNGN in the construction of the territory’s 100% fiber optic high speed network, as it nears its official completion deadline of June 30, 2014.

NTIA and NOAA officials toured sites on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John where they reviewed many of viNGN’s Fiber Access Points (FAPs), including the Super FAPs located on St. Croix and St. Thomas which are now directly connected to the internet, a significant milestone that viNGN team members were congratulated on reaching.

The federal officials also visited numerous Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) throughout the territory and heard how the connection of those CAIs to viNGN’s broadband network will positively benefit them. viNGN is in the process of finishing the connection of over 300 CAIs to its network, with nearly 200 CAIs already connected to the high speed fiber optic network. Some of these CAIs have already entered into agreements with ISPs who are providing broadband service through viNGN’s network. Others are connected to the viNGN network and are awaiting internet service from their selected ISP or ISPs or to-be-selected ISP or ISPs that have agreements with viNGN and will provide service on the viNGN network.

NTIA and NOAA officials also met with local Virgin Islands agencies to discuss the significance and benefits of the viNGN broadband network for the territory.

  • At a meeting with the Department of Tourism, Asst. Commissioner Chantal Figueroa discussed the importance of providing high speed broadband to visitors in order to compete effectively with other destinations and drive economic development;
  • At the Bureau of Information and Technology (BIT), Director Reuben Molloy spoke about the many important public safety initiatives and the many efforts to improve government effectiveness and to reduce the government’s operating costs that will be enabled by viNGN’s high speed, broadband network;
  • And, at a visit to the Sprauve Elementary School on St. John, Principal Dionne Wells discussed how increased broadband capacity will allow the students to more effectively utilize the schools’ two computer labs, improve the ability of teachers to use technology in the classroom and improve administrative effectiveness.

In addition to the visits to viNGN’s network facilities and governmental agencies, the federal officials also visited many of viNGN’s Public Computer Centers (PCCs) and were pleased to see the activity at these PCCs, as well as hear the many positive stories from users of the sites who have prepared resumes, researched and applied for jobs, prepared business plans, obtained health information, communicated with family and friends, prepared homework assignments, completed training courses, and accomplished other life goals. Users have included many seniors/the elderly, students, veterans and other residents.

At a closeout meeting with the NTIA and NOAA officials Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority (PFA) and viNGN officials thanked their federal partners for the continued cooperation and support for the territory’s BTOP programs which created the opportunity for the Virgin Islands to develop the state-of-the-art fiber optic broadband network, bring high speed internet access throughout the territory, offer free training courses, provide access to computers throughout the territory, support job creation and retention, and contribute to the territory’s economic recovery.

Government of the Virgin Islands Comments on V.I. Supreme Court Decision Regarding Main Street Enhancement Project
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 13, 2014 at 6:00 PM AST

In a decision entered on April 11, 2014, the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands has reversed the Superior Court decision denying the preliminary injunction which temporarily prevents the Government of the Virgin Islands from negotiating and executing a contract for the Main Street Enhancement Project.

The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Superior Court for a hearing to determine whether the unsuccessful bidder, Tip Top Construction, Corporation, is entitled to an award of the contract for the Main Street project.

The government remains committed to a fair and legal selection process of the best contractor for this project and to getting this project started and completed timely. Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls said Sunday it is vitally important that we resolve this matter through the judicial system as expeditiously as possible. “We are at a critical crossroad in our continued economic development and the timely start of this project will solidify both our position and our market share within the competitive regional tourism industry. All one has to do is look closely at our neighboring islands to observe the significant capital investments taking place at tourist destinations throughout the region.”

Smalls and Property & Procurement Commissioner Lynn Millin Maduro will consult with attorneys of the Department of Justice to determine the government’s next steps following this court decision.

Board of Directors of VI PFA Approves Project Management Contract for Completion of All Work at Turnbull Regional Library; Board Delays Action on Financing of New Paul E. Joseph Stadium on St. Croix
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 11, 2014 at 5:15 PM AST

Meeting on St. Thomas today, the board of directors of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority chaired by Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. approved a project management contract to Nimal LLC, the company that will oversee the completion of the Turnbull Regional Library on St. Thomas.

“Our approval enables the Department of Public Works to have the oversight that is required so that all is completed at the library facility in the best interest of its users,” de Jongh said Friday.

Commissioner of Public Works Darryl A. Smalls added, “With approval of the project management contract, we can now ensure the completion of the library’s construction consistent with its design specifications. The project management contract will be funded from a $2 million bond issue previously approved by the VIPFA. About $1.4 million of the bond proceeds are slated to complete work at the regional library.

De Jongh said the board of directors also wants to use the additional time to get a better understanding of the progress being made by the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority and its task force on the development of the Mars Hill multi-purpose facility.”

Property and Procurement Commissioner Discounts Assertions by Senator Alicia Hansen Regarding American Post Legion #102; Negotiations Already Underway for New Command Post to be Developed in Estate Slob
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 11, 2014 at 4:10 PM AST

Department of Property and Procurement Commissioner Lynn Millin Maduro on Friday said that assertions in the media this week by St. Croix Senator Alicia Hansen that the American Legion Post 102 has been evicted from space it occupied on St. Croix are both misleading and factually incorrect.

“The Department of Property and Procurement cannot evict a person or organization verbally or without a court order. There is no lease agreement between the American Legion Post 102 and the government for the use of space at # 1 Peter’s Rest. The lease the government holds is with the St. Croix Majorettes organization. The lease between the parties was originally signed on September 20, 1994,” Millin Maduro said.

She explained that the St. Croix Majorettes asked the American Legion Post to vacate the space after the overall structural integrity of the building was called into question. “A joint assessment was done by P&P and the Department of Public Works in order to determine the building’s structural integrity. DPW advised me that the building was in need to repairs and should not be occupied until those repairs were completed.” Representatives from both the American Legion Post #102 and the St. Croix Majorettes were also in attendance during the assessment.

Millin Maduro further said that since the DPW assessment was rendered, representatives of the Post have expressed an interest in exploring options of leasing or purchasing undeveloped real estate to construct a new facility. “In fact, this process is progressing well with a parcel of property already identified in Estate Slob. Currently, negotiations are in the preliminary stages for the organization to secure this parcel of real estate.”

Millin Maduro said she remains available to update any elected official at any time on any matter of concern. “Had Senator Hansen contacted me and asked for accurate information about the building housing the St. Croix Majorettes and the American Legion Post #102, she would have been in a better position to update the public. It is unfortunate that instead she opted to take to the press with inaccurate and misleading information.

To listen to Senator Hansen’s assertions one would believe that the government simply evicted the American Legion Post # 102 and have not looked back. This is far from the truth and far from what is realistically taking shape at the present time.”

GOVERNOR DE JONGH EXPRESSES HIS CONDOLENCES TO FAMILY OF THE LATE ATTORNEY JOSEPH S. ARCHIBALD OF THE BVI
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 10, 2014 at 12:40 PM AST

Upon learning of the death of prominent BVI attorney Joseph S. Archibald, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., stated, "I am deeply saddened by Dr. Archibald's passing. He was a very good friend of my father's. Both men were attorneys, and they shared a love for the law, a passion for seeing justice done, and keen intellectual curiosities. I offer my deepest condolences to Dr. Archibald's wife, V. Inez Archibald, the current Deputy Governor of the Virgin Islands, and their children and extended family members, as well as the citizens of the British Virgin Islands. The region has lost a truly great man, an man of tremendous intellect and champion of the law to achieve equity for his home and our region," added the Governor.

Dr. Archibald, QC (Queen's Counsel) was the founder and head of the prominent law firm, J. S. Archibald and Co., based on Tortola. He served as legal counsel to many prestigious clients, including Banco Popular and H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. He also held many prominent positions in the Caribbean, including Chairman of the BVI Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, founding member of the BVI Bar Association, founding president of the OECS Bar Association, Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of the West Indies Associated States and Principal Legal Advisor to the Caribbean Conference of Churches. Among his many affiliations, Dr. Archibald was a patron member of the World Jurist Association. His name is one of 18 outstanding jurists inscribed on the Rule of Law Monument in Austria.

Governor de Jongh recalled the times that Dr. Archibald and his father spent together as "watching two great legal minds at work. He was brilliant and a genuinely kind man. I will miss him." Dr. Archibald passed away on April 3 at his home on Tortola.

V.I. Public Finance Authority Announces Meeting of the Board of Directors
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 7, 2014 at 4:30 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. will convene a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority on Friday, April 11, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority, No. 32-33 Kongens Gade, St. Thomas, VI.

For more information, please contact Angel E. Dawson, Jr. at the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority at 714-1635.

Governor de Jongh Pleased by Favorable Action Taken by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on the Extension of Higher Rum Cover-Over Rate; Pledges His Administration’s Continuing Efforts to Make the Higher Rate Permanent
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 3, 2014 at 5:10 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. today hailed the action taken by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee to extend the rum cover-over rate for two years without limitations or restrictions. The bill makes the extension retroactive to January 1st of this year.

De Jongh said Thursday that the action by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee is a direct result of his administration’s efforts on this issue. “During our meetings in Washington, we pressed not only for reconsideration of the decision taken by the Department of the Interior that reduced the advance payment of rum cover-over revenues to $10.50 per gallon, rather than the $13.25 extender rate which had been in place up until December 31, 2013, but for Congressional action to make the higher rate permanent. Our hard work on this issue resulted in the reversal of the Department of Interior's original decision and the release of some $30 million dollars to the territory at the $13.25 rate. Following on the heels of that victory, I am pleased by the vote on the legislation in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee which moves us closer to our goal of full Congressional approval of the extender rate at the $13.25 level. The support of Chairman Wyden and his colleagues, most especially Senators Rockefeller, Hatch and Crapo, who have been steadfast supporters of the interests of the Virgin Islands, is much appreciated.”

The Governor pledged the continuing efforts of all in his administration to make all members of the U.S. House and Senate aware of the importance of the rum cover-over revenues to the Government of the Virgin Islands, and the need for the extenders to be approved permanently at the higher rate. Locally, all should be reminded that the 2014 fiscal year budget was passed by the Legislature based on the assumption that the rum cover-over would be at the higher $13.25 rate. The $30 million received in February after the Governor’s meetings in Washington moved the territory $30 million closer to meeting the budgeted revenue assumption, but there remains an expected budget shortfall to $40.5 million which still must be addressed. Governor de Jongh today reiterated that he and his financial team “will continue to meet with the members of the 30th Legislature to determine what must be done to deal with the shortfall. Although I am pleased by the action taken by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, we cannot forget that our financial challenges have not disappeared. Only increasing revenues or enacting austerity measures, or a combination of both, will see us through the remainder of this fiscal year."

Listen to the Governor's remarks here

Governor de Jongh Elated at U.S. House of Representatives Approval of 2014 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act; Hopeful for Passage by the Senate
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 2, 2014 at 11:50 AM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Tuesday night that the 2014 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act passed the full U.S. House of Representatives this evening bringing the territory one step closer in its efforts to regain the yachting industry’s leadership mantle that was once a vibrant part of the local economy.

The measure now awaits actions of the U.S. Senate. The bill introduced in the House on February 6 provides alternative compliance for U.S. Coast Guard safety regulations for certain U.S. vessels which are now restricted to six passengers while operating in the waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands, whereas foreign vessels do not have the same restrictions.

De Jongh said tonight, “There is no doubt that the initiative brought forward by our Marine Council to Congressman Bill Shuster, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, during his November 2013 infrastructure visit to the territory has resulted in this step towards equity for our charter industry and an economic boost for our maritime industries as a whole.” He said this has been a long outstanding issue that has put us at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of region and especially with a niche that we know is attracted to our natural resources and all that we have to offer. “This is the first of a number of actions we will initiate to let this market know that we are open for business and we want their business," he added.

Listen to the Governor's remarks here.

Collaborative Efforts Empower Employers to Diversify their Workforce by Hiring Persons with Disabilities
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 2, 2014 at 11:30 AM AST

Back Row (L-R): Commissioner Chris Finch (DHS); Gwendolyn T. Powell ( Work-Able, Inc.); Assistant Commissioner Arah C. Lockhart, (DOL); Dr. Yegin Habtes ( UVI-VIUCEDD- STT); Charles Beady (UVI-VIUCEDD- STX).

Front Row (L-R): Barbara Wheatley ( DOL); Felecia Brownlow (Independent Living Center); Felecia Blyden( DHS-VR); and David Hoff – Keynote Speaker.

In recognition of Disability Awareness Month, public and private-sector human resource professionals, employers, and business owners came together in sessions held over the past two weeks to raise employer awareness and to demonstrate the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. A priority of the DeJongh administration to ensure individuals with disabilities achieve full inclusion into all aspects of society; a collaborative effort by the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Human Services -Vocational Rehabilitation Services, (DHS-VR), Virgin Islands Association for Independent Living, Work-Able, Inc., and UVI Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VIUCEDD) was seen as seminars were conducted on St. Thomas on March 20th and on St. Croix on March 27th entitled “Rare-Ability Employment 101- A Guide to Employment Accommodation”.

As representatives from each government agency, community based organizations, private sector employers and businesses listened to guest speakers, Ms. Debra Ruh, a Global Disability Inclusion Strategist and Mr. David Hoff, a Program Director for the Institute Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts; they were provided with ways to tap into hidden human capital and how to make employment a reality for people with disabilities. Ms. Ruh has worked with countries all over the world and has offered to work with the USVI to create employment programs that would bring sponsors to the table. She shared that this effort could drive tourism and hospitality industries, as the USVI could be seen as a tourism marketplace for socially responsible travelers for people with disabilities. Mr. Hoff provided attendees with information and real life examples on how to shift policies and create the working partnerships to ensure the right fit that would allow for each person with a disability the right to work.

Assistant Commissioner of Labor, Arah C. Lockhart lauded the participating stakeholders and advised all attendees that “these informational seminars are intended to create awareness, increase sensitivity and, move momentum forward to improve the bottom line for persons with disabilities”. Director of Personnel, Kenneth Herman, shared with the audience many of the initiatives being pursued by the Government Division of Personnel in an effort to become compliant with the ADA, and more specifically to improve access and opportunities for persons with disabilities to join the government labor force. During the seminar, he was so moved by the testimony of a blind attendee who had completed on-line training offered by VINGN, that he offered the individual employment in an upcoming temporary position with his Division.

Commissioner of Labor, Albert Bryan, closed by stating, "it is imperative that we do all we can to put our citizens with rare ability to work. The demonstrations by some of the participants clearly exhibited the power of accommodation and the real value in this client base". All participants had established a new appreciation the importance of collaborative partnership within the governmental agencies and the prudent business decision of hiring individual with disabilities.

April is 9-1-1 Education Month
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 1, 2014 at 5:20 PM AST

This week, VITEMA will begin a month-long “9-1-1 for Kids” campaign to help young students understand when and how to use the universal emergency number and the role operators play in providing efficient emergency response.

Throughout April, VITEMA’s Emergency Communications Centers (ECC) staff will visit classrooms to teach elementary school-age children the basics of using 9-1-1 and about first responders who may arrive at the scene to help. Last year, the “9-1-1 for Kids” program reached more than 200 students between St. Croix and St. Thomas. Students participated in an interactive 45-minute session that featured; an introduction to first responders, games that help students distinguish an emergency from a non-emergency, and a question and answer period.

“The 9-1-1 for Kids” is a national campaign designed to reduce the growing number of non-emergency calls made by young children. Many 9-1-1 centers across the US face the issue of prank-calling or non-emergency calls and the Virgin Islands is no exception,” said Elton Lewis, VITEMA Director. “Through this program, we teach children how to identify real emergencies, about what information should be provided to the operator, and about who will arrive to help them. An added benefit, we hope, is that they understand that non-emergency calls may take critical time away from managing real and even life-threatening emergencies.”

While the campaign targets children, it’s important for the entire community to understand 9-1-1’s vital role, Lewis said.

“Our 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Centers are the only lifelines between the public and first responders when there is an emergency,” Lewis said. “Operators are trained to determine the nature of the emergency, to dispatch Fire, Police, EMS and Rescue to assist the caller and, in life-threatening emergencies, to stay on the call until help arrives.”

According to Lewis, the most important information any one can give a 9-1-1 operator is the location of the emergency. “Even if the call is lost, first responders know where to go. If you don’t know the address, then look for landmarks or other familiar markers,” he said.

In 2009, following a major overhaul of the 9-1-1 system, VITEMA activated new 9-1-1 centers furnished with modernized equipment and staffed with operators trained to meet national standards. Together, the centers field an average of 30,000 calls for assistance per month.

In addition to National 9-1-1 Education Month, from April 13 – 19 emergency operators will celebrate “National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.” Telecommunicators Week honors the thousands of men and women who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance to the citizens.

VITEMA is also celebrating Telecommunicators Week with various events including an Open House and social activities for operators.

“Emergency operators often go unrecognized for the critical role they play in responding to emergencies,” Lewis said. “I want publicly commend and thank them for the tireless work they do in connecting the public to first responders during times of crisis.”

Groups including the United States Congress and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), a leading public safety association, have also recognized April as National 9-1-1 Education Month, and are encouraging, the 9-1-1 community, and the wireless industry to engage in 9-1-1 awareness and education activities this month.

Virgin Islands Next Generation Network Issues an Updated Public Notice for the Network Build in the Virgin Islands
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 1, 2014 at 5:15 PM AST

Public Notice

Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) would like the public to be aware that Network Build will commence for the week of March 31, 2014 and April 07, 2014:

St. Thomas
Minor excavation for lateral work to riser poles will occur on the island of St. Thomas on Thursday, April 03, 2014 and is expected to be completed by Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the following locations:

  • Along Route 33 near Plot No. 2A Remainder, Estate Caret Bay
  • Along Skyline Drive (Route 33) near Plot 4A Remainder, Estate St. Joseph & Rosendahl
  • Along Smith Bay Road (Route 38) near Plot No. 19F Remainder
  • Along Red Hook Road (Route 32) near Plots No. 89 and 174, Estate Frydenhoj

Motorists are asked to follow traffic directions for the safety of crews, pedestrians and other drivers.

viNGN is in the process of connecting community anchor institutions with reliable high-speed Internet services, and strengthening external broadband connections that will improve access to online educational, healthcare and government services to residents.

The Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) is a wholly owned public corporation which was organized to create the broadband middle mile fiber optic network. viNGN was funded primarily from a grant by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) as part of a federal program to improve the broadband capacity in the territories.

Transfer Day 2014
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 1, 2014 at 12:40 PM AST
Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. spoke of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States in 2017. at Transfer Day ceremonies on St. Croix Monday.

Although the territory celebrated the 97th transfer of the Virgin Islands from Danish to American rule in ceremonies on St. Croix Monday, it was clear from speaker and speaker that all eyes are fixed on the 100th anniversary in 2017 and the preparing and planning that must take shape for that centennial celebration. The theme of the 2014 Transfer Day celebration, “Embracing our Cultural Traditions as a Bridge to the 2017 Centennial”, also suggested that the countdown is on to the big 100.

In remarks on Monday, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. spoke of the first meeting of the committee on the 100th Transfer Day celebration which also took place Monday. “We’ll begin to plan for the next three years and try to figure out what do we want to say, what do we want to do and, most importantly in my mind, where do we want to go,” deJongh said. “We can’t change history and what history offered us, but we can very much understand what it means for our future.” He said he would like to see getting the University of the Virgin Islands as well as local organizations across the territory involved in the planned. “What would be even greater by 2017 would be to have a Virgin Islands Constitution in place,” de Jongh added, a comment that pleased many in the audience. “That would be an accomplishment for us to show our own self-determination,” he said.

Commenting further on the 2017 centennial Transfer Day celebration, de Jongh said Monday, “If there is anything we can give our children for the next two to three years, it’s the ability to understand their history and have faith in their future. We want our community to understand what 2017 means. It means a forward movement. It means togetherness, and a richness of our culture and an acceptance of all people.”

WAPA Breaks Ground on Propane Facilities
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on April 1, 2014 at 12:00 PM AST
High above Krum Bay, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., other elected officials and WAPA's management team membes turn the soil to mark the groundbreaking of the development of propane facilities.

On Thursday, March 27 on St. Thomas, and Friday, March 28 on St. Croix, in ceremonies at Krum Bay and Estate Richmond, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority broke ground on historic projects, not only for the Virgin Islands, but for the most part, the entire Caribbean region. The ceremonies signaled the start of construction of the Authority’s Propane Facilities.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. was in attendance at both ceremonies. Speaker after speaker, de Jongh included, spoke of the admirable partnership with WAPA and Vitol. “The beauty of the partnership is that WAPA has not had to utilize any funds for the propane conversion.” In the turnkey master agreement with Vitol Virgin Islands Corporation, Vitol would provide all up-front capital costs to complete the conversion project including infrastructure design, construction, and turbine con-version. The capital costs for the terminals will be amortized over a seven year period with a prepay option in year five, after which WAPA will wholly own the new facilities to be transferred from Vitol for one dollar. In July 2013, the Authority entered into an agreement with Vitol, one of the world’s largest independent physical traders of oil and natural gas products, to supply propane for power generation in the territory.

VITRAN to Suspend Bus Service on Transfer Day
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 28, 2014 at 10:25 AM AST

The Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls wishes to inform the general public that VITRAN Fixed Route Bus Service will be suspended on all three islands on Monday, March 31, 2014 in observance of Transfer Day.

VITRAN will resume service on Tuesday, April 2, 2014 with regular hours of operation.

The ADA Paratransit Service will operate as normal on all three islands.

Please contact the VITRAN Bus Terminal at (340) 774-5678 with any questions or concerns.

A portion of General Gade in downtown St. Thomas will be closed to vehicular traffic from 6 a.m. on March 29 to 6 p.m. on March 30, 2014.
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 27, 2014 at 4:45 PM AST

The affected roadway begins at the USO building on the waterfront and extends north to 75 Corner along the western side of the Department of Finance building.

The road closure is necessary to facilitate the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority’s burying of electrical lines which serve properties in the area owned by the Virgin Islands Government.

Motorists are asked to take alternate routes when traveling in this area on Saturday and Sunday.

Governor de Jongh Calls 30th Legislature into Special Session Friday to Repeal Existing Legislation Regarding Implementation of Annual School Calendar
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM AST

Governor's Transmittal Letter

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has called the 30th Legislature into Special Session on Friday to repeal two laws pertaining to the school year calendar. De Jongh called the Special Session on Tuesday in a letter to Senate President Shawn Michael Malone accompanied by proposed legislation.

The Governor went to great lengths to explain why the two Acts: Section 11 of Act No. 7369 and Act No. 7484 should be repealed. “The Department of Education has attempted to develop a school calendar that aligns with the dates mandated in the revised law and has the draft document ready for final approval in April of this year. However, the Department has encountered a number of issues, making its implementation impractical, especially for the next school year.”

Prior to de Jongh's call for a Special Session, he and St. Croix Senator Alicia Chucky Hansen were in discussions about the importance of taking whatever steps were necessary to implement a revised school calendar. The Governor was keenly aware of the challenges being faced by the Department of Education specifically as regards funding and had warned of such challenges when he vetoed the original legislation. De Jongh and Hansen's conversation turned to the need to repeal both existing Acts. Senator Hansen said she was prepared to introduce legislation towards that end, however, both feared that process would take considerable time for the legislation to be vetted through the committee process. As such, de Jongh opted to fast track the legislation by calling the 30th Legislature into Special Session on Friday, a move that Hansen wholeheartedly supports.

Additionally, the Governor said, the Special Session was called to give consideration to the repeal of the two Acts following testimony by Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory and her staff on March 3 in which the challenges were articulated at a legislative hearing.

De Jongh explained that Act No. 7369 (Bill No. 29-0334), enacted over his veto by the 29th Legislature, amended the academic school year calendar without either expanding the school year or providing additional instruction time. As articulated in my transmittal of June 19, 2012, vetoing Section 11 of Bill No. 29-0334, “…by simply moving the start and end dates of the academic year, the Legislature has ignored my Administration's drive to expand the school year and provide additional instruction time to our students thereby increasing their academic performance and ultimate marketability. Read More

De Jongh: Repairs to Coral Bay Basketball Court Will Be Undertaken Through Public-Private Partnership
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 26, 2014 at 12:40 PM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has executed an agreement between the Department of Sports, Recreation and Parks and Moravian Church Virgin Islands Conference for repair of the Coral Bay basketball court through funding provided by the Rotary Club of St. John. Next to Guy Benjamin School, the basketball court is located on Parcel 10 in Estate Emmaus, property owned by the Moravian Church and currently leased to T-Rex St. John, LLC. Through the agreement, the Department of Sports, Recreation and Parks will undertake the repairs, estimated to cost approximately $50,000, upon receipt of the Rotary Club of St. John funds.

"This is a win-win situation for the entire community," de Jongh said, adding, "Working with the generous members of Rotary Club of St. John and the community-minded leaders of the Moravian Church, we have developed a partnership to repair a neglected recreational facility for our children. Although the court is on private property, once the repairs are completed, it will be open to the public and remain that way until a new public basketball facility is constructed and operational. I want to express my thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this agreement possible."

The refurbishment of the court will involve resurfacing and repairs to the bleachers, goals and baskets, and will be supervised by the staff of the Department of Sports, Recreation and Parks. The public-private partnership, which also involved the Coral Bay Community Council, is similar to the one that spearheaded the successful Pine Peace Basketball Court renovation project completed in October of 2013. "Over the last three or four years, we have been able to refurbish close to 40 recreational facilities across the Territory," explained Governor de Jongh, "providing needed after-school and weekend outlets for high energy young people."

"One of the foundations of my administration has been the improvement of life for our children, who are the future of the Virgin Islands. From early learning programs to meaningful recreational outlets and healthy lifestyle choices, I have been committed to making a difference for our boys and girls. Only through strong programs dedicated to the health and happiness of our children, starting during their first few years, will we see a different and better outcome intellectually, physically and morally," added the Governor.

Stepped Up Air Quality Testing in and around Central High School Campus Narrows Source of Noxious Odor to Sewer System; Elevated Readings of Hydrogen Sulfide and Propane Fuel Noted
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 24, 2014 at 5:30 PM AST

A sewer system near the campus of St. Croix Central High School is likely the cause of a noxious odor that has seen students, faculty and staff falling ill. That’s the preliminary finding of a technical team of environmentalists from the United States Environmental Protection Agency who worked alongside a number of officials from various Virgin Islands government agencies over the last two days as the investigation continued into the origin of an on again, off again noxious odor which has impacted school operations of Central High School. The V.I. government agencies include: Planning and Natural Resources, Public Works, VITEMA, Education, the OSHA Division of the Department of Labor and the 23rd Civil Support Team of the VI National Guard.

The most recent incident last week Tuesday saw more than 35 students and at least one adult were treated at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital for exposure to the unknown odor. As a result of the incident and the ongoing testing, classes have been cancelled at Central High since March 18 and the school remains closed.

This nagging odor has been affecting Central High for several weeks and our efforts have been unrelenting to determine its source. Today, students were dismissed at CHS at about 1 pm after the odor permeated several areas of the campus. It is unfortunate that the presence of the odor and the early dismissal escalated into sheer pandemonium, actions that are not necessary in times of emergency but understandable given the unknown. Some students were transported by ambulance and others were taken by private vehicles to the hospital for treatment of symptoms including: nausea, shortness of breath and a burning sensation in the chest. According to Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett and Dr. Kendall Griffith CEO at the JFL Hospital, the students responded favorably when oxygen was administered. I wish all the students and anyone else affected a complete recovery as the government works to get the bottom of the source of this odor and determine whether there are long term effects from exposure.

EPA on scene coordinator Jeff Garrison reported two primary observations from the day’s testing. Environmentalists found an abandoned sewer system consisting of two man holes on the campus of Central High School. “But at a manhole site in proximity to the school but not on the campus, we found elevated readings which could be working their way up to the school. We have additional staff and more equipment arriving on island and we will continue the site investigations.”

On site investigations on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week on the school campus included inspections of the underground infrastructure, including both sewer lines and manholes. On Sunday and again today, the federal and local government agencies were augmented by the Civil Support Team of the Virgin Islands National Guard which installed several air monitors across the school campus. The investigation was also supported by local contractors and DPW employees with institutional knowledge of the school campus and surrounding areas.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. said Monday that based on the information provided to him by DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes it is clear that “through a process of elimination we can make some technical assumptions about a potential source of the odor, but further site testing will give us confirmation. The outcome of the testing and the development of a corrective action plan will determine how we proceed with resuming classes for students at Central High, whether at the campus or at another location.” Those options are under review by the Department of Education and as decisions are made appropriate announcements will be made publicly, de Jongh said, adding, “I know the students are concerned about being out of school and we are making every effort to minimize the effect of the school closing on the students especially the seniors that are graduating in the summer.”

De Jongh also noted the cooperation of HOVENSA and DIAGEO in agreeing to suspending operations for a 48-hour period beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday as part of the overall investigation and air monitoring.

Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett encouraged residents to be cautious and to avoid unnecessary exposure to the pungent odor. If you smell a foul odor, the following precautionary measures are recommended to help reduce exposure and effects of the odor:

  • Try to keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed when odor is strong outside.
  • Air conditioners that re-circulate air within the home can help filter the air and reduce exposure to the odor. Avoid using air conditioning units that only draw in air from the outside or that do not have a re-circulating option. Residents should check the filters on their air conditioners and replace them regularly.
  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity in the area to limit your exposure to odor. This is especially important for sensitive individuals and individuals with compromised immune systems, respiratory disease, the elderly and children.

Plaskett urged residents who are experiencing symptoms that may be related to exposure to an odor, including nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing to seek medical care. For medical emergencies, call 911 or go immediately to the emergency room.

Department of Labor in Search of Employers and Organizations to Provide Work Experience and Career Exploration Activities for Youth
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 21, 2014 at 4:50 PM AST

Commissioner of Labor Albert Bryan, Jr., wishes to invite Employers, Not For-Profit Organizations, and Training Service Providers to participate in this year’s Summer Youth Work Experience and Training Program through the VI Department of Labor.

VIDOL is seeking the following:

  • Employers and Agencies who are interested in providing a six (6) week work experience and job training activities for youth ages 16-24
  • Service Providers and Organizations interested in providing life skills and career exploration activities for youths, ages 14-15 (Programs should run for no more than four weeks. Mini-grants of up to $4,500 are available for qualified providers).

Interested employers and organizations can obtain a “Request for Summer Youth Work Experience Program Participation” and “Summer Youth Workshop Application” by contacting our offices on St. Thomas at 340-776-3700 x2080 or 340-773-1994 x2145 on St. Croix, or by visiting www.vidol.gov (under the forms tab). Applications can also be picked up at our St. Thomas and St. Croix location. Deadline to apply is May 16th.

DPNR Commissioner Provides Update on Ongoing Investigation of Areas around Central High Campus and on Hovensa Refinery Visit as Efforts Continue to Identify Source of Foul Odor
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 21, 2014 at 11:10 AM AST

Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia V. Barnes said Thursday that a second day of field investigations continued on the campus of Central High School today as officials work towards eyeing the source of a foul odor that has wreaked havoc on school operations since the beginning of the year. The most recent incident on Tuesday sent over 35 students and one adult to the Juan F. Luis Hospital from the ill-effects of inhaling the unidentified odor. Since Tuesday, there have been intermittent reports from residents in a few communities across St. Croix of the presence of the foul odor. Classes at Central High have been cancelled through at least next Monday.

Barnes said today that the site investigations on the campus have included inspection of lines and manholes to determine if the school’s sewage system was contributing to the presence of the foul odor. At the same time, a team of officials from DPNR and other agencies made an unannounced visit to HOVENSA, where tank cleaning operations have been underway for some time. “HOVENSA has the appropriate permits to carry out this work.”

Barnes also said today that assistance has been requested from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in terms of air quality monitoring. “We are seeking additional resources to conduct further air monitoring and site investigations.” She said, that a team of EPA officials with additional equipment should arrive on island by the weekend and begin the air quality monitoring by the first part of next week. The testing may also expand to residential areas on either side of the CHS campus. Until the air testing begins, there will be a focus on the underground infrastructure of Central High to determine if there are any pipelines that are a contributing factor to this odor. And at the same time, officials will be reviewing weather conditions to determine wind patterns, changes to the prevailing winds and atmospheric conditions.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. was joined by Barnes, Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory, VITEMA Director Elton Lewis, officials of the WMA, EPA and OSHA and other government officials at a meeting on St. Croix this afternoon for an update on the ongoing effort. “Our goal is to get to the bottom of what is causing this odor and addressing it. I am extremely concerned about the effect that this odor has on the students, faculty and staff at Central High and residents of the surrounding communities. I can assure everyone that until we have a better idea of what this odor is and what is causing it, we will not reopen Central High School—if that means the school remaining closed beyond Monday, we will make that decision.”

De Jongh also said that Education Commissioner Gregory and her team are working tirelessly to identify options to resume classroom operations for the CHS students while the investigation is underway. Once finalized, those decisions will be made public as well. “I thank the community for its patience as we work on many levels to address this health concern on St. Croix,” de Jongh said today.

Bureau of Corrections Director: Steady Progress Being Made in Improving Conditions at Golden Grove Correctional Facility
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 21, 2014 at 11:00 AM AST

Despite today’s publication of a three month old report on conditions of the Bureau of Corrections facilities in the territory, BOC Director Julius Wilson said today there has been progress made since the December 2013 site visit by the parties’ mutually selected Monitor, whose report on the most recent site-visit held between March 4-7, 2014 will be filed no later than April 21, 2014.

“While the monitor only released his report on the December 2013 visit on Monday, the monitor has acknowledged significant progress in our effort to improve conditions at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility,” Wilson said. Improved conditions noted earlier this month include: an entry gate lock made more operable; searches upon entry to the prison more appropriate; gates into the yard locked; persons have been held accountable for not locking gates; log books are now being used with proper entries being made. Cells and housing units are a bit cleaner; inmates are now being made responsible for maintaining their own cells; showers and kitchen facilities have been cleaned with new fixture added and kitchen tools locked and secured. Upon the conclusion of his visit the monitor met with the BOC and noted these improvements, while acknowledging that continued improvement is needed and the right efforts are being exhibited.

“I called this meeting as a next step in the strategy to gain first-hand information from the mariners and our marine enforcement officers. Once again, our Marine Council was energetic with their discussion as to how to generate revenue within the maritime industries that will assist with the improvement and maintenance of our harbors and shoreline facilities,” de Jongh said. The Marine Economic Development Council was established in Executive Order 448-2009 as a strategy to revitalize a segment of our business sector which once brought upwards of $100 million dollars annually into the Virgin Islands economy.

Wilson said that the next monitor’s report will be filed toward the end of this month and should reflect these advances. “The Territory and USDOJ have reached a settlement agreement, which was entered as an order of the District Court of the Virgin Islands, that gives the Territory the initial discretion to determine how best to put Golden Grove on the right path to improving conditions at the facility in light of the limitations faced.” He said it must be noted though that the improvements to the institution cannot and will not be an overnight change but “is a complicated and complex process whereby all aspects of the Golden Grove prison are undergoing change.”

Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) would like the public to be aware that Network Build will commence for the week of March 24, 2014:
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 20, 2014 at 4:00 PM AST

Public Notice

Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) would like the public to be aware that Network Build will commence for the week of March 24, 2014:

St. Thomas
On Saturday, March 22nd, viNGN contractor will continue install aerial fiber and hardware on Kongens Gade near Public Finance Authority/Government House/ Lieutenant Governor’s Office. The road will be closed from about 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. This road will only be open to emergency vehicles. As a result, motorist should use alternate routes and parking for your daily activities. Motorists are asked to obey flag men that will be stationed near the entrance of Norre Gade.

Also, minor road work for fiber installation will occur along Sugar Estate Road (Route 38) from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. near the exit of 10th street and the entrance to the Lockhart Shopping Center on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

In both cases, the traffic lanes will be reduced but traffic will be allowed to flow in both directions.

Motorists are asked to follow traffic directions for the safety of crews, pedestrians and other drivers.

viNGN is in the process of connecting community anchor institutions with reliable high-speed Internet services, and strengthening external broadband connections that will improve access to online educational, healthcare and government services to residents.

The Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) is a wholly owned public corporation which was organized to create the broadband middle mile fiber optic network. viNGN was funded primarily from a grant by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) as part of a federal program to improve the broadband capacity in the territories.

Government Officials Meet and Develop Plan of Protocol to Address Foul Odors Plaguing Central High School Area
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 20, 2014 at 12:30 PM AST

A number of government officials from local and federal agencies met throughout the day Wednesday to map out a strategy for conducting a thorough inspection of the Central High School campus and adjoining areas to determine the origin of a foul odor. The presence of the odor led to the early dismissal of classes and resulted in more than 30 students and at least one adult being treated at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital for skin irritation, respiratory difficulties and burning sensations in the chest. Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., who attended the meeting on St. Croix today with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Department of Education, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Public Works, VITEMA and Waste Management Authority, said officials intend to work every possible angle to determine the origin of the odor.

The Governor reported, "In the continuing effort to address this situation, DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes and VITEMA Director Elton Lewis led today's meeting to develop a plan of protocol to investigate, identify and then eliminate the source of the odor. We will be meeting again tomorrow due to the severity of the situation. Investigative teams have been on site at Central High School, and have been canvassing businesses in the immediate area around the school. The odor is only affecting the Central High School area, as far as we can tell. By employing a systematic approach, we will be able to determine the root cause of the problem."

De Jongh asked the parents of the students at Central High School to bear with the team, while the investigation continues. He added that he had reached out to the presidents of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers and the Parent-Teacher Association to provide updated information on the steps being taken to address the problem. The Governor also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Kendall Griffith and the medical staff at the Juan F. Luis Hospital, who he said deserved "tremendous kudos" for their responsiveness and professionalism in dealing with the number of students with parents who went to the Emergency Room for treatment on Tuesday. "We are determined to solve this problem quickly so that Central High School can re-open and a level of stability can be re-established for educators, students and their families," he concluded.

The Education Commissioner, Donna Frett-Gregory, commentted on the issue and can be listened to here.

Governor de Jongh on Central High Odor
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 19, 2014 at 5:10 PM AST

A number of government officials from both local and federal agencies met throughout the day today to map out a strategy by which a thorough inspection of the Central High School campus can be carried out to determine the origin of a foul odor which caused the early dismissal of classes on Tuesday. The presence of the odor resulted in more than 30 students and at least one adult to the Juan F. Luis Hospital for treatment of skin irritation, respiratory difficulties and burning sensation in the chest.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. who attended the meeting on St. Croix today with representatives of the EPA, DPNR, the Education Department, OSHA, Public Works, VITEMA and Waste Management said officials intend to work every possible angle to determine the origin of the odor. The smell was evident again today at the school campus.

Listen to the audio here.

Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture and Partners Continue to Promote Marketing of local Meat
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 19, 2014 at 4:15 PM AST

The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture in partnership with Sejah Farm of the Virgin Islands, ‘Good to Chew’ Catering Company and Plaza Extra Supermarket East will be hosting a tasting event at Plaza Extra East on St. Croix from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. on Friday, March 21, 2014. The goal of this tasting event is to promote public awareness regarding the sale of local meat at the Plaza Extra Supermarkets on St. Croix. The activity will feature samples of deliciously cooked, locally raised lamb for tasting by the public and supermarket patrons.

The lamb was raised by Dale and Yvette Browne of Sejah Farm of the Virgin Islands and the lamb carcass was dressed by the abattoir staff at the Department of Agriculture. The meat will be prepared and presented by Executive Chef Anton Doos and his talented students of ‘Good to Chew’ Catering at the St. Croix Educational Complex’s Career and Technical Education Center. The public is invited to visit and sample the free tasty preparations of braised leg of lamb, curry stew shoulders and crown roast of ribs.

Commissioner of Agriculture Louis E. Petersen, Jr. expressed his appreciation to all the partners for their support and contribution toward this worthwhile occasion. “This partnership represents a joint effort to encourage the production and marketing of local agricultural products through our ‘Virgin Fresh’ marketing campaign. I commend the hard work of the Browne Family, the dedication of my staff, the talent and culinary skills of Chef Doos and his students at Good to Chew Catering, and Plaza Extra East’s support for our farmers,” said Commissioner Petersen. “We also appreciate the tremendous public support demonstrated during the month of February at a similar event at Plaza Extra West on St. Croix. Once again the community is invited to join us at this marketing and promotional endeavor,” added the Commissioner.

The Virgin Fresh Marketing Campaign reminds everyone to patronize our farmers throughout the Territory -- Buy Local and Eat Fresh, Always Eat Virgin Fresh!

Virgin Islands Next Generation Network Issues an Updated Public Notice for the Network Build in the Virgin Islands
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 19, 2014 at 2:45 PM AST

Public Notice

Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) would like the public to be aware that Network Build continues this week:

St. Thomas
On Saturday, March 22nd, viNGN contractor will continue install aerial fiber and hardware on Kongens Gade near Public Finance Authority/Government House/ Lieutenant Governor’s Office. The road will be closed from about 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. This road will only be open to emergency vehicles. As a result, motorist should use alternate routes and parking for your daily activities. Motorists are asked to obey flag men that will be stationed near the entrance of Norre Gade.

Motorists are asked to follow traffic directions for the safety of crews, pedestrians and other drivers.

viNGN is in the process of connecting community anchor institutions with reliable high-speed Internet services, and strengthening external broadband connections that will improve access to online educational, healthcare and government services to residents.

The Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) is a wholly owned public corporation which was organized to create the broadband middle mile fiber optic network. viNGN was funded primarily from a grant by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) as part of a federal program to improve the broadband capacity in the territories.

Governor and First Lady Congratulate Mario Picayo on the Continued Success with Caribbean Children's Book Project
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 19, 2014 at 11:20 AM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., and First Lady Cecile de Jongh extended their congratulations to Mario Picayo for the recognition he has received in pushing reading and literacy in the Caribbean. Several of the Caribbean children's books, which are published by his independent publishing house Little Bell Caribbean, will be added to the Aruban school system's multi-lingual curriculum. That announcement was recently made by the Aruban Minister of Education Michelle Hooyboer-Winklaar and Alice van Rommondt, Special Projects Director for the Ministry of Education.

Little Bell Caribbean's endeavor, known as The Children's Book Project, has been expanding throughout the region. Mr. Picayo cited the origins of the project as an initiative started in 2008 by the Office of the Governor, which places thousands of books written and illustrated by local writers and artists in the hands of children without charge. According to Picayo, "The success of the Governor’s program in the U.S. Virgin Islands encouraged us to suggest it to other Caribbean nations," because it promotes the value of art and literacy in early childhood education. Besides the U.S. Virgin Islands and Aruba, special Caribbean editions have been introduced in Dominica and Grenada.

The Governor added his praise for Mr. Picayo and The Children's Book Project. "One of the key goals of my administration has been the development of programs to assist the Territory's children and their families, like the formation of the Children and Families Council. These books have been an important aspect for our children's reading program, and they have been well received by the children, their parents and the Territory's educators. I am very pleased to know that our initiative was helped stimulate literacy programs in other areas of the region."

The First Lady explained, "The U.S. Special Virgin Islands Editions of these books have all been given as gifts to our children, especially at Christmas. They are written and illustrated by local authors, photographers and artists, underscoring the importance of literacy and education in nurturing home-grown talent. I am proud to serve as the spokesperson for the Territory’s Big Read project as well as participate in the annual “Dr. Seuss Read Across America” campaign; both are national efforts that raise awareness on the importance of reading. Reading is the cornerstone of a sound education and a successful future, something we want for all Virgin Islands' children."

“What Mario and his company have been doing is providing an investment for us to make in our children of which we will provide tremendous returns to our communities in the opportunities that will open up for young people,” Governor de Jongh concluded.

Governor de Jongh Signs Bill Into Law to Correct Erroneous Withholding of Benefit Payments by GERS
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 19, 2014 at 10:55 AM AST

Late Monday afternoon, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. signed a measure into law that seeks to correct erroneous withholdings by the Government Employees Retirement System. The legislation, Bill 30-0318 -- now Act 7585, was prime sponsored by Senator Alicia “Chucky” Hansen.

In signing the bill into law, de Jongh said it is altogether fitting and proper that the erroneous withholding by the Government Employees Retirement System should be rectified promptly and by the payment of a reasonable amount of interest on the monies withheld. “However, to be equitable, and given its annual deficit, the GERS should pay no more than the regular rate of interest the law requires to be applied to other refunds, neither less than two (2) percent nor more than four (4) percent,” he said.

"As the prime sponsor, I applaud Senator Hansen for her commitment and dedication in seeking the administration’s support for its passage. It is this type of dedication and commitment that will be required to address both pension reform and the current unfunded liability that puts the system’s solvency at risk,” de Jongh said.

The Governor also said on Monday that he has been advised by officials of the retirement system that to achieve the ninety-day turnaround for processing the refunds as set forth in Section 3 of the bill, significant overtime costs will be incurred. “To avoid this unnecessary expense, more time should be provided to the System. I encourage the Thirtieth Legislature to consider making the requisite changes in this measure at the earliest available opportunity as you also consider my submission of the pension reform legislation,” he wrote in a transmittal letter to Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone.

De Jongh thanked the members of the 30th Legislature for their vigilance and concern over the pension system and he looks forward to continuing working with the senators to address the sustainability of the GERS for years to come.

Read the Governor's action on the bill here.

Read the full bill here.

Statement by the Governor on Central School
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 18, 2014 at 5:10 PM AST

Once again today, a foul odor from an unknown source affected school operations at Central High School causing the early dismissal of classes and more significantly, the odor forced more than 30 students to seek medical attention at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital this afternoon.

Despite a week of air quality testing by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources we have not been able to determine what the odor is and what is its origin. We have ruled out that the odor is being caused by work at the HOVENSA refinery where personnel have been scrubbing the huge storage tanks for several weeks now. We have confirmed that the odor is only being reported from time to time on the campus of Central High School and that there are no reports of this odor being reported from surrounding neighborhoods or businesses. And the odor is not constant it is intermittent which makes it even more difficult to pinpoint its origin.

This nagging odor has been affecting Central High for several weeks and our efforts have been unrelenting to determine its source. Today, students were dismissed at CHS at about 1 pm after the odor permeated several areas of the campus. It is unfortunate that the presence of the odor and the early dismissal escalated into sheer pandemonium, actions that are not necessary in times of emergency but understandable given the unknown. Some students were transported by ambulance and others were taken by private vehicles to the hospital for treatment of symptoms including: nausea, shortness of breath and a burning sensation in the chest. According to Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett and Dr. Kendall Griffith CEO at the JFL Hospital, the students responded favorably when oxygen was administered. I wish all the students and anyone else affected a complete recovery as the government works to get the bottom of the source of this odor and determine whether there are long term effects from exposure.

The Commissioner of Education Donna Frett-Gregory has determined that it is in the best interest of everyone that classes at Central High School be called off until next week Monday. This will allow the investigatory team to access the campus and begin to narrow down possible sources of the odor. I have directed that Commissioner Alicia Barnes coordinate an investigation with the Waste Management Authority, Fire Services, Public Works, and the OSHA division of the Department of Labor. The investigation will seek to exclude any potential source for the odor.

Over the last several days, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources has completed air quality testing which rendered no tangible results in terms of identifying what the odor is and where it is originating from. DPNR did say that the testing showed no significant pollutants in the air that would represent a health risk.

VITEMA will continue to act as a coordinating entity for all agencies that are now deployed to identify the source of the odor.

Governor de Jongh and Marine Council Members Strategize on Mooring and Anchoring Procedures
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM AST

Governor de Jongh speaks during a recent meeting of the Marine Council at Government House, St. Thomas.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. met recently with members of the V.I. Marine Economic Development Council and the Director of Enforcement at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to discuss the agency’s renewed effort at ensuring the safe, orderly, and ecologically sound regulation for mooring and anchoring in the bays throughout the Virgin Islands.

“I called this meeting as a next step in the strategy to gain first-hand information from the mariners and our marine enforcement officers. Once again, our Marine Council was energetic with their discussion as to how to generate revenue within the maritime industries that will assist with the improvement and maintenance of our harbors and shoreline facilities,” de Jongh said. The Marine Economic Development Council was established in Executive Order 448-2009 as a strategy to revitalize a segment of our business sector which once brought upwards of $100 million dollars annually into the Virgin Islands economy.

In response to council member Bill Canfield’s inquiry on the safety of mooring equipment, the council and DPNR jointly agreed to develop a strategy to standardize certain ground tackle which would encourage local marine chandleries to stock as regularly available items.

Howard Forbes, Director of DPNR Enforcement and Council member, described the ongoing assessment of mooring fields and anchorages throughout the territory to determine the level of need to increase mooring and anchoring permits. “It is DPNR’s intent to provide within the next few months an opportunity for residents who have been waiting for permits to obtain them, an opportunity that has been closed to mariners for several years,” Forbes stated.

Council member Tony Hendricks offered recommendations for improved anchoring practices which would benefit both the Harbor Pilots as well as boat owners, while St. Croix member Rich Defide outlined recommendations to clarify existing Rules and Regulations for mooring and anchoring.

As the need for repairing recreational dive moorings on St. Croix has reached a crisis stage, Council member Michele Pugh lead the group charged with developing a public/private approach to identify funding and advance a plan for installation and regular maintenance for these recreational dive moorings.

Marine council members also strategized on identification and disposal of abandoned vessels, increased fees, identification of services including marine sanitation device pump out and trash collection and repairs to the recreational moorings at Christmas Cove, Great St. James.

Governor De Jongh Praises Police and Law Enforcement Officers on the Capture of Six Suspects Following Armed Robbery Incident on Main Street Saturday
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 18, 2014 at 10:30 AM AST

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. on Monday expressed the gratitude and appreciation of the community to officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department who through dedicated police work coupled with an efficient and coordinated response arrested six of seven suspects in a daring daylight robbery in downtown Charlotte Amalie. De Jongh also praised the other law enforcement officers who while off duty jumped into action to aid police in capturing the six suspects of which two are minors.

“The swift response by police officers coupled with good information from the concerned citizens led to the arrest, recovery of evidence including some of the stolen loot. The owners of Imperial Jewelers have also conveyed to me their deep appreciation for the effort of the law enforcement community on Saturday,” de Jongh said.

De Jongh praised the leadership of Police Commissioner Rodney F. Querrard, Sr. and Police Chief Darren Foy for leading a successful operation. “We saw a cadre of officers who performed admirably. Clearly their performance is linked to the ongoing in service training they receive. While we do not have the manpower strength to place a uniformed officer on every street corner, it should be reassuring to the public that when called upon, our officers demonstrate their proficiency and professionalism.”

The Governor also heaped praise on the community members who provided invaluable tips and information to officers directly, to emergency 911 dispatchers about the path of flight of the suspects and where they sought cover to evade authorities. “The response of the public in assisting law enforcement fight crime has been heartening. With the community’s engagement has come measurable success in our efforts against crime—success that I hope will continue into the future,” de Jongh said.

Corrections Chief Provides Summary of Recent Golden Grove Visit by Independent Monitor, Medical Experts, USDOJ and Motion for More Specific Relief
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 17, 2014 at 10:45 AM AST

Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections (BOC), Julius C. Wilson, this weekend issued a summary of the recent visit to the Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility by monitors of the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) from March 4-7, 2014.

Wilson said, “During the recent visit, monitors toured the facility, reviewed and assessed various operational practices. These assessments included: current prison staffing levels, sanitation, security, inmate complaints, quality of life for offenders, quality of medical and mental health services, as well as the day to day operations.”

Following the comprehensive evaluation the monitors provided the BOC with a preliminary summary of their perspectives and findings in which they asserted that they were pleasantly pleased with many of the improvements seen. Specifically they saw an improvement in the areas of:

  • Sanitation – overall cleanliness of the facility which underwent a thorough cleaning, scrubbing, power washing and painting;
  • Safety and Security – additional perimeter lighting; all doors have been appropriately secured; arrival and distribution of staff safety equipment (particularly stab vests); and arrival and distribution of radios to staff;
  • Logbook information more relative and detailed; and,
  • Updated maintenance plans

Wilson added that the monitor’s report will be filed toward the end of this month. “The Territory and USDOJ have reached a settlement agreement, which was entered as an order of the District Court of the Virgin Islands, that gives the Territory the initial discretion to determine how best to put Golden Grove on the right path to improving conditions at the facility in light of the limitations faced. On March 3rd, one day before the monitoring team arrived for their third site visit to assess compliance with the settlement agreement, USDOJ filed a motion for more specific relief in the District Court. The motion is based on past observations and conditions at the prison. BOC will have an opportunity to refute that motion in its reply, and at a hearing in April, at which time BOC will demonstrate that conditions at the prison have improved considerably over the past few months.

GOVERNOR JOHN P. DE JONGH, JR. LEADS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MISSION TO NEW YORK CITY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 14, 2014 at 5:30 PM AST

U.S. Virgin Islands (March 14, 2014) – To promote the benefits of establishing and growing businesses in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (VIEDA) spearheaded a two-day mission to New York City this week.

Governor John de Jongh, Jr., together with top officials from the VIEDA, met with companies in targeted industries; site selection consultants, tax advisors and capital/wealth management firms; and influential business media.

“Getting out into the marketplace to meet face-to-face to showcase what we have to offer to companies and the firms that advise them is critical to spurring investment and job creation in the Territory. As the media capital of the world, New York City also provided a powerful platform to amplify our message that the U.S. Virgin Islands is open for business.”

A highlight of the mission was a business reception attended by nearly 20 elite site selection and incentive consultants, tax attorneys and advisors, and wealth and investment management firms. In addition to a presentation by Governor de Jongh; Percival Clouden, Chief Executive Officer of the VIEDA and Jennifer Nugent-Hill, Assistant CEO and Chief Operating Officer, gave brief remarks.

Mark Eckard, President of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, and Brad Lenhart, Chief Operating Officer of Denali Asset Management, were also on hand to testify to the Territory’s favorable business climate and advantages of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) tax incentive program.

The economic development mission also included a series of one-on-one editorial meetings with high-circulation business media. Governor de Jongh was interviewed by The Street, The New York Times, International Business Times, Barron’s and MarketWatch. The media interviews were designed to deliver the message to a global business audience that the U.S. Virgin Islands offers one of the best business values in the U.S.

“We pushed the strong message that the U.S. Virgin Islands is a tremendous value proposition for businesses that want to achieve growth while improving their bottom line. We underscored that our tax benefits are sanctioned by the U.S. Congress that we operate with the advantages of two airports, deep water sea ports, appropriate shipping routes and airline connections and have one of the fastest broadband networks in the Western hemisphere,” said Mr. Clouden. "It is our belief that upon approval of the recent EDC reform amendments that we submitted to the 30th Legislature we will be in an even more positive position to build the portfolio of companies doing business in the Virgin Islands."

About the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority:

The Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (VIEDA) was created as an umbrella quasi-government instrumentality to integrate and unify the functions of the Government Development Bank, the Economic Development Commission, the Industrial Park Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Agency and the Enterprise Zone Commission. More commonly referred to as the GDB, EDC, IPDC, SBDA and EZ, these five entities are now under one executive board in order to achieve maximum efficiency of operations, while avoiding duplication of services. The entity is charged with the responsibility of developing comprehensive programs for the economic development of the territory.

DOL ANNOUNCES THE START OF THE 2014 SUMMER YOUTH EMPLOYMENT & TRAINING PROGRAM
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 14, 2014 at 5:05 PM AST

Department of Labor Assistant Commissioner, Arah C. Lockhart., is pleased to announce that the department has begun accepting and processing Summer Youth Employment applications for the 2014 Summer Youth Work Experience and Training Program. All “In and Out of School” Youth between the ages of 14 to 25 are invited to register for the approximate Seven-hundred and fifty (750) available slots. Applications are available from and can be submitted electronically through the department’s website at www.vidol.gov (under the forms tab). They can also be picked up at any of the Department of Labor office locations on both islands. St. John residents may pick up registration forms at St. John Administrator’s Office. A Summer Employment Fact Sheet is also available online providing additional information for participants and parents. This summer, special priority will be applied to participants who: a) have not previously received a work experience; b) 11th graders and 12th grade graduates; and c) ‘Out-of-School/Unemployed and Dislocated Youth.

Youths, under age of 18, should be accompanied by a parent/guardian to sign authorization for participation in the program. All applicants should be prepared to provide a) proof of their educational and legal residency status; b) proof of enrollment in college, high school, evidence of a social security card; d) Photo ID; and copy of a resume if available

If you have any questions regarding this information please contact Shenika Sebastien on St. Thomas at (340)-776-3700 ext. 2080 - (scsebastien@vidol.gov) or Kendra Young on St. Croix at (340)-773 - 1994 x 2145 (kyoung@vidol.gov).

TOURISM OFFICES ON ST. THOMAS CLOSED HALF-DAY TODAY; TO RESUME NORMAL OPERATIONS MONDAY
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 14, 2014 at 3:05 PM AST

Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty released the staff at the Department of Tourism offices on St. Thomas today due to the unavailability of potable water to the office building in Estate Contant. The offices were closed just after midday today and are expected to reopen on Monday.

"While this may pose an inconvenience to the public, I am mindful of the difficult position my staff was placed in in having no running water at the building today."

Nicholson-Doty added, "I am hopeful that situation will be remedied over the weekend so we can resume normal operations at the start of the business day on Monday."

VI Department of Agriculture Announces Re-Opening of the Rothschild Francis Market Square.
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 14, 2014 at 12:10 PM AST

Commissioner of Agriculture Louis E. Petersen, Jr., Ph.D. informs all farmers, fishermen, and the general public that effective Saturday, March 15, 2014 market sales will resume at the Sanderilla Thomas Bungalow in the Rothschild Francis Market Square on St. Thomas. The public is hereby notified that farmers’ market sales been discontinued at the Emancipation Garden. The use of the Emancipation Garden location was a short term temporary arrangement.

Commissioner Petersen expressed his appreciation to the farmers, fishermen and the general public for their patience during the past many months while renovation work was in progress at the Rothschild Francis Market Square. The Commissioner also appreciates the support of the Office of the Governor, Department of Public Works, the Virgin Islands Police Department, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Waste Management Authority, and the Office of Senator Myron Jackson for their collective support regarding this project. “Despite the numerous challenges, I am confident that with everyone’s support and cooperation the final outcome of the construction and renovation project will enhance the beauty and promote economic development in downtown St. Thomas,” said Commissioner Petersen.

As always the public is encouraged to patronize the Sanderilla Thomas Bungalow and support our farmers and fishermen. For additional information please call the Department of Agriculture at 774-5182.

DOH Adds New Emergency Medical Response Vehicles to Fleet
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 13, 2014 at 3:30 PM AST

Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett announced Wednesday that the Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services, St. Croix District, purchased (3) three new Emergency Medical Services Rapid Response Vehicles.

Plaskett stated that the response vehicles include a Silverado Truck and two Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs. The Chevrolet Silverado Truck can secure up to ten backboards for emergency treatment and features a computer docking station for electronic data patient care reporting and enhanced documentation. The truck will be an instrumental factor in response to Mass Casualty Incidents where it will be used to tow the Emergency Medical Services trailer that stores additional equipment and medical supplies needed to adequately respond to high casualty emergencies. The SUVs will serve as rapid response vehicles to aid Emergency Medical Technicians in their emergency response.

Mr. Sweeney, EMS Territorial Coordinator also noted that similar efforts are in place to purchase the same rapid response vehicles for the St. Thomas/St. John District.

Plaskett further stated that the new emergency vehicles will ensure that EMS continues to meet and exceed national standards of pre-hospital emergency care. These vehicles are classified as Emergency Response Vehicles. Motorists are reminded to “yield right of way” by pulling to the left and coming to a complete stop when these vehicles are responding with lights and sirens. EMS is proud to list these assets as “Drops of Life”.

For more information on these and other EMS Operations, contact the VIEMS Territorial Coordinator at 340) 773-1311, Ext. 3051.

Governor Transmits Legislation to Implement Recommendations of GERS Task Force
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 12, 2014 at 1:40 PM AST

Governor de Jongh has submitted both a letter and draft legislation to Senator Shawn-Michael Malone, President of the 30th Legislature, concerning major reforms to the government’s pension system. The legislation, once implemented, will begin the arduous task of addressing the constantly growing unfunded liability of the system which threatens the retirement savings of thousands of retired V.I. Government employees. “We have received the recommendations of the pension reform task force which I established for the sole purpose of reviewing the challenges facing the system and develop solutions to address the unfunded liability,” he said, adding, we cannot wait to take action to safeguard the system and in so doing, protect the retirement savings for our retirees.” 

In the letter, he discussed the solvency of the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS), which is a "priority that must be addressed now." The Governor reminded the senators that the GERS’ actuary projects that the system will be out of money by 2023, if no significant action is taken to forestall its insolvency. "As such, today I am submitting comprehensive pension reform legislation that is the result of a collaborative effort between my office, the GERS Board of Trustees and the Pension Reform Task Force," stated the governor. 

He continued, "We have collectively drafted this legislation to remove the threat of insolvency, restore a positive trajectory to System funding, and attain a funded percentage of 42% by 2031 and forestall the 2023 risk." The recommended measures, according to projections, will halt the declining percentage of funded GERS liability by 2018, and reverse the trend by 2024. The letter stated that the suggested measures for correcting the pension system insolvency "will not be pleasant for any of the parties involved." The Governor outlined four steps addressed in the legislation to reduce the existing pension debt, estimated to be $1.8 billion in unfunded liability and a continuing annual disbursement that exceeds revenues by about $80 million. Those steps are: 1. asking employers and employees to contribute a larger amount toward pension benefits; 2. reducing benefits already being received, and increasing the age and years of service needed before retiring; 3. limiting the annual cost of living increase; and 4. changing the formula used to calculate benefits. 

The governor reiterated that the reform of GERS "is one of the most significant fiscal challenges facing our Territory today. As difficult as this challenge is, the consequence of inaction is greater. Simply stated, if we fail to act, within a few short years the System will no longer have the capacity to meet its obligations to retirees on an annual basis."

Related audio files:

Part 1 .mp3 (1.5MB)

Part 2 .mp3 (1.7MB)

Part 3 .mp3 (1.9MB)

Part 4 .mp3 1.5MB)

Governor and Other Officials Attend Annual Cruise Shipping Conference 
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 11, 2014 at 11:00 PM AST

Governor de Jongh,, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, VI Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe and WICO President Joseph Boschulte are among the government leaders in attendance at the annual Sea Trade Conference in Florida this week. The governor, who traveled to Miami on Monday night hosted a Tuesday morning breakfast meeting with more than a dozen cruise line executives whose ships calls on the ports of St. Croix and St. Thomas. After that meeting and receiving the State of the Global Cruise Industry at the conference, the VI government officials spoke about the interaction with the cruise line executives and the nature of the discussions.

The 30th annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference and exhibition is being held at the Miami Beach Convention Center and runs through Thursday, March 13.

Related audio files:

Part 1 .mp3 (1.5MB)

Part 2 .mp3 (1.7MB)

Part 3 .mp3 (1.9MB)

Part 4 .mp3 1.5MB)

Part 5 .mp3 (1.2MB)

 

Governor de Jongh: DPNR to Continue Monitoring Air Quality In and Around Central High School on St. Croix
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 10, 2014 at 10:45 PM AST

Governor de Jongh said this evening that the Department of Planning and Natural Resources will continue efforts to determine the origin of a foul odor that has impacted operations at St. Croix Central High School. The odor has been on again, off again since January but classes at CHS were interrupted last week Friday and staff and students reported ill again today as the odor was experienced at various times during the school day.

DPNR will conduct further testing as is necessary to determine the nature and source of any potential health risk. The governor said that beginning on Tuesday DPNR will have the ability to draw on the resources of the V.I. National Guard’s Civil Support Team (CST) to assist in the air quality monitoring initiative. DPNR and the CST will install stationary air monitoring devices in strategic locations on the Central High campus and areas nearby.

Two weeks ago, DPNR officials issued a work stoppage order when it was learned that HOVENSA had been cleaning various crude oil processing units and storage tanks which resulted in the release of unpleasant odors. In addition, DPNR will monitor operations at the refinery to ensure that personnel there are only carrying out work it is authorized and permitted to do.

On Friday, an early dismissal was ordered at Central High School by the Department of Education after students, faculty and staff all reported feeling ill as the foul odor filled the air in and around the campus. Twenty-six faculty and staff members signed out and left the campus as a result of the odor and between Friday and today, 43 students reported feeling ill. While classes were held today as scheduled, a number of students and staff again reported feeling ill at a time when the odor was more pungent across the campus.

The governor assured all that all steps are being taken ensure that there is no risk to the health of the students and staff of the school or the residents in the surrounding areas.

Governor Tells St. Croix Rotarians that Budget Shortfall Must be Addressed Sooner Rather Than Later
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 7, 2014 at 3:45 PM AST

Governor de Jongh told St. Croix Rotarians this week that the cost and pain will only increase if the government and the Legislature does not address the $40 million budget deficit confronting the government. "With nine months left in this fiscal year, if we don't address it sooner rather than later, then it will cost us more than $40 million in order to address it in this current fiscal year.”

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. addressed St. Croix Mid-Isle Rotary Club on March 6, 2014. During a question and answer round, the Governor field a question from a club member.

While he spoke of the challenges such as the government’s structural deficit, he brought a wave of encouraging news to the Mid-Isle club members. “Employment and tax revenues have stabilized and we are seeing signs of growth in the aftermath of the closure of the refinery, layoffs and reduced cruise ship traffic. These events have taken their toll but we are seeing a glimmer of hope,” he said. The Governor used the address to provide an overview of the state of the Virgin Islands economy and the plans, goals and objectives of his administration for the remainder of this year. 

Listen to the governor's remarks .mp3 (1.1MB)  Part 2 .mp3 (1.3MB)

Part 3 .mp3 (1MB)  Part 4 .mp3 (973KB)

Addressing growing concerns over the budget shortfall the governor said his administration spent two days in meetings with the Senate to look at capital projects, and whether any help for the budget could be found there. The members of the financial team he said have also met with the Legislature and provided the latest revenue and expenditure numbers. “They have looked at each and every project that we have – federally funded, locally funded, bond funded. Can we move monies from those projects to be able to help the budget? I think they feel comfortable knowing the answer to that is no," he said.

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Two VI Officials in Washington to Assist with Counternarcotics Strategy
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 6, 2014 at 2:30 PM AST

Attorney General Vincent Frazer and Assistant Police Commissioner Thomas Hannah are in Washington, D.C., attending the first Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy Meeting, at the request of Governor 
de Jongh. The meeting was called by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, under the Office of the President, to develop and publish an administrative plan to substantially reduce narcotics flow and violence in the American Caribbean. The development of the strategy was mandated by Congress and signed into law by the President on January 17, 2014, and must be written within 180 days from enactment. The Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy will be similar to the existing, regional Northern Border and Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategies.

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Meeting with 30th Legislature to Discuss Government Fiscal Woes Called Off at the Request of the Senate President
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM AST

Governor de Jongh confirmed on this afternoon that a meeting with members of the 30th Legislature scheduled for today has been cancelled at the request of Senate President Shawn Michael Malone.
“I am disappointed by this last minute cancellation but there is nothing I can do but agree. The solutions require a constructive dialogue by the senators and myself with the support of our teams, and if they are not ready to take meaningful action in addressing the fiscal challenges we face including the government’s structural deficit, I have no choice, but we must understand what each delay means,” he said.

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Ash Wednesday
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 5, 2014 at 4:00 PM AST

This afternoon, Governor de Jongh released the following statement on the observance of Ash Wednesday:

Cecile and I join fellow Christians across the Virgin Islands in marking the annual observance of Ash Wednesday. Today is the beginning of the forty-day Lenten Season.

Lent is not only a season of reflection but a time to seek repentance and renewal. I urge my fellow Christians to use the opportunity of this holy period to recommit to the values of loving and serving each other all while deepening our faith as we prepare for the celebration of Easter in April.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. receives ashes at Ash Wednesday services at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral Wednesday afternoon. Both Governor and First Lady Cecile de Jongh attended the midday service.
Governor de Jongh and 49 Other Chief Executives Oppose Cuts to National Guard
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on March 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM AST

In a letter addressed to the President of the United States, Governor de Jongh and 49 other governors of states, territories and commonwealths expressed their strong opposition to "the potential cuts to the Army National Guard advocated by the U.S. Army's fiscal 2015 budget request. For more than a decade, our National Guard has demonstrated it is a cost-effective operational force that is critical to our national security at home and abroad. "The letter was sent by the National Governors Association on February 28. 

The letter stated, "Governors are extremely proud of the role that the National Guard plays in protecting this nation and its citizens. The modern National Guard is a highly experienced and capable combat force and an essential state partner in responding to domestic disasters and emergencies." The governors stated that they understood the necessity of reorganizing, restructuring and modernizing the military to meet "new threats and economic realities." However, they felt that the cuts suggested a strategic strength similar to the period prior to 9/11, which would squander "the investment and value of the Guard and discredits its accomplishments at home and as an active combat force." 

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Photo Blog: DPW Officials Meet with Bus Manufacturer
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 26, 2014 at 4:45 PM AST

Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls along with Stephen Monsanto, VITRAN Operations Manager/Territorial Coordinator and Pepsy Wilkins, Territorial Chief of Maintenance recently attended pre-construction meetings at El Dorado National-California, the company selected to provide 10 new medium buses for VITRAN.

DPW Commissioner Darryl Smalls leads discussions with other department officials and representatives of El Dorado National-California about new medium buses under construction for use in the Virgin Islands.

Representatives from El-Dorado met with the DPW staff to finalize the selection of the key components that will make up the 26-seat buses which will each accommodate two wheel chairs.

The two-day visit at the assembly plant located in Ontario, California also included discussions on warranty, engine, seats , colors, wheel chair lifts and other technical details of the buses.

Based on the present production schedule, these buses will be delivered to the territory by August, 2014.

Governor de Jongh Details Critical Issues for Territory Ahead of Meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 26, 2014 at 9:45 AM AST

Governor de Jongh submitted a detailed memorandum of critical issues of concern to the Virgin Islands to Lorraine Faeth, acting Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, in advance of yesterday's 2014 Senior Plenary meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA) and territorial governors.

The meeting was attended by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and David Agnew, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, who also co-chairs the IGIA, as well as other senior-level officials of the federal government and representatives from American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. The IGIA was established in 1999 to provide a mechanism for improved communication and coordination between the federal government and its territories.

"I was unable to attend this year's IGIA session as I had to return to the territory on Tuesday, but at the same time, I wanted to ensure that our concerns were properly highlighted at the meeting and taken into consideration throughout the year,” the governor said.  He added, “I had an opportunity to discuss a majority of these areas with acting Assistant Secretary Faeth and Director Nik Pula at our meeting on the rum cover-over last Friday and used that opportunity to provide an even more comprehensive perspective as to their impact on our residents."

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Coalition of Territorial and Commonwealth Governors Requests NGA Support
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 24, 2014 at 1:30 PM AST

Governor de Jongh  has been joined by the governors of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in formally asking for the National Governors Association's full support in dealings with the federal government. 

A letter was signed by the five governors was jointly addressed to Mary Fallin, chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) and governor of Oklahoma, and to John Hickenlooper, vice chair of the association and governor of Colorado. The letter states, "As governors of the territories and commonwealths of the United States, we respectfully request that the NGA Permanent Policy: Principles for State-Federal Relations be revised to include language that references the unique challenges and obstacles facing territories and commonwealths, therefore reinforcing the full support of NGA for these ongoing efforts." 

As way of clarification, the letter stated, "As you know, executive and legislative policymaking often exclude the territories and commonwealths outright, a trend that we are eager to join together and reverse." The letter also includes reference to the equality the governors find at the NGA, where "territorial and commonwealth inclusion and visibility is in line with that of every other U.S. governor. Yet the current NGA Policy Positions do not make any mention of the special circumstances the governors of the territories and commonwealths encounter in working with the federal government." 

The governors thanked Chair Fallin and Vice Chair Hickenlooper for consideration of the request and for their "commitment to work with the governors of the territories and commonwealths as we endeavor to maintain the autonomy of our leadership through our relationship with the federal government." The letter was signed by Lolo Matalasi Moliga, governor of American Samoa; Eloy Inos, governor of the Northern Mariana Islands; Eddie Baza Calvo, governor of Guam; Alejandro Javier Garcia Padilla, governor of Puerto Rico; and Governor de Jongh.

Photo Blog: Governor de Jongh in Washington for National Governor's Association Winter Meeting
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 23, 2014 at 10:01 AM AST

Governor de Jongh is joining his fellow governors from across the nation this weekend as they convened in Washington, D.C., for the 2014 National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. participates in the opening session of the NGA Winter Meeting in Washington D.C. on February 22, 2014.

The meeting provides governors an opportunity to discuss issues affecting states, share innovative solutions and look for ways to strengthen the state-federal partnership. The meeting also will include sessions with the President, members of his cabinet, business leaders and other experts, as well as several governors-only meetings.

Listen to the governor's comments .mp3 (1.4MB)  Part 2 .mp3 (1.3MB)

On Friday, the governor met with officials of the Department of Interior on issues critical to the Virgin Islands. Similar meetings are scheduled with Obama Administration officials and Congressional leaders on Monday before he returns to the Virgin Islands by mid- week.

U.S. Courts of Appeals Hands the Virgin Islands a Major Win for EDC Program
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 22, 2014 at 5:45 PM AST

In a stinging rebuke to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit this week reversed the U.S. Tax Court in a consolidated set of tax cases involving V.I. taxpayers and ordered the Tax Court to admit the Government of the Virgin Islands as a party in the proceedings “as of right” in order to be able to defend the Territory’s interests in its Economic Development Commission (EDC) program.

The V.I. Government had sought to intervene in the cases of Huff v. Commissioner, Cooper v. Commissioner and McGrogan v. Commissioner, just as it had sought to intervene in a number of other tax cases involving V.I. taxpayers who had participated in the EDC program. The IRS had issued tax deficiency notices in all of these cases, alleging that the taxpayers either were not V.I. residents or had underpaid their taxes to the V.I., or both, and thus should have filed their tax returns with the IRS instead of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). The V.I. Government, in order to protect its taxing authority, has consistently taken the position that taxpayers who have duly filed and reported their income to the (BIR) are subject to a three year statute of limitations and that the IRS notices in the Tax Court cases are thus time-barred.

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Governor Meets with Department of Interior Officials; Presses for and Receives Reconsideration on Advance Payment of Rum Cover Over Revenues
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 21, 2014 at 7:00 PM AST

Earlier today, Governor de Jongh met with officials of the Department of the Interior to once again press for a reconsideration of a decision with regard to the advance payment of rum cover over revenues at the $13.25 extender rate.

Today’s meeting followed a series of previous conversations the governor has had with federal government officials on this critical issue. “We met this afternoon with Acting Secretary Lorraine Faeth and Interior Insular Affairs Director Nick Pula and once again made our case for the release of the advance payment at the $13.25 extender rate. In the past several months, my Administration had written to officials at Interior explaining the financial hardship that their initial decision represented at a time when the government could least afford a reduction in the advance payment on rum revenues,” the governor said. At the conclusion of the meeting, he said, the department’s decision to release the advance payment on rum revenues will result in a little over $60 million dollars being deposited into the treasury of the Virgin Islands government.”

In recent months, the governor has lobbied both Interior officials and Congressional leaders for a reconsideration of the decision. “As I learned of Interior’s decision, I contacted both Delegate Donna Christensen and Senate President Shawn Michael Malone to not only advise them of the favorable progress on this issue but to thank both of them for their efforts in lobbying the Department of the Interior.”

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Governor Responds to Senator Barshinger Regarding WAPA Past-Due Balances; Denounces Assertions Made By At-Large Senator
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 19, 2013 at 5:30 PM AST

Governor de Jongh has responded to Senator Craig Barshinger's e-mail dated February 6, which concerned the financial performance of the V.I. Water and Power Authority (WAPA) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, and the amount owed by the Government of the Virgin Islands for electricity. 

In a letter to the at-large senator, the governor analyzed the amounts due WAPA as of the June 30th dated as follows: $3.5 million owed by executive branch departments and agencies; $9.7 million owed by the two hospitals; $9.3 million owed for street lights; and $2.9 owed by semi-autonomous and independent entities like the Legislature and Courts. He stated, "We do not by any means minimize the need for the Authority to be paid what it is owed for the service provided, but your misrepresentation of what is owed by the executive branch is unfounded." He added, "Not one single day goes by that I am not mindful of the realities of our community and difficulties being experienced by our residents; and therefore, I am even more acutely aware of the need to ensure that our only provider of utility services remains financially viable."

The governor also pointed out that the senator had completely ignored the positive aspects of WAPA's audit. He stated, "The most significant aspect of WAPA's audit is that it was issued on time, for the first time in seven years, which bodes well for the Authority as it undertakes new energy saving ventures that will require the establishment of fresh relationships with vendors, suppliers, and financing partners, as it maintains its contact with current bondholders and rating agencies." 

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Governor de Jongh: Virgin Islands Mariners One Step Closer to Equity Regarding Six Passenger Limit
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 17, 2014 at 11:00 PM AST

A bill aimed at providing long-sought after relief to the Virgin Islands marine industry was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 6, 2014 as was announced today at the V.I Marine Economic Development Council meeting held via teleconference from Government House in both island districts.

If passed, the amendment in House Bill No. 4005 would provide alternative compliance for U.S. Coast Guard safety regulations for certain U.S. vessels which are now restricted to six passengers while operating in the waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands, whereas foreign vessels do not have the same restrictions.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. chairs a meeting of the VI Marine Economic Development Council held at Government House in both island districts on February 17, 2014.

Earlier today, the governor said, “I am extremely pleased that the initiative brought forward by our Marine Council to Congressman Bill Shuster, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, during his November infrastructure visit to the territory has resulted so quickly in this step towards equity for our charter industry and an economic boost for our maritime industries as a whole.” He said this has been a long outstanding issue that has put us at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of region and especially with a niche that we know is attracted to our natural resources and all that we have to offer. “This is the first of a number of actions we will initiate to let this market know that we are for business and we want your business," he added.. The Council prepared a white paper for submission to Congress outlining the need for relief from the six passenger limit and how it fit into economic revitalization efforts.

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Photo Blog: Governor Addresses St. Croix Chamber of Commerce
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 14, 2014 at 9:31 AM AST

On Thursday, Governor de Jongh addressed the annual meeting of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce to present an overview of the territory’s economic health, items that must still be addressed and advances that have been made since he assumed office in January 2007. The governor, as he did two weeks ago in the annual State of the Territory Address, spoke of the foundation that has been laid by his administration for economic growth particularly on St. Croix. 

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. addresses the annual meeting of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce on February 13, 2014.

The governor also addressed the $70 million dollar operating deficit which he said cannot be ignored. He spoke to the St. Croix business community on the day that some members of the administration’s financial team were meeting with members of the Senate. Although budget cuts and revenue-increasing measures are going to be needed, government employment has been reduced from around 7,000 employees to roughly 5,000, which the governor said was enough. Aside from fixing the budget deficit, the government has a serious problem with its employee retirement system. The administration created a task force, which offered recommendations, which now await action by the Legislature.

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Photo Blog: First Lady Launches Chess in the Parks Initiative
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 12, 2014 at 12:30 PM AST

Ed Note: Cross-posted from the First Lady's Blog

On Tuesday, First Lady Cecile de Jongh launched the first of three events this week to mark the installation of chess tables in public spaces across the territory. The installation of the tables at Roosevelt Park on St. Thomas; Frank Powell Park on St. John and at three locations on St. Croix are part of the Chess in the Parks Initiative.

First Lady Cecile de Jongh with members of the Virgin Islands Chess Federation and My Brothers Workshop at St. Thomas' Roosevelt Park on February 11, 2014.

Fourteen of the tables which were designed and constructed by My Brothers Workshop are four-sided wooden structures with benches for both competitors and observers. First Lady de Jongh worked with the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation to place the tables across the public spaces on all three islands.

On St. Thomas, there are two tables at the Alvin Mc Bean Recreation Complex in Annas Retreat, one in Emancipation Garden, and one in Lindbergh Bay Park in addition to those in Roosevelt Park. A similar dedication ceremony for St. John is scheduled for today at the Frank E. Powell Park in Cruz Bay and on St. Croix on Thursday at Altona Lagoon in Christiansted, and proceeding from there to the Vincent Mason Coral Resort pool in Frederiksted. In addition to the tables created by My Brothers Workshop, on St. Croix four granite tables donated by Amrey/Gemini are to be installed at Limpritch Park in Christiansted before the end of the month.

Governor de Jongh Joins Community in Mourning the Death of Victor Ebbsen
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 7, 2014 at 2:15 PM AST

Upon learning of the passing of Victor L. Ebbesen, Sr., former Personnel Director and avid tennis player, Governor de Jongh expressed his condolences to the entire Ebbesen family. "Victor Ebbesen was a family friend, a classmate of my father's, and an admired and respected public servant. He had a long and illustrious career with the Government of the Virgin Islands, holding the posts of Director of the Division of Personnel from 1959 to 1967 and then heading Maternal and Child Health. Cecile and I extend our sympathies to Mr. Ebbesen's children, his sisters and brother, and all other members of the extended family circle at this very difficult time," he said. 

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Governor, Attorney General and Top Police Department Brass Comment on Verdict Reached in Murder of Police Corporal Wendell "Lazee" Williams
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 6, 2014 at 7:30 PM AST

The leadership of the top law enforcement agencies in the Virgin Islands said this evening they are satisfied with the verdict announced by a twelve-person jury at the Superior Court on St. Croix today in the murder trial of former Virgin Islands Police Corporal Wendell “Lazee” Williams. The jury handed up a guilty verdict against two of the three defendants which remained after the judge dismissed charges against two other defendants earlier this week.

Attorney General Vincent Frazer said the Department of Justice would have been thrilled to get a conviction on all three defendants, however, the impartial jury reviewed and weighed the evidence and rendered its decision. “We honor the findings of the jury and we believe that justice has been served by this verdict. There is no doubt that the responsible persons have been held accountable for the death of Corporal Williams,” Frazer said Thursday afternoon. The attorney general praised the hard work and dedication of the lone prosecutor in the high-profile case, Assistant Attorney General Kip Roberson and the members of the St. Croix staff of the Department of Justice and the Virgin Islands Police Department. He also extended his appreciation to the jurors and alternates for their service during the trial. “They listened to the more than week long testimony, carefully analyzed the evidence, deliberated and presented a verdict which ensured that justice was served.”

Governor de Jongh also reacted with satisfaction to the verdict reached by the jury panel on St. Croix. “This case has lingered since 2001 when Corporal Williams vanished after completing a tour of duty with the VIPD. Tonight, his family and friends can finally begin to experience closure now that a verdict has been reached. Ultimately, they have carried the heaviest burden during this ordeal and our prayers remain with them.” Additionally, he said, the people of the Virgin Islands have witnessed the strength of the Virgin Islands justice system. “It took eleven years to crack the case and two years to bring the case to trial but we are confident that justice has prevailed.” 

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Congress Passes New Farm Bill; Extends Food Stamp Program for the Virgin Islands and Increases Aid to Local Farmers
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 6, 2014 at 11:45 AM AST

On Tuesday, Congress passed and sent to the President a five-year $956 billion farm bill which extends the Virgin Islands food stamp program and increases the Territory’s share of a specialty crops program that benefits local farmers, Government House announced tonight.

The bill includes a number of hard-fought changes to the nation’s agricultural programs including cuts in subsidies to the nation’s farmers by some $16 billion, but the $750 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as the food stamp program) was extended without major changes, after Congressional negotiators rejected massive cuts that were included in an earlier House-passed bill. The negotiators included one change in the law that 16 States had used to increase food stamps benefits for their residents beyond the amounts they otherwise would have qualified for, but Government House said the change would not affect the Virgin Islands.

The bill also extends the Specialty Crops Block Grant program and ensures that the Territory will receive a minimum of $1.25 million in funding over the next five years to assist local farmers in the production of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and other horticultural products - a 35 percent increase over the current program which expired last year. The De Jongh Administration successfully lobbied to have the Virgin Islands included in the Special Crops Block Grant program in the 2008 Farm Bill. 

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Governor Congratulates Honorees at Annual Keys and Sword Award Benefit
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 3, 2014 at 11:15 AM AST

Governor de Jongh has congratulated this year’s recipients of the Fifth Annual Keys and Swords Award, Athneil C. “Addie” Ottley and Jean Dragin. He noted that the two honorees have been instrumental in raising funds for the maintenance and repair of the Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral, one of the finest structures in the Virgin Islands. “It is only fitting that they be recognized with the Keys and Sword Award.”

The governor noted that Jean Dragin’s devotion to the Catholic Church in the Virgin Islands is legendary. Originally from Guadeloupe, he moved to the territory in 1968 following a visit three years earlier with his aunt. He founded the company of Jean Dragin Enterprises, a firm specializing in engineering, construction and maintenance services, which has become very well-respected in the community. Mr. Dragin never hesitated in using his God-given talents in building in service to the Catholic churches of the Virgin Islands. “He has been a stalwart and skilled member of the Cathedral Restoration Committee. Mr. Dragin is known as a hard-working, dedicated and dependable man, and is someone whose goodness and generosity literally shines through his eyes,” he said.

Addie Ottley was born, raised, and educated in the Virgin Islands and has worked here nearly all of his life. A graduate of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School, he has made a name for himself as a broadcaster, on-air personality and invaluable member of our community. “Today he is the owner and manager of WSTA Radio, where he hosts The Morning Show. He is also the host of Face to Face on WTJX Public Television. Mr. Ottley's devotion to the Virgin Islands is acknowledged widely. He is a three-term Senator having won a seat in the elections of 1970, 1972 and 1978; he was appointed Lieutenant Governor in the administration of the late Governor Melvin H. Evans; served as the Executive Assistant to the Commissioner of Commerce in 1981; and served two terms as president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce. He is also a life-long member of the congregation of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, and an active member and fundraiser for the Cathedral Restoration Committee,” the governor noted. 

The governor commended the members of the Keys and Sword Award Benefit Committee for selecting both Mr. Dragin and Mr. Ottley for this prestigious honor. “The restoration of this building, both historic and spiritual, is of paramount importance to all Virgin Islanders.”

Governor Forwards Two CZM Permits to 30th Legislature for Consideration
Posted by Jean P. Greaux, Jr. on February 3, 2014 at 10:45 AM AST

Late last week, Governor de Jongh signed Coastal Zone Management Permits CZT-06-12 (FL) DOPETRI, Inc., and CZT-15-12 (FL) Tropical Shipping and Construction Company, Ltd., and forwarded both to Senator Shawn-Michael Malone, President of the 30th Legislature, for the legislative body's review and approval. 

The first permit will allow DOPETRI, Inc., the "continued use and occupancy of Parcel No. 44 Estate Sub Base," while the second permit "is required for the continued use and occupancy of the paved parking" for Tropical Shipping's employees at No. 6 Crown Bay on St. Thomas. In December, the Governor forwarded the lease agreements between the Department of Property and Procurement, on behalf of the government, and both parties to the 30th Legislature. 

The scope of the DOPETRI permit covers a land area of 11,993.71 square feet and brings an "existing two-story building with an area of 4,176 square feet into compliance," according to the permit. The company received its original permit and lease in 1992 with a annual rental fee of $9,167.04. Under the new 20-year permit and lease, the stated rental fee is $12,000 per year for the first five years, $22,188.55 for each year of the second five-year period, and then an annual rental fee adjusted by the Consumer Price Index for each of the next 10 years. According to the CZM permit, the company's gross receipts and estimates for improvements to the property were used to establish the new rental fee.

The Tropical Shipping permit and lease covers 15,162.77 square feet of "filled submerged land described as parcel No. 6 Estate Crown Bay Fill," according to permit CZT-15-12. Following the effective approval of the documents, the permit and lease will run for five years with an option for two additional terms of five years each. The rental fee is $30,325.54 per year, payable in monthly installment payments of $2,527.13. Starting with the second term, or sixth year, the rental fee will be adjusted by the Consumer Price Index annually. The CZM used recent appraisals of industrial property on the Waterfront to help determine the fair rental value of this property. 

 

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