WTJX NEWSFEED: November 6, 2023
On today's WTJX NewsFeed, members of the Virgin Islands Palestinian community joined in protest across the country calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The Committee of the Whole received testimony regarding the ongoing water crisis affecting residents on the island of St. Croix. The Department of Health says they have plans to ramp up lead testing. The groundbreaking for the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute on the island of St. Thomas was held over the weekend. Click "listen" for these stories and more.
Welcome to the WTJX Newsfeed. In today's top stories, members of the Virgin Islands Palestinian community joined in protests across the country calling for a cease fire in Gaza. On Friday, the committee of the hall received testimony regarding the ongoing water crisis affecting residents on the island of Saint Croix. Progress is made with the reopening of the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute on the island of Saint Thomas.
These stories and more on today's WTJX news feed from the Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting System Studios on Saint Thomas. This is the WTJX News Feed with Marcellina Ventura-Douglas, Free Free Palestine Free Free Palestine. Welcome to the WTJX News Feed, bringing you the latest news and updates throughout our community. Joining others across the U.S. mainland, members of the Virgin Islands Palestinian community joined in protests for a call of ceasefire amid the ongoing war in Gaza.
On Scene Croix participants walk from the science farm shopping centers parking lot ending at the South parking lot of Wendy's in Sunny Isles on Saint Thomas. The march began at the Emile Griffith baseball parking lot to the waterfront promenade across from the Alexander Family Justice Complex. We spoke with two of the organizers for the All out for Gaza March on Saint Thomas.
My name is Tafiq Abdel Mohsen. I was born and raised in the Virgin Islands, but I have roots to the Palestinian country. I'm a human that's coming right here to stand up for peace and justice. If I wasn't Palestinian, I would have still been here to stand up for the Palestinian people. I hope right here that we get the senators, especially Stacey Plaskett, because she's our delegate to Congress, and she can send our message to the US government to stop the genocide.
Cease-Fire, Peace and Liberation for the Palestinian People. Tafiq's sister, a core organizer, spoke on one motivated her to hold the Saint Thomas march. My name is Hannah Sweet, and I know that we have a lot of Palestinians in our community and looking at their dead pictures and Instagram and Facebook, their body parts bombed to pieces. That wasn't enough for me.
And we want people to see Palestinian as humans. So we took the initiative to make this protest so that our voices can be heard. Referring to press releases from the delegate to Congress, Stacey Plaskett, she continued, I don't think she expressed her outrage of what is happening to the Palestinian enough. What she did mention was that she would urge Egypt border to open up so Palestinians can get there.
But what she doesn't understand is that Palestine are those people's home. You can't push them out of their home. What we need is a cease fire, a ceasefire to stop killing people. And that's what we are demanding, a ceasefire. And she also expressed how will be what happened on October the seventh was horrific, which I agree no innocent civilians should have have gotten killed.
But what she does not understand is that the Palestinian people have been struggling long before then, October 7th, and there was no mention of that. There was no mention of the human rights of the Palestinian people. And I want her to make a statement and asking for a cease fire. I want her to use that power that she has to have direct access to the president to demand a cease fire, because that's what we want.
We want a free Palestine and everybody to be equal. I would like a delegate to Congress, Stacey Plaskett was in attendance for the March on Saint Croix and provided remarks to the crowd. We also addressed the weaponization of hate that is going on, the weaponization of hate and the media that is causing divisions among many of us who weaponization of hate that is inciting Islamophobia, that is inciting white supremacy, that is inciting anti-Semitism.
I know that this is a peaceful group. I know that this wants a two state solution. And I am happy to work with you all. In the last two weeks. I have sat with some of your leaders and talked with you about how I can use my office myself as a person to support you all. And you have my promise that you have the complete work of my office to do that and that I do my position meetings continue to speak to the Biden administration about the ceasefire, about the need for humanitarian aid, about Egypt opening its borders, about Israel allowing humanitarian support to come in, about fuel that is necessary and being stopped from
coming to believe that the innocent cannot be slaughtered with those who are guilty, that the rules of war must be followed and that war must end. Israel must sit down with Palestinian leaders and begin the days to discuss on a two state solution. Your in the WTJX news feed. Would you drink it? I would drink it. I would choose not to drink it.
But I understand it's safe to drink. You would choose not to drink? That's correct. Take a look back at these folks feeds back here. These are the people that suffering in Glenn. Understood. So these are the people that cannot use the water. You will choose not to drink it. Some of them don't have a choice if you can consume it to ever tell people around you that it's safe to drink.
And that goes for you and the governor. On Friday, the committee of the whole convened to receive testimony regarding the ongoing water crisis affecting the Sacred District's potable water system. Senator Franklyn Johnson took aim to Water and Power Authority CEO Andrew Smith's previous comments about the brown water being safe for residents. So the discoloration in the water is from iron.
Right. That's one of the things that EPA we've not talked about that at all today. But brown water is different than lead and copper in water, right. Led in composition to tell them that it's safe for drinking and you won't drink it. That's my question. I'm not no doctor, no scientist. And don't get me wrong to that lab name, if you won't drink it, why tell my people they should drink it?
Why? Tell them that it is safe? When we look at the EPA, copper is not. Is not a harmful contaminant in water. Right. That's. That was my only statement, Senator. I did not say people should drink it. I said that the water was safe. While Mr. Smith had been asked numerous times previously. Senator at large and held Booker's inquired again whether residents would have to pay for the water.
A number of months ago, I instituted an increase on the LEAC for water. I was not in favor of it. It jumped to about 22%. 7082 per kilo gallon. Up to 953 per kilo gallon. I want to know for those who are affected, are you still going to charge them at that rate? Let me speak to to the billing.
As I mentioned earlier in my testimony and to some answers to questions. We are structuring a credit program right now. Senators repeatedly expressed concerns about the effects the contaminated water could have on the health of residents. Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Nicole Craigwell-Syms shared with lawmakers intentions to ramp up testing. The Department of Health has been in communication with our federal partners throughout the duration of this, and part of that is to expand capacity for testing to include our bodies and supplies, etc..
So we have reached out for TA year and we're looking very good for TA. So we'll definitely expand once that that's received. Following up from Senator Carla Joseph's line of questioning about testing in the Saint Thomas Saint John district, Noelle Hodge, the authority's director of water distribution, shared with senators intentions to do so in terms of Saint Thomas and the testing of ordered staff to begin testing the mayor in Saint Thomas And St. John, we are identifying the sites right now, but within the next week we want to start to deploy with the help.
If we could get assistance from DPNR and haven’t asked them yet, but I'm sure they'll help up to in order to start in. Thomas you're in the WTJX news feed so I was up one, two three and big. All right CKCI let's go. Over the weekend, Governor Albert Bryan junior members of the 35th legislature, the delegate to Congress and local government officials and members of the community marked the long anticipated groundbreaking for the reconstruction of the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute.
Attorney Tina Comissiong, young chief executive officer of the Schneider Regional Medical Center, shared remarks during the ceremony. Today, we're full circle, emerging from the devastating devastation that happened during the 2017 hurricanes of Irma and Maria, which closed our cancer institute for many years and forced Virgin Islanders to have to travel abroad for care. But today, we are here to celebrate and look ahead towards a newer, brighter and even more advanced Charlotte Community Cancer Institute.
In June 2022, FEMA obligated the necessary funds to begin demolishing the damaged portions of the facility. The $50 million obligation allowed the Schneider Regional Medical Center to complete the necessary demolition work in May of this year and began a solicitation phase for a contractor who would rebuild the facility. Darryl Smalls, the executive director of the Territorial Redevelopment team, remarked that the groundbreaking was a significant milestone to enhance health care in the Virgin Islands.
The reconstruction of the cancer center is slated to be completed within 18 months after the issuance of the notice to proceed simultaneously. The manufacturing of two components of cancer treatment the CT simulator and linear accelerator, each with an 18 month delivery timeline, will be underway once these vital components have been manufactured, shipped, installed, tested and certified. The doors of the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute will reopen to provide comprehensive cancer care to our residents.
Dee Beecher Brown, president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands and friend of Charlotte and Henry Kimelman. Family Shared Remarks The Legacy of Charlotte Kimelman lives on not only in the walls of the institutions, but in the countless lives she touched, the inspiration she fueled, and the compassion that she demonstrated. Her legacy is a testament to the enduring power of one individual to make a profound difference.
And as I look around at this room, I recognize that there is a team here that is about to make a profound difference in the lives of our community. Governor Albert Bryan Junior closed this ceremony with his own remarks. In the object of the game is to win and winning is not putting back the Charlotte Kimelman or cancer center.
Winning is making sure our people are covered, that people in our territory have access to health care. So today, I'm extremely proud to be here, but know that the fight is not over. Recently, commissioner nominee Avril George and members of the Human Services Department leadership team provided operational updates to the Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services. While the meeting touched on a number of subjects within the large department, committee Chair Raffone Zika made an inquiry on the department's spending.
Can you give us an update on the spending plan and how much funds may be returned and what is going to be your path going forward? And also I wanted you to give me an update on the Office of the Child Care and Regulation Services and the expanded formula for the federal funds on the status of of those grants.
So, Commissioner George, I will defer to CFO McGrath. Morning. Lydia McGrath. In terms of our general fund this year, we've done an exceptional job in pretty much utilizing practically all of the funds. There is minimal balance left in there that we are actually still paying. Adjusting salary increases that rolled over to 24 that we will be adjusting over.
So we have once those are adjusted, we should come in pretty close to zero relative to our general fund, relative to the Federal. We have, of course, the whole gamut of various grants. We've pretty much done a fabulous job in spending. Again, we're silver adjusting cost over to ensure that the funds are used for those programs that had residual costs like the head Start.
We were able to roll those monies in and get approval to utilize them in the current fiscal year. So we have a few of our title for BND grants that we have not fully expended. However, we know that's because of not having a cost allocation in place for the Department relative to our child care. And I will let A.S. Benjamin can give provide more details.
We've pretty much received waivers to continue for this current fiscal year to encumber the funds with an additional year to liquidate. Senator Diane Capehart made inquiry on specific benefits for Head Start staffers. Can you tell me? I don't know, Ms.. George, if you're able to to answer this, but the head Start program is pending a decision on an application for these individuals who work at the Head Start to receive their COLA.
Can you give us any update on this? I'll refer to AC Benjamin to respond. Well, good afternoon, Assistant Commissioner Benjamin, that that decision was already made. The call was approved. CFO Are you able to give an update on where we are in terms of getting those? Lydia McGrath's Chief Financial Officer The numbers for the federal employees have been submitted to the division of personnel for the caller.
And also we're working with OMB for the general fund portion as the Fed's only provided the funding for the federal portion. The federal employees Senator Milton Potter Acts Deputy Commissioner Shawn Georges on the timeline of moving the Department Saint Thomas staff out of the reportedly deteriorate rating nuance and complex. Do you have any idea what sort of timeline we're looking at fast moving these folks?
Are we going to be here next year saying pretty much we're still looking. We're aggressively pursuing alternate facilities to accommodate our employees. I know we're taking a seriously. I just want to know how aggressive the work is, as a matter of fact. What's your goal? I know the side of the complex was the biggest challenge to move 200 people to a location.
But we've we've lucked out on two locations where we should be able to move them. One was being built from the ground up at the local gardens location. And then we looked into another location outside at the to the Park mall where we'll be able to move. Okay. Of our teams. That will be when we sit down in front of you again, more likely next year, we will be out of that facility bringing our staff who work so hard into an atmosphere that they can work a lot more productively.
Funeral services and a series of ceremonies to honor and remember Virgin Islands. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Director Daryl George have been announced. A candlelight vigil is planned for November 15th at 6:30 p.m. at the Charles SEALs Fire Station Annex in Seagrove place on Saint Roy. A second vigil will be held on November 16th at 6:30 p.m. at the Omar Brown Senior Fire Station on Saint Thomas.
The following day, family, colleagues and community members can pay their respects On November 17th, while Director George lies in state at the Omar Brown Senior Fire station from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.. Funeral services will be held at the Omar Brown Fire Station the following day on November 18th. The viewing is scheduled to take place from 830 to 9:30 a.m., followed by service from 930 to 11 a.m. The interment will take place immediately afterward at the Western Cemetery.
Number one. A repast at Joe's hotspot will follow. In related news, Richard Motta, public relations director for the Brian Roach administration, made the announcement today that Governor Albert Bryant has appointed Antonio Stevens as the acting director for the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Mr. Stevens, a dedicated veteran of the U.S. Armed forces with over 17 years of service in the Virgin Islands, fire Service currently holds the position of assistant director and is the Territorial hazardous Material and weapons of mass destruction Coordinator for the agency, the Virgin Islands Department of Education's St Croix School District announced updated operational hours, effective today.
The EULALIE RIVERA pre-K through eight school will extend its school days with operational hours from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with dismissal beginning at 1:45 p.m.. The Saint Croix Central High School will implement a hybrid schedule with a daily virtual flex block. In-person instruction will take place from 7:40 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the remote flex block or intervention period will occur from 1:15 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. beginning Wednesday, November 8th.
John H. Woodson Junior High School will implement a hybrid schedule with virtual courses from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and in-person sessions in the afternoon at the Central High School campus from 12:40 p.m. to 4 p.m.. Bus transportation will be provided for students daily with pickup starting at 11:30 a.m.. The St. Croix Educational Complex will also implement a hybrid schedule with a daily virtual flex Black.
Students will receive in-person instruction from 7:40 a.m. to 1:05 p.m. with a hybrid flex block beginning at 1:45 p.m.. Over the weekend, Saint John residents kicked off Veteran's Day celebrations with a parade to honor service members in the Territory. The Virgin Islands director of Veterans Affairs Patrick Farrell, has the details for upcoming events. Saint Croix on Saturday, November 11th at 9 a.m. in the morning, we're going to have the Veterans Day parade and increases that which is going to start from the Bosson Triangle.
And we're going to go right down to the National park grounds there with a fort is that we're going to have the Veterans Day ceremony immediately after the parade. And then later on that same afternoon, Saturday, November 11, at 3 p.m., we'll have the Veterans Day parade on the island of Saint Thomas. That parade is going to be on veterans Drive traveling from west to east.
We're going to start from the Griffith Park, going up towards the passport position. And we're going to have our ceremony right there on the right, on the promenade at the church and straight promenade. That starts at 3:00. So if you're available for any one of our Veteran's Day parades was certainly appreciate your support for our veterans. I'll get to their stories as we move through the news feed.
We turn now to our regional report, The former Puerto Rican boxer Felix Verdejo received two life sentences on Friday after he was found guilty in the killing of his 27 year old pregnant girlfriend, Verdejo had participated in the 2012 Olympics and became a professional boxer. That year. A federal judge sentenced Verdejo following emotional speeches by the family of Keishla Rodriguez, who was killed in April 2021.
Verdejo was found guilty in July of kidnaping that leads to a death and causing the death of an unborn child. His attorney says that they are planning to appeal the sentencing. Reporting from the AP News says that during the trial, Lewis Antonio Cadiz, a friend of Verdejo who was also charged in the case, said the former boxer had pressured Rodriguez to get an abortion.
He testified on the day that Verdejo killed Rodriguez. The ex-boxer punched her and injected her with a toxic substance before they tied her limbs to a cement block and threw her off a busy bridge and into a lagoon in broad daylight. Cadiz later called 911 anonymously and provided the location of Rodriguez's body. An autopsy found that Rodriguez had fentanyl and xylazine a sedative used for animals in her system.
As we update the news feed, we turn now to the Territory's weather forecasts. Here's the latest look at the short term forecast for the Virgin Islands. Meteorologist Eric Weglarz. At Saint Croix, scattered showers become more numerous this afternoon and are mostly cloudy skies. Highs will only reach the middle to upper eighties. Winds are from the east southeast at 5 to 10 miles per hour.
At Saint Thomas and saint john, we'll find a bit more sunshine, but scattered showers are still expected later on this afternoon. Temperatures will climb into the upper eighties to near 90. Winds from the southeast at 5 to 10 miles per hour. Clouds are numerous. Tonight's at Saint Croix and scattered showers as well. Lows will only fall back into the upper seventies to near 80 once rain from the east southeast at 5 to 10 miles per hour and showers will linger for most of the night.
At Saint Thomas and Saint John, it's mostly cloudy as well. Showers are likely throughout. Temperatures will only fall back to near 80. Winds from the southeast at 5 to 10 miles per hour. Tuesday features clouds and more showers at Saint Croix. Temperatures are a bit cooler only in the lower to middle eighties. Winds from the southeast at 5 to 10.
And at Saint Thomas and Saint John will find numerous scattered showers throughout the day as well with mostly cloudy skies expected. Highs will climb into the upper eighties to near 90. Winds from the east southeast at 5 to 10 miles per hour, with more showers expected across the Virgin islands Wednesday and even Thursday as well. That's the latest look at your short term forecast.
Meteorologist Eric Weglarz. We are at the end of today's WTJX News Feed. I'm Marcellina Ventura-Douglas. Join me every weekday at 5 p.m.. Be sure to download the WTJX app and if you missed a part of our news, listen to it on demand wherever you get your podcasts. We now return to All Things Considered.