WTJX NEWSFEED: November 8, 2023
On today's WTJX NewsFeed, St. Croix small business owners and residents gathered on Monday for a meeting at Government House to express growing frustrations over current road conditions in the town of Christiansted. A man was gunned down on the island of St. Thomas over the weekend. Members of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance voted to approve a measure aimed at funding the distribution of bottled water to residents on St. Croix. Click "listen" for these stories and more.
It's 5 p.m.. Welcome to the WTJX News Feed. In today's top stories, St. Croix, small business owners and residents gathered at a recent meeting at Government House to express frustrations over the current road conditions in the town of Christiansted. The Virgin Islands Police Department is asking for the community's help after a man was gunned down over the weekend on the island of Saint Thomas.
Members of the Committee on Budget appropriate Actions and Finance voted yesterday to approve a measure aimed at funding the distribution of bottled water to residents on Saint Croix. 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 welcome to the WTJX News Feed, bringing you the latest news and updates throughout our community and a standing room only meeting at Government House on Monday.
Saint Croix Administrator Samuel Sanes hosted a meeting at the request of small business owners and residents who gathered to express frustrations with the current road conditions in the town of Christiansted and how the conditions will affect their business as the Christmas season begins. We know work's got to be that there's not one person in this room is challenging you on how long this has been.
Why is this week? I think what we're trying to get done is if the roads are not going to be paved in time for season, I hope that they want in this room because that's going to happen. What can we do to mitigate Waste Management Authority? Darrel Griffith and business owner Sean Baptiste from Marco St Croix exchanged words throughout the meeting over what Mr. Baptiste alleges is a lack of payment from the Waste Management Authority, an exchange that appeared to vex attendees.
I don't expect any answers, but it's very embarrassing for me to hear this inadvertent. The problems of not getting paid. That is not our problem. We pay our taxes. We pay our gross receipts, Governor Ryan said before. He said we're not a slow paid government or we're going to go pay off or slow pickup. This is like an unknown thing.
So when there's a dispute like this happening, it's sort of like a surprise. I don't know the details of it. And as coming over here, I don't care. It's not my responsibility. You're responsible, but you guys are responsible to all of us. So this meeting that we're having right here, this meeting is months, if not years too late.
While participants vented their frustrations about the current conditions, Matthew Richman for the Christian said Retail and Restaurant Association read a letter for industry stakeholders. Clearly people are passionate that is sympathetic, as I am to your position. My job tonight is to represent the business owners. People who are trying to make a living here should send an advisory council.
I'm not going to try to negotiate anything anymore as we have read agreement, the Internet said. This is really what our businesses. That's not the role. Ciara is the mediator. Controversy between Waste Management and marketing. Businesses have suffered due to the recognition that the public is reluctant to drive the town because of the condition of the roads. The lack of consumer traffic is detrimental to businesses downtown, especially coming over the holidays, which is a massive jump over the Christmas holidays is make or break for some of our businesses which are not safely most normal, as is a safety issue for people walking in the road, vendors selling off on the road because of this, because
of what this means to our businesses. If this is not fixed by November 15th, will be forced to pursue an injunction. Most unions are moving towards the Irishman and ma'am, we are all islanders and there are some responsibility for the conditions that are in official position. We're not here to negotiate for years. We are here to put every ounce of pressure and every bit of leverage that we have for you guys to do your job, CFO Griffith expressed to Mr. Baptiste that once the appropriate invoices were submitted, he could anticipate payment from the authority in three weeks.
Earlier this you're going to get three weeks, so once he give me a check for three weeks the road will be paved by Christmas. This morning, while appearing on the WTJX FM show, analyze this what Neville James Governor Albert Bryan remarked on the matter. We had a huge sewage problem and Cristian said, We just want Marco to finish doing the sewer lines replacements.
We already have the contractor with him to start paving, Cristian said. We waited for is is almost two years since he has a contract because we had a bonding problem. We couldn't get paid. We wanted to make sure that we get it done. And then he finally got it started. Now we just need to get him to put back the plot that they're putting him in.
The Waste Management Authority have a long going dispute over several things over the weekend on Saint Thomas, the Virgin Islands Police Department received reports of shots fired and a man down on Sunday, Kish much a Chester VIP media relations coordinator, has the details. And Sunday, November 5th, 2023, At approximately 11:32 p.m., a citizen contacted 911 and reported multiple shots being fired on a car in the area of Conti bar.
Shortly thereafter, another citizen contacted 911 and reported one male suffered several gunshot wounds about his body. Upon officers arrival, contact was made with an unresponsive male who appeared to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds about his body. EMT on the scene checked the male for vitals and discovered that he did not have any signs of life. On Monday, November six, 2023, the male was identified by next of kin as 32 year old Michael Ramos de la Cruz.
Anyone with information and in regards to this incident can contact the Investigation Bureau at 3407742211 ext. 5553. Or they can also contact 911 Crimestoppers via at one 802 to tip the chief's office at 3407155546. The commissioner's office at 3407155506 at Monday's Committee on Disaster Recovery, Infrastructure and Planning. The testimonies of Dayna Clendenin, interim CEO of the Housing Finance Authority, and Adrienne Williams-Octalien, director of the Office of Disaster Recovery, appeared positive to lawmakers during the questioning rounds.
However, Senator Franklin Johnson expressed some uncertainty with recovery projects. Specifically the Juan Luis Hospital What's the time frame rate now for Juan Luis to be demolished? What's the time frame that we have? We even starting Juan Luis. Adrienne Williams-Octalien. The Juan F. Luis Hospital is slated to have a solicitation out for demolition in the first quarter of next year. F
The Territorial Hospital redevelopment team is currently working on that solicitation and reviewing all of the environmental requirements to two execute that demolition around. If the active hospital is in a good light, give me ten more years to live. What's the chances of me seeing that hospital being built then into the. In order for us to do this, we got to lead with the positivity that this is going to absolutely get done because everyone here on this panel is focused on and making it happen.
So the wonderful hospital is a priority in the construction period is anticipated to be 5 to 6 years. And looking at ways that we can actually pull that in. But the magnitude that they that have designed, it looks like a construction period of five years. FEMA's public assistance program is the main source of the Disaster Recovery Office's efforts.
The program has received $6.2 billion, of which 2.7 billion has already been expended. With ARPA projects requiring a 10% match. A point that Senator Alma Francis touched on at the start of her questioning. One of the things that was brought forward or requested with this $100 million line of credit is that some of that money would be used to assist with kicking off some of these projects for to have the matching funds.
Have you guys been able to start tapping into that or are you not ready to start some of these projects that do need those matching funds? So we have started projects. The match was the area that we had the least amount of confidence in because of course, if you draw, it's not like free money. It's a line that we need to pay and we need to repay it within a timely, timely basis.
So we have paid some outstanding match payments. Payments that were necessary to meet the match for the composite poles is one that comes to mind very quickly. We had all millions of dollars and the suppliers were stopping sending these poles and we were able to work with the VA housing Finance Authority to ensure that the payment is made.
We make the payment and ensure that they would process the match payments so that, one, we could keep the the supplies coming and keep the project moving. So we anticipate the completion of those composite poles in December and January, trying to keep those suppliers paid and the materials coming. You're in the TJX News Feed. Members of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations and Finance voted yesterday to approve bill number 35.0190, which provides $350,000 in funding to distribute bottled water to residents on St Croix, who reside in areas most affected by the presence of contaminated water.
Senator Dwayne DeGraff suggested the utilization of the Virgin Islands National Guard, both for their water purification unit and their ability to help with water distributions to those points. Senator de Graaf received response from Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Stephen de Blasio. Senior. Yes, the VII National Guard is a support entity to the Department of Human Services who is responsible for food, hydration and shelter of our citizens during an emergency.
And this is an emergency, as you very well stated. But the VA National Guard would be employed under them if it came down to a physical distribution of water. Then the V.I. National Guard would be activated to support what we call the points of distribution. Assistant Director DeBlasio said the first option would be to create voucher systems that allow very Tima to immediately distribute vouchers or coupon booklets.
The second option presented to lawmakers was for residents to be given gift cards or debit cards instead of coupons, and that their alternative would be to physically distribute water at predetermined points of distribution. Committee Chair Senator Donna Fred Gregory expressed some frustration at what she saw as impediments in getting clean drinking water to residents. Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer O'Neill responded to the senator's concerns about procedural delays.
This is an immediate emergency that we really need to deal with. So let me hear from you, Director O'Neill. Sir, Senator Frank Gregory, thank you for that. Actually, because the governor has declared a state of emergency for the water issue, he can direct immediate payment of or resources to fund the water. Knowing that we can always bring it back.
So as this body works through the committee effort, I think the law does allow for immediate remedy because there's a state of emergency. Bill sponsors Senate President Novo Francis. So the legislation was an interim measure in an evolving situation. You know, we are very good at creating bureaucracies and red tape. And, you know, I think this is a time that we really want to do.
You have humanitarians and be able to bring some relief to our people. I think it's critical our citizens and our constituents didn't act for this matter. It wasn't a natural disaster. It's a disaster or water emergency that really needs to be pre-retirees. And we need to take night and make day to bring them some relief. You know, we will do whatever we have to do, even if it means that we have to fast track this by calling a session.
I'll call a session of midnight tonight if need be. I mean, you know, when we talk about the urgency of getting water to our people, I think it's critical that we understand that. But we have to remove the barriers. We have to remove the impediments. The legislation was passed with proposed amendments included that the appropriation would come from the general fund rather than the same core capital improvement fund as currently drafted, and that my team would lead the initiative as opposed to the Department of Health from the initial drafting.
Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard released a statement sharing that pollution response personnel overseeing cleanup efforts at the Virgin Islands. Water and Power Authority's Randolph Harley Power plant in Saint Thomas discovered oil in the water on the eastern shore side of the Lindbergh Bay on Friday. We spoke with public information officer for the U.S. Coast Guard San Juan Sector and the Virgin Islands, Ricardo Castrodad.
to get details on the matter. Oh, it's happening at the. Coast Guard personnel that was overseeing response efforts for the useful discharge that was that took place at the water facility on October 25th were conducting our monitoring activities to see if any fuel had impacted the waterway. That's Friday as they were doing those assessments. They identified there was a fuel in the area of Limburg Bay on the eastern coastal shore of of Lynbrook Bay.
That's down from Wayne, where you have this response activity from the discharge. Now, what the Coast Guard did in association to that is collect samples that have been sent to to our marine safety lab to identify the type of oil that has been spilled into the water and identify a possible source and a responsible party. Now, from that standpoint, it's too early to say if this oil is or is not tied to the original discharge that took place on October 25th.
So we're waiting and we're investigating to see what what those results could tell us. Now, the responders in Weipa proactively responded to this situation and deployed containment boom and absorbent gunk around the area of the spill. And they have contained all that material that's there at this time and it's being collected. It's too early to identify by the source or who the responsible party may be, but that's part of this process and that's what we're doing.
Our due diligence to make sure those samples are analyzed and we'll see what information comes from that. And then we'll look to see what comes after that. On the recent episode of the W t Jax TV series comes with the Territory hosted by Lesley Comissiong Virgin Islands Port Authority executive director Carlton Dow discuss the possibility of a merger with the Virgin Islands Port Authority and the West Indian Company Limited.
Let's just say Governor Brian, I know you're not speaking on his behalf, but if he were to make it happen, what are the actual steps? Help the community understand what we would need to do. And from a logistical point of view, the consolidation of the operations, what do you think his approach should be? Well, that's a tough one because we go to that battle all the time.
But I believe that, first of all, the Port Authority, the Port Authority Weichel have a pier inside the port for me. I'm not egotist where it'll matter to me tomorrow who end up being that entity. But if the Port Authority I suspect the way it should happen in my eyes is that that cruise ship. The cruise ship Segment B division under the Port Authority.
To me, that's the simplest way. And where they could keep it has nothing to do with Mr. Odyssey, mind you, or anybody. He could still be the person managing the industry if that's what they want. But it ought to be fall in to the Port Authority. But I must also say that the other challenges that one wouldn't see or don't know is all of us have various debt.
For the full conversation, watch on demand through the WTJX app or the WTJX YouTube page, you're in the WTJX News Feed on Friday, November 10th via train will not offer a fixed route services in observance of the Veterans Day holiday. ADA Paratransit Services will be available for certified passengers as scheduled. Last evening, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources held its town hall meeting on Saint Croix to reveal two dimensional sketches as next steps towards the drafting of a comprehensive land and water use plan for the territory.
Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol began the presentation, encouraging residents to continue their engagement. We started this process asking you what was important to you, what areas needed to be protected and preserved for cultural, social, economic or other value. We then asked you to provide your thoughts on community values, and we looked at how we would capture these in policy that led us where we are tonight, where we ask for your input on how we have captured those values that are important and put them in our renderings.
After review, all the comments received following this round of town halls with an additional comment period, we'll have some draft future land use maps and then a draft plan for comment and then the final plan. I want to encourage everyone to be continue being part of the process by going to ww w that plan usvi outcome and continue to provide input along the way.
The Saint Thomas meeting will be held on Thursday, November nine, at the Colombian Hall Holy Family Church from 530 to 7:30 p.m. and on Saint John on Monday, November 13, at the sprung structure in Coral Bay from 530 to 7:30 p.m.. The Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue announced a 2023 penalty waiver program. The program applies to both corporate and individual income taxes and gross receipts taxes.
The short term incentive program is available to taxpayers who are in full compliance with the filing of all outstanding gross receipts returns up to September 2023 and all income tax returns up to tax year 2022. All tax and interest must be paid on any outstanding balance in order to obtain the penalty waiver. The program began on Thursday, November 2nd, and ends on Friday, December 29th.
For questions about the program, call 3407731041 ext 4854 or 4250. This weekend, the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation will be hosting an MLB Players alumni clinic in the Territory, Sports, Parks and Recreation. Public Relations officer Jaron Simmons has the details. The Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation is RBI program, and the MLB Players Alumni Association are hosting baseball clinics for boys and girls ages 8 to 18 this weekend.
On November 11th and 12th. The U.S. Virgin Islands is excited to welcome back former and current major League athletes Akeel Morris, Mildred Cummings, Jerry Brown, Calvin Pickering, and Jabari Brash, who are all native to the Virgin Islands. First, they will travel to Tortola and Virgin Gorda, where they will conduct these clinics in the British Virgin hands. Then on Saturday, they will return to Saint Thomas and the clinic will be held at Lionel Roberts Stadium at 9 a.m., followed by a coaches clinic at 1 p.m. on the following day, Sunday, November 12.
They will travel to Saint Croix to conduct the same clinic at the D.C. Canagate ballpark. We are thrilled to have our homegrown MLB legends back home and we wish them a successful week in training our young and upcoming athletes. We would like to express our gratitude to Mr. John Perry, the RBI director of baseball. Mr. Arnold Brathwaite, former scout for the Anaheim Angels and current Scout for the San Francisco Giants and Mr. Victor Quiroga, Director of International Relations of MLB Players for their involvement in planning and developing this weekend's clinic.
RBI stands for Reviving Baseball in Our Inner Cities, and we would appreciate the community support and this initiative as we move through the news feed. We turn now to our regional report. The Chilean government said Monday that it has not received requests for asylum from six Cuban athletes who reportedly abandoned their visiting national team after participating in the Pan American Games that ended over the weekend.
Reporting on the AP News contends that the alleged desertion involves five members of Cuba's female field hockey team and one male track and field athlete who reportedly won a bronze medal in the 400 meter hurdles. Deputy Interior Minister Manuel Monsalve cautioned against calling the situation a defection, saying that athletes are lawfully in the country for up to three months.
As we move down the news feed, we turn now to the Territory's weather forecasts. Here's the latest. Look at your short term forecast for the Virgin Islands. Meteorologist Eric Weglarz a quick glance at Saint Croix. Overcast skies and showers will continue this afternoon. There is the chance for a thunderstorm to temperatures will hold in the middle to upper eighties.
Winds from the east southeast at 10 to 15 miles per hour at saint thomas. And say john, it's also mostly cloudy. Showers and thunderstorms are likely through the afternoon. Temperatures will hold in the upper eighties to near 90. Winds a bit stronger from the southeast at 10 to 15 with gusts as high as 20 tonight. At Saint Croix, we're expecting numerous showers under overcast skies and a few thunderstorms, too, especially before midnight.
Lows will fall back to near 80, once in the east at 10 to 15 miles per hour. Steady rain again expected through the first half of the night. In at Saint Thomas in Saint John, showers and thunderstorms are expected as well. Temperatures will fall back into the upper seventies to near 80. Thursday features more showers and thunderstorms at Saint Croix.
Temperatures are similar in the middle to upper eighties. Winds are stronger, too, from the east at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Gusts as high as 25 at Saint Thomas. And Saint John will find more showers and thunderstorms as well. Winds are also stronger from the east at 15 to 20 with gusts as high as 25. That's the latest Look at the short term forecast.
I'm meteorologist Eric Weglarz. We are at the end of today's WTJX news feed. I'm Marcellina Ventura-Douglas. 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 join All Things Considered in progress.