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WTJX NEWSFEED: November 30, 2023

Water Island Dock

On today's WTJX NewsFeed, we find out what impact the road projects in Christiansted town had on the recent Jump Up event. Governor Albert Bryan’s Cannabis Czar, Positive Nelson, says the Cannabis Advisory Board now has a quorum. We speak with Department of Public Works Commissioner, Derek Gabriel, on completed repairs to the Krum Bay Water Island Dock. Listen to these stories and more. 

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the WTJX News Feed in today's top stories. Following the annual jump up event on Saint Croix, we speak with Christiansted business owners on how current road projects may have affected the event. The Cannabis Advisory Board now has a quorum. The Department of Public Works has completed repairs to the Krum Bay Water Island Dock. These stories and more on today's 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, business and vendors in downtown Christiansted. Saint Croix brought in the start of the Christmas season with the annual jump up festivities. While decorations, entertainment and shopping were highlights of the event, residents wanting to attend were forced to maneuver, dug up streets and search for limited parking.

We spoke with Lori Hiram's, owner of the Gecko Boutique on Company Street to find out how the current road projects affected business at this year's event. The first jump of every season is always a good one, and it's because it's always right before Christmas. You know, it's typically busy anyway, and I don't think it affected the bricks and mortar stores as much as it did the vendors that set up out front.

I mean, it affected us to the extent that people were having a hard time, you know, getting through and, you know, because the roads are so bad. But then even if they got through trying to find a parking spot, that was the biggest thing. But I walked down King Street, King Cross right before it started. And I mean, there were vendors trying to set up tents in basically gutters because, you know, the gravel and everything else has decayed so badly from where it is.

I know I know of at least two vendors who made the decision not to even show up. Miss Hiram's reference the meeting held several weeks ago at Government House by Synchro Administrator Samuel Sanchez, where business owners were assured by contractor Marco St Croix that once the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority had paid him, the work would be done by the start of the season.

You know, they were all saying that town meeting, it'll be fixed before season, everything's going to be fine, and it's all just a crock. I mean, none of it's been fixed. We caught up with Matt Ridgeway from the Christian said Retail and Restaurant Association, the organizers of Jump Up to talk about the outcome of the event. Overall, we were pleased to see the attendance jump up, but we're disheartened to learn the one person that saw this enjoy the festivities did fall and sustained injuries to their arm.

So it's really unfortunate that we don't have a safe environment for ourselves and our visitors. So that's disappointing. In terms of sales, the stories they didn't sell as much as they usually do. So the attendance was not what it usually is. And I think that people are overall, they're reluctant a little bit to stories a lot of Christiansted right now.

And what's worse is the problem that we were trying to have solved for the top up remains. The streets are getting worse by the day. Mr. Ridgeway shared that he had a meeting scheduled today with representatives from the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority, but he was still disheartened. It's really unfortunate, and I know that a lot of people, a lot of the merchants and Christian said, are concerned about making sure the streets are prepared for the tourists.

And that is all well and good and they should be safe for us to walk around. But what about us? What about conditions? What about Virgin Islanders? I think that we deserve better. And it's not just it's not just the roads. I, Christian said it's lead in the water as Ciscos and Guards and these are being spilled in St Thomas, destroying environment as our schools and our hospitals like we all deserve better.

But until we start holding ourselves and one another accountable, I don't know that we're going to see any change. And it's it's one of those things that we have to come together as a community and say that we we want we want more for ourselves and we've always said that we don't have the money to do it. But the reality is that we do have the money to do it now.

And if we don't get these projects done correctly and on time, our children will never forgive us for missing those opportunities. We'll work to update you as the situation evolves. Since Jeffrey Epstein's suicide in August 2019, the Virgin Islands government has pursued civil claims against several people and businesses connected to Mr. Epstein, resulting in settlements totaling just over $250 million.

A new lawsuit, however, filed by five victims of Jeffrey Epstein, contains allegations against the Virgin Islands government and officials like former first lady Cecile de Jongh who is accused of doing nothing while Epstein raped a woman in the next room. The victims lawsuit includes allegations about conduct that occurred between 2001 and 2019, according to the 37 page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Quote, Epstein did not act alone and quote, Much of the information in the new lawsuit was taken from depositions of the Virgin Islands government officials during litigation that the Virgin Islands Justice Department initiated against JPMorgan Chase Bank. In that complaint, the government said bank officials violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by failing to report Epstein's suspiciously large cash transactions, which he was using to pay victims and others involved in the conspiracy, such as politicians.

Government officials claim that the lawsuit against JPMorgan was filed for the benefit of Epstein's victims. But according to the new lawsuit, the government's complaint against JPMorgan ultimately exposed just how much Virgin Islands leaders were willing to assist a known sexual predator. During a housing authority board meeting yesterday, the Virgin Islands Housing Authorities executive director Robert Graham expressed seeming skepticism at the handling of the water quality crisis affecting residents on Saint Roy.

Unless someone from the command center or the doesn't know or the WAPA CEO is willing to drink the brown water on camera, it is not resolved in the minds of residents. And I would think that any rational parent would not allow their child to drink dark brown water. And so there needs to be more attention focused on that issue as opposed to the Laird, which is a serious issue.

But it is serving needs to be covered because even if their testimony was complete, the issue of the brown water will continue because of the corrosive mess that's inside the pipes. The Internal Revenue Service announced tax relief for St. Croix residents and businesses affected by elevated levels of lead and copper in the water supply. Taxpayers now have until February 29th, 2024, to file their various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments deadlines filing on or after October 25th, 2023, and before February 29th, 2024 are granted additional time to file.

 

The February 29th deadline also applies to quarterly estimated tax payments, normally due on January 16th, 2024. If any affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original filing payment or deposit due date that falls within the postponement period, they should call the telephone number on the notice they received and have the IRS abate the penalty.

After reports that the Cannabis Advisory Board has been unable to implement rules and regulations because it does not have a quorum. Former Department of Agriculture Commissioner. Now Special Advisor to Governor Albert Bryan Jr. And Advisory Board Member Positive Nelson says they now have a quorum. Initially, upon movement of individuals myself being moved from agriculture attorney vandalized to moving being moved from DACA, there was an assumption that the board was dysfunctional without a quorum because all of our movement, however, the law provides that we would remain on the board until our replacements are named and is in place.

So the board is in fact functional, and we have a meeting planned for December 13th where we will continue to discuss and deal with the matters in front of us as a cannabis advisory board. But we were at a stalemate at some point because we needed to have that question answered by the ages office. You are listening to the WTJX News Feed.

The Virgin Islands government has implemented an auto expungement law meant to clear minor cannabis convictions from criminal records. We spoke with Governor Albert Bryan Jr's special advisor Positive Nelson, who is set to head a task force as they seek to implement the new law as it relates to the expungement, the automatic expungement that was allowed, it would be passed to act 8680 and then funded to an 8679.

The expungement task force has met with had formation meeting and an organizational meeting rather. We had an initial meeting in which we have a list of some 90 or so candidates who may actually qualify or who has been convicted under the simple possession laws that we're going to review and we're going to put we believe we're putting out this report or we're going to put a report together to send to the Office of Cannabis Regulation, who then released that report publicly.

 

The task force consists of representatives from the office of the Virgin Islands Attorney General, the Office of the Territorial Public Defender, Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Bar Association and the Virgin Islands Justice Initiative. Mr. Nelson stated that individuals who have a conviction they feel should qualify, should reach out to the new law is accommodating up to two ounces.

We want individuals who might have a conviction that to be up should actually qualify to contact by yourself via email at positive.nelson@go.vi.gov notes in order via that gov. Or they can give me a call at 340-690-1748. We'll get them on the list and pull your file. We would like for them to have there have been a record number or an arrest date or something like that to help us in locating their case.

Keep in mind that the expungement speaks to specifically the charges and as your case involves other charges outside of cannabis, outside of marijuana, that the expungement task force is not addressing, that we're limited and restricted to cannabis violations. And as it relates to what would be allowable under the new law. Based on recent comments by Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham and the recent filing of a lawsuit against the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, we reached out to Government House Director of Communications Richard Motta for response.

Government House We have a policy where we don't comment on matters before the court or any open litigation, and I unfortunately haven't been privy to Mr. Graham's remarks, so I will refrain from comment on those as well. However, I do want to make some clarifications with respect to these issues. One, I want to start by saying that the administration, along with its unified command and the Water and Power authority, take seriously the concerns with the water quality in St. Croix, and we are wholly committed to improving the quality of water within the island's public water system.

While the elevated lead and copper issue and the brown water issue are separate matters, the administration, along with its unified command and we are addressing both with equal priority because the discolored water and the brown water is known, and actions to improve that water quality are the way. Some of the actions include changes to the current corrosion control treatment used to prevent corrosion and the presence of metal in drinking water and the replacement of ductile iron pipes to the water system going forward.

We are going to continue to work with the EPA and agreed with with them on any data analysis of data to determine whether or not we have a widespread issue with lead and copper in the water system in Saint Croix and all of those tests moving forward to determine that will be following the EPA standard protocol, which calls for testing at the customer's top.

So I just wanted to make that important clarification between the distinction between the discolored water issue, the broader issue and the matter copper issue. Director Motta further shared that FEMA staff are on island providing support to response efforts. Saint Thomas residents in the Bovoni Nata area can expect an electrical power outage as WAPA will cut service on Friday, December 1st, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During this time, the authority estimates that 552 customers on a portion of feeder nine C will be impacted as crew work to replace a broken pole.

Given the schedule outage, the Department of Education says the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School and the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School will continue to operate on Friday, December 1st. The department received verification that the two schools will not be affected by the power outage. The Department of Public Works announced the completion of the Krum Bay Water Island Dock Repair.

We spoke with the department's commissioner, Derrick Gabriel, on the completion of the project. I was able 20 feet in late 2021, we had a town hall meeting, a virtual town hall meeting with the residents of Water Island. It was myself, Jean-Pierre Oriol, the commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and the governor, where we, you know, the residents have reached out to us about several things that they wanted to see repaired.

And one of those was the commuter dock on in. And one of the things that people don't realize is that the ferry route between Water Island and Saint Thomas is actually recognized as one of our central A-roads by the U.S. Department of Transportation. So as such, you know, the Department of Public Works does have a responsibility to maintain these elements of that road.

So whether it be, you know, providing the commuter dock for the residents of Water Island to traverse between the two islands or, you know, finding ways to supplement and subsidize the ferry, the ferry service that goes on between the two islands. That's something that we've been looking lumm looking into as the as a department of jurisdiction. Commissioner Gabriel shared that they had also completed much needed infrastructure projects on Water Island over the last 12 months.

We have been executing a paving project that was funded by FEMA to make repairs to several of the major roads on Water Island. So we made repairs to the beach road, making that road more resilient. You know, if you're if you're familiar with that area, you know that after any major rain, we do get a lot of flooding in the honeymoon beach area.

So we did make it a little more resilient, making portions of it concrete and repairing that. We made we made repairs to the road in Flamingo Bay over and down road and several other rooms. In addition, we added drainage elements. So hopefully those roads will last longer, you know, make them more resilient, more hardened. So, yeah, it was great, you know, that project and again, like I said, it was funded by FEMA and we were able to touch several of the rooms on Water Island, which I know the residents were really happy to see.

You are listening to the Jax News Feed. The Saint John Records Bureau will be closed from Friday, December 1st until Thursday, December 7th. Reports can be obtained at the Saint Thomas Records Bureau during that time. They are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and normal business operations on Saint John will resume Friday, December 8th, while construction continues at the new multi-level Cyril King Airport Parking and Transportation Center.

The Virgin Islands Port Authority will no longer allow parking along the wall curbside of the entrance of the airport parking lot or along the fencing of the parking lot construction project. The no parking notice applies to the public. All local and federal government agencies, airport employees, contractors and port Authority employees. Anyone in violation will pay a boot removal fee of $125 or a towing fee of $200.

The Junior Tribe VII, a subcommittee of the Virgin Islands Triathlon Federation, is holding their Jolly Junior splash and dash event this weekend. Teresa Harper, the race director, has the details. So this year's Splash and Dash event, it's a swim run event and it's open to kids ages 5 to 15 and racers of all abilities. So you don't have to be on a dolphin swim team or a track star in order to compete.

It's just for fun and it's a holiday themed event and it's going to be held at Bungalows on the Bay, which is formerly Chenay bay Resort. And it's this Sunday, December 3rd, and it starts at 8:00. The event will be held rain or shine, and from 7 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., there will be free onsite registration. Medals will be awarded to the top finishers in each age group and finishers ribbons will be given to all participate ins.

All participants get a free T-shirt and a goodie bag and snacks. And there's going to be a raffle prize and face painting as well as we continue in the news feed. We turn now to our regional report. Venezuelan officials have said they will move ahead with a consultative referendum to decide the future of a stable, a large tract of mineral rich territory that it claims in a long running dispute with neighboring Guyana.

Vice President Delsey Rodriguez spoke at a United Nations hearing where Guyana requested the United Nations top court to order a halt to parts of the Venezuelan referendum vote that's being held this Sunday. The Esquivel region makes up two thirds of Guyana. And Guyana's legal team has called the consultative referendum a, quote, existential threat designed to pave the way for the annexation of the Askey bbl by Venezuela.

The court has not issued a decision, but even if it rules against Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro intends to hold the election on Sunday and has used patriotic rhetoric to try to summon voters to the polls to answer five questions over the territory, including whether current and future area residents should be granted Venezuelan citizenship. The hearings are the latest development in a legal dispute between the South American neighbors that dates back to an arbitration award by an international tribunal in 1899 that drew the border between them.

Guyana launched a case at the World Court in 2018, seeking to have the U.N. judges uphold the 1899 ruling with Venezuela, arguing that in 1966 agreement to resolve the dispute effectively, nullify the original arbitration decision. Frictions between the country have increased since 2015 as a result of oil exploration operations by ExxonMobil and other companies in offshore areas intersecting the disputed territory.

In our final update on the WTJX News Feed, meteorologist Eric Weglarz has the territory's weather forecast. Here's a look at your short term forecast for the Virgin Islands. Our meteorologists are quite glass. It's mostly sunny this afternoon. Area wide, there's a chance for a few scattered showers at St Croix. Temperatures will hold in the middle eighties. Winds a bit stronger from the northeast and 15 to 20 miles per hour.

Gusts as high as 25. More sounds expected at Saint Thomas and Saint John can't rule out a scattered shower near sunset. Temperatures are a bit warmer in the middle to upper eighties. Winds similar from the northeast at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Scattered showers will persist early tonight and give way to mostly cloudy skies after midnight. Lows fall back into the upper seventies at st Croix.

Winds in the northeast of 15 to 20, gusts as high as 25 at saint thomas and saint John. Similar deals, scattered showers early, then mostly cloudy skies after midnight lows will fall back to near 80. Once in the northeast at 15 to 20 miles per hour. And Friday features sunshine with increasing clouds and scattered showers in the afternoon at St Croix.

Temperatures similar to what we see this afternoon in the middle eighties. At Saint Thomas and Saint John, Sunshine will also give way to increasing clouds through the afternoon and scattered showers as well. Mainly at sunset. Temperatures will hold in the middle to upper eighties. That's the latest look at your short term forecast. I'm meteorologist Eric Weglarz. We are at the end of today's WTJX newsfeed.

I'm Marcellina Ventura-Douglas. Join me every weekday at 5 p.m.. If you haven't already, be sure to download the app. And if you miss a part of our news, you can listen to it on demand wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Marcellina Ventura-Douglas is the Radio News Reporter for WTJX-FM, 93.1. Born and raised on St. Croix, Ventura-Douglas graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands, where she received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. While at UVI, she worked in the office of Senator Shawn-Michael Malone before beginning her career in radio. Ventura-Douglas fell in love with radio growing up, when she and her father would spend every morning and afternoon listening to local radio news legend, Alvin G. After leaving Senator Malone's office, she became the program director of Vivid Streaming. She then joined WTJX-TV, Channel 12 as a producer. Soon after, she was tapped to switch to WTJX-FM to present an evening news. She is passionate about bringing radio news to the Virgin Islands community through the WTJX NewsFeed, airing every weekday at 5:00pm on 93.1 FM and available online, on demand.
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