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Tuesday, July 5, 2022


Instead of bickering over how much St. Croix and St. Thomas are receiving in Community Development Block Grants for next year, senators instead turned their sights Monday night on local government agencies that still haven't spent past grants.
According to Lawrence Joshua, director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's CDBG program, which is administered locally by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, since 1990 some $20 million has been granted to government and non-governmental agencies. Of that, approximately $4.2 million is unspent.
It was the unspent balance that angered most of the senators present at a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday in Frederiksted as they reviewed fiscal year 1999 CDBG applicants approved by Gov. Charles Turnbull.
Senators pointed out that of the $4.2 million balance, most of that federal money is left in the coffers of local government agencies. They asked Joshua why the "free" money wasn't being used in a time of financial problems.
"I've seen government agencies come in and get (grants)," said Sen. Gregory Bennerson, "and private agencies break their necks."
Joshua agreed, saying that 50 percent of the balance is held by the government.
"Once government agencies get their funds, they tend to sit on them," he said, adding that private organizations will use their money quickly, unlike government agencies.
"If we had the ability to spend these monies willy-nilly," said Sen. Roosevelt David, "this block grant would be in the negative."
One reason for the balance is that in some cases, contracts that once took five days to process now can take six months. Joshua said the problem, which existed prior to the Turnbull administration, is that a contract must be reviewed by the Department of Justice, Property and Procurement and the Finance Department before it can be approved.
Joshua said an action plan should be devised so the process can be accelerated.
"In a month and a half, you'll have a plan of action and by the end of the year the money will be substantially reduced," he told senators.
Meanwhile, 104 proposals worth $16.5 million have been reduced to match this year's $2.19 million community block grant, which funds community organizations, programs for the disabled, and youth services.
The split in Turnbull's proposal is about $837,600 for St. Thomas, $877,610 for St. Croix and $40,000 for St. John.
The candidates on St. Croix are:
Public service projects include $25,000 to the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled's after-school program at Ricardo Richards Elementary, $22,710 and $25,000 to house recovering male substance abusers in Estate Diamond Ruby and Herman Hill House, $50,000 for Camp Arawak's job-training program, and $21,840 to Little Buddies Development Center's summer camp.
Other projects include $25,000 to upgrade the Horace Clark ballpark, $20,000 to upgrade the D.C. Canegata ballpark, $10,000 each to upgrade the Estate Princess, Estate Glynn and Renholt Jackson ballparks, $133,160 to repair and renovate the Estate Whim Great House, $30,000 to install sewer lines at the Police Pavilion, $50,000 to construct a police community service building, $8,000 to renovate the Estate Whim recreation area, $2,655 to build an outdoor shower facility for the homeless, $25,000 to install historic marker signs, $60,000 to restore a baseball field in Estate Castle Coakley, and $120,000 to rehabilitate #22-23 Market St., and $125,135 in grants and low-interest loans to rehabilitate homes in Frederiksted.
Three projects for the Women's Coalition of St. Croix include $2,100 to renovate a thrift shop, $80,000 to buy and repair #7 East St., and $22,000 to expand #39 Queen St. to provide an office and a private counseling room for abuse victims.
Hearings for the St. Thomas and St. John applications will be held before the request is sent to HUD.

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