Oct. 11, 2001 — A communication snafu within the Department of Planning and Natural Resources has kept more than a half-million dollars from being used in the Home Protection Roofing Program and caused DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett to publicly apologize for the delay.
In a press conference Wednesday, Plaskett took full responsibility for the communication breakdown that caused perhaps two dozen elderly or disabled residents on St. Croix from having their roofs repaired and reinforced following Hurricane Georges in 1998.
According to Property and Procurement Commissioner Marc Biggs, whose department managed past efforts under the roofing program using Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, his staff early last year alerted DPNR to the availability of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1998 Disaster Recovery Initiative funding.
Biggs said that in June 2000, Property and Procurement submitted a plan of action to DPNRs Lawrence Joshua, who administers the Community Development Block Grant Program. The plan included a list of eligible applicants and the cost to repair and reinforce their roofs against future hurricanes.
"All of the information necessary to receive this grant was submitted, and a response from the Department of Planning and Natural Resource was awaited," Biggs wrote in an Oct. 3 release detailing the mis-communication. "To this day, we have yet to receive a response to our application."
Plaskett said DPNR received the HUD grant for approximately $1.7 million in December 2000. Property and Procurement and the territorys two hospitals were the only applicants.
The Juan Luis Hospital on St. Croix received some $750,000 for hurricane shutters and other work, while Property and Procurement received $700,000 for the roofing program. DPNR was allocated $250,000 to administer the grant.
Plaskett said he couldnt explain why Property and Procurement wasnt kept abreast of the grant, which he said he learned about last April.
"Its my position we should have responded to Commissioner Biggs," Plaskett said, adding that DPNRs handling of the situation was "unprofessional."
"For that, I take ultimate responsibility," he said. "DPNR is a large department and circumstances such as these happen from time to time."
To rectify the situation, Plaskett said he will personally ensure that the $700,000 is "promptly distributed" in the next six weeks. In the two weeks starting Monday, an architectural engineering firm will be hired to certify the scope of work for the individuals who have already submitted roofing program applications.
Plaskett said that between 17 and 23 people — most of them St. Croix residents — will receive between $34,000 and $36,000 for roof repairs. If any of the eligible applicants have already had work done, DPNR will go to the next name on the list of 72 residents.
Between the third and fifth weeks, Plaskett said, the applications will be certified, and in the sixth week the grant money will be dispensed and construction monitored.
Plaskett said the project will be completed by December, but the actual deadline to draw down the $700,000 is December 2003.