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Wednesday, July 24, 2024


July 31, 2002 – The planned University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park eventually will be self-supporting, but it will have to depend on the local government to fund operations in its early years, UVI President-elect Laverne Ragster told members of the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.
Ragster and President Orville Kean, who will retire in August, asked the senators to approve their requested $34.6 million budget for Fiscal Year 2003 along with an additional $1.5 million to fund start-up operations at the Research and Technology Park, to be developed on St. Croix.
In a prepared statement, Ragster said that the $1.5 million will go for seating and orienting the park's board and executive management; administrative operations and professional expenses; workforce training; development of matching funds; business recruitment; marketing and public relations; and facilities and infrastructure development planning. She also said the university is pursuing grants to support the park.
While the outlook for the park's implementation remains good, she said, there are concerns about acquiring the land needed. It is now owned by farmers who will have to be relocated. "We are going to need the help of the legislative and executive branches to overcome the legitimate concerns of the farmers," she said in the statement.
She said the park will benefit St. Croix's agribusiness community by opening world markets to local agricultural products through e-commerce.
Ragster said Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has appointed the three community members to the park board. They are Liston Abbott, Kathleen Dyer and Roger Dewey. And, she said, UVI is close to wrapping up a technology plan outlining telecommunications and related infrastructure needs for the park.
Ragster said there is a lot of enthusiasm for developing a technology community education center to provide training and develop programs of outreach to youths, schools and the business community. "One of the important goals of the center is to bring technology training within the reach of every Virgin Islander at little or no cost, so that no one will be locked out from training or job opportunities because of inability to pay," Ragster said.
Also appearing before the Finance Committee on Tuesday was the Government Employees Retirement System acting administrator and chief financial officer, Willis C. Todman.
He told the senators that GERS has reached the point where benefits paid out have exceeded contributions. He said that in Fiscal Year 2002, the system had to liquidate $30 million in assets to pay retirement benefits.
All committee members were present — Sen. Douglas Canton Jr., Donald "Ducks" Cole, Adlha "Foncie" Donastorg, Carlton Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Norman Jn Baptiste and Norma Pickard-Samuel. Non-committee member Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. also was present.

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