July 11, 2003 – When the Legislature's Housing Parks and Recreation Committee meets on July 22, it will have a "lengthy" agenda, its chair, Sen. Emmett Hansen II, announced on Friday, because "we have a lot of catching up to do."
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on St. Croix.
His committee has "lost three consecutive meeting dates" because of the Senate's focus in recent weeks on matters relating to the territory's fiscal crisis, Hansen said in a release. "We have legislation to consider and testimony to receive concerning a number of matters that should begin to take priority at this point," he said.
One of those matters came to a head this week with the arrival in the territory of a top U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department official, Michael Liu, assistant secretary for public and Indian housing.
Liu met on Thursday with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. But before that, he attended Wednesday's meeting of the Housing Parks and Recreation Committee on St. Croix, where he shared concerns HUD has about the V.I. Housing Authority's financial records, especially those from Fiscal Year 2002. (See "HUD official huddles with governor over VIHA
In his release, Hansen said that he and his committee welcomed Liu, with whom he "has been in contact." He said Liu came to the hearing to provide "an update of the condition of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority as seen by HUD, the oversight agency."
The release quoted Liu as calling the VIHA situation "serious" and saying that "while we've seen some changes that are positive, there are some other problems which we cannot continue to ignore."
Hansen said there is a need both to "raise the level of service to the residents of the housing communities" and to ensure that the Virgin Islands "doesn't experience yet another decrease in the level of funding to our housing authority."
He added: "Even while I make this statement, I'm also cognizant of the fact that we won't receive more funding if we're unable to account for previous funding."
Further, Hansen said, "It appears that some of the information we received previously may have been in error." Without elaborating, he said that the committee therefore will be moving "to clear up all of those misconceptions in order to get our housing communities to the point where our residents are receiving the best services possible."
Also on the agenda for the July 22 meeting, he said, are consideration of several pieces of legislation and the taking of testimony from Housing Parks and Recreation Department officials regarding plans for the construction of a sports complex in the Virgin Islands.
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