Dec. 2, 2003 Quick action by the top brass at the Department of Public Safety is expected to send close to a dozen motor vehicles bureau employees back to work Tuesday after they were laid off over the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Acting Police Commissioner Novelle Francis said he directed workers from the Department of Personnel to call the workers at home Monday night after he got word that emergency funds had been secured through the Law Enforcement Planning Commission earlier in the day.
Several of the workers given layoff notices Friday had been on the job for four to five years, the chief said, but they had been hired as temporary workers and were never made permanent. Funds for their salaries were provided through short-term funding sources, he said. The latest infusion came from an emergency appropriation from the 25th Legislature.
Nine workers from St. Thomas, three from St. Croix and two from St. John were sent home Friday. Many were working in the department of motor vehicles but others held key positions within the Virgin Islands Police Department, including a crime-scene technician, data-entry operators and the computer operator for the national crime database system.
"Every single one of them is an important component," Francis said Tuesday.
LEPC Grants Administrator Meredith Neilsen said he was able to help by reprogramming federal funds contained in an existing grant. "I was just trying to keep these people working the motor pool, which is something we did approve a couple of years ago," he said .
But, Neilsen said, the grant could not be used to help all motor vehicles workers. Those who do licensing and vehicle registration would not qualify for federal assistance, he said.
Friday's layoffs took place on the last day of November, when dozens of motorists traditionally flock to the DMV to pick up the inspection stickers that keep them street legal. Motorists arriving Monday were reportedly angered to find the workers were still not available. Francis said the timing of the layoffs was unfortunate.
"Certainly we realize the problem was on our end," he said.
Affected motorists will be able to visit the nearest DMV and complete annual inspections without having to pay the penalties normally assessed for late registration, he said.
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