May 28, 2005 – The Source, to help its readers stay more informed about their government, begins with this article what is to become a weekly feature – a roundup on Senate activities.
Monday, May 23
Marriott Frenchman's Reef
For V.I. senators the week began Monday at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel with a meeting with Alan Sokolow, executive director of the Council of State Government's Eastern Regional Conference. The CSG Eastern Regional Conference consists of 10 states, along with the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Sokolow said the V.I. government pays dues for legislative and technical assistance but doesn't take advantage of all the services it could.
He said V.I. officials can access current information on agriculture, communications, transportation, fiscal affairs, education, health and criminal justice through weekly and bi-weekly electronic newsletters.
Senators present were Senate President Lorraine L. Berry, Norman Jn Baptiste, Roosevelt David, Terrance "Positive" Nelson, Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Liston A. Davis, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Usie R. Richards and Louis P. Hill.
Tuesday, May 24
Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix
Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security & Justice Senators received testimony on the status of the V.I. Fire Service. Invited to testify were Merwin C, Potter, fire director, V.I. Fire Service, and Paula Douglas, chief financial officer.
Encarnacion, chair of the committee, said, "This meeting is to establish what are the issues confronting the Fire Service in the Virgin Islands." One issue that came to light was that many inspections are not conducted because of a lack of personnel.
According to the release, Encarnacion told members of the Fire Service that he had made site visits at all the fire stations on St. Croix and even though he commended the officers on their efforts, he still has major concerns, which he hoped to revisit.
The press release continued that Encarnacion had observed numerous structural problems that need to be addressed.
According to the press release, Potter said there is not an adequate emergency response system in place. His direct quote was, "Until emergency response is given the resources and the proper attention along with adequate local funding set aside, this territory will never have an adequate response system."
Potter emphasized these critical areas he hoped the committee would assist him with:
– The St. Thomas-Hotel Company and St. Croix Grove Place stations are in need of relocation to an alternative site due to structural hazards.
– Acquiring government owned land or structure adequate for a fire facility on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
– Replacement of five old fleet fire apparatus.
– Fireboats for both districts as preventative measure for marine/offshore industry fire related incidents.
– Funding for hazardous material response clean-up activities.
– Compensation package for hazardous material first responders.
– Shortage of manpower resulting in high overtime; two fire facilities unoccupied in Bordeaux and Water Island and lost of revenues from fire safety inspections.
According to the release, senators were informed that Fire Service faces a $1.3 million budget cut, which means no hiring of personnel. However, Sen. Hill said the department's sufferings were partly due to its failure to take advantage of private loans it has been authorized to acquire via the Office of Management and Budget assistance. He said such loans could have been used to purchase new trucks and supplies. Instead, Hill said funds were wasted on repair cost for old and defunct equipments.
Committee members at Tuesdays hearing were: Sens. Berry, David, Davis and Hill.
Non-Committee members were: Sens. Richards and Figueroa-Serville.
Wednesday, May 25.
Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall St. Thomas
Observation of African Liberation Day
Legislative forum: Reparations: Where do we go from here?
This forum took the form of a debate on what reparations should mean and what form they should take. For details (See "V.I. Panelists Disagree on What Reparations Mean").
Thursday, May 26
"Salt River National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve Media Day"
This event was planned by Joel Tutein, superintendent of the National Park Service, Senate President Berry, Myron Jackson, director of the State Historic Preservation Office, and Dean Plaskett, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources as a Media Day, outlining accomplishments of the working task force for the Salt River park. Since its inception in March, the task force has managed to remove a trash receptacle from a historically sensitive area and also some abandoned vehicles.
However, the event did not go quite as planned as attendees seemed more interested in the proposed camping ban at the site than its preservation (See "Camping Restriction Still an Issue at Salt River").
Sens. Ronald Russell, Figueroa-Serville, Craig Barshinger, and Encarnacion were in attendance along with Berry.
Friday, May 27
Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee
Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix
This meeting received testimony on the administrative and fiscal status of Frederiksted Health Care Inc.
Vivian I. Ebbesen-Rudd, executive director, Frederiksted Health Care Inc. was the main testifier.
And, according to the report in the Daily News on Saturday, the story was an old story. The institution, like most V.I. institutions, was suffering from a lack of funds, and the V.I. government was not paying its share.
Members of the Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee are Richards, chair; Davis, vice chair; Barshinger, Berry, Encarnacion. James and Jn Baptiste.
To see what's on tap at the Senate for the upcoming week, click here.
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