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Christmas Festival Committee Still Waiting for Promised Government Funds

Jan. 30, 2006 – Three weeks after the close of the 2005-2006 Crucian Christmas Festival (CCF), the ghost of Christmas past has risen and is shaking its chains. Organizers say they have yet to receive any funds from the government to run the festival.
The CCF committee has written to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull for help in getting the funds promised to them in the FY 2006 budget. The committee was appropriated $200,000 and a subsequent allotment added another $75,000 to the figure.
In a letter dated Jan. 27, CCF Treasurer Richard Nicks, noting his "great dismay," asked Turnbull to intervene in the matter. Nicks said in an interview on Sunday that the committee turned to the chief executive for assistance because there is "no sense of urgency" [on the part of V.I. officials] in processing the allotment.
The letter continues that CCF is in a precarious situation as the organization has to meet financial obligations to service providers and competition winners who are "pressing us for payment."
Nicks said the committee has balances due to venues, bands, and entertainment and service providers. "These are the people that make festival happen," Nicks said. "All these folks are waiting for their money."
The letter also stated that a formal complaint was filed in Superior Court against CCF for nonpayment of prizes. That action was taken by calypsonians who competed in the eliminations and finals contest.
Nicks said the introduction of the Carnival Accountability Act of 2006 caused some problems for the committee. The act created an Office of Carnival Promotions within the Tourism Department.
"The process changed," Nicks said. "Tourism has a different way of processing the funds." Festival funds were previously funneled through the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation. However, Nicks said the appropriate documents to release the funds were completed and submitted to Tourism on Dec. 16.
The procedure to actually get a check in hand is a long and cumbersome process, according to Nicks. Once Tourism signs off on the documents, the paperwork goes to Property and Procurement to verify content. It's then sent to the Department of Justice to check for legal sufficiency and then to the governor for his signature. The signed documents are sent back to Tourism, which then request the funds from the Department of Finance, who in turn verifies with the Office of Management and Budget that the funds are available. Finance then cuts the check and sends it back to Tourism for disbursement.
"The status of the allotment is unknown at this time," Nicks said.
Nicks pointed out that Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards and St. Croix Administrator Gregory Francis have been assisting CCF in getting the funds released. Nicks said the committee has held off taking any action to date because Richards and Francis have been trying to speed up the process. He said the Christmas holidays also caused some delays.
"It's been three weeks, we can't wait any longer," Nicks said.
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