Aug. 23, 2006 — After approving a lease agreement for the reconstruction of the Girls Scouts of the Virgin Islands camp in Estate Bordeaux, senators unanimously voted not to reprogram $100,000 worth of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds requested by the organization.
Instead, CDBG money awarded this year to the Girl Scouts totaled nearly $395,000 — almost $110,000 more than what the organization requested.
During Tuesday's full legislative session, senators also voted not to reprogram money slated for the development of a community center and cafetorium at Guy Benjamin Elementary School in Coral Bay.
While Gov. Charles W. Turnbull proposed that the Guy Benjamin funds be redirected to the Methodist Outreach Center on St. Thomas, Sen. Craig W. Barshinger introduced an amendment appropriating $250,000 from the General Fund for the outreach center's project –leaving Guy Benjamin's money "intact."
Barshinger described the CDBG funds as "hard won," since members of the St. John community had been waiting "a long time" for the Education Department to turn the project over to the school's parent teacher organization.
"All the Education Department had to do was write a little letter, saying yes, they support the transfer of this project," Barshinger said. "That did not happen. Luckily, I have the support of my colleagues in this, and we'll be moving ahead with the project once we get the money."
Jacqueline Dennis, president of the Girl Scouts board, said the organization would also be moving ahead with the reconstruction of Camp Corinne Lockhart, located on St. Thomas' West End.
According to representatives from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, which administers CDBG funds, the organization had been requesting block grant money since 2004. However, since the lease on the property had been in question for the past six years, DPNR decided not to move forward with the project.
Instead, Turnbull recommended that CDBG funds requested by the Girl Scouts be reprogrammed to the Hearts In Service Association for the construction of a transitional housing facility in Anna's Retreat (See "Fate of Girl Scout Camp in Estate Bordeaux Still Uncertain").
However, senators moved quickly to act on the lease agreement during Tuesday's session, allowing the Girl Scouts' money to be reinstated. The agreement, between the Girl Scouts and the government, is for 50 years at an annual rental fee of $300.
After the two projects had been addressed, Sen. Usie R. Richards introduced another amendment to the CDBG bill, which reallocates $392,830 in unused CDBG funding from the V.I. Housing Finance Authority to Ten Thousand Helpers for the establishment of a homeless shelter in Christiansted.
The Finance Authority had planned to use the money to install water meters in the Williams Delight area on St. Croix. In order for the project to stay on track, however, senators voted later in the meeting to make an appropriation from the General Fund that will cover the water meter installation.
After all voting on all amendments, senators approved the entire CDBG bill, which appropriates federal funds to 28 community projects throughout the territory.
The Virgin Islands receives $1.9 million worth of CDBG funds every year and distributes the money between various organizations, agencies and programs throughout the territory. There is also approximately $5.5 million worth of unused CDBG funds available to reprogram for other applicants.
Present during Tuesday's session were Barshinger and Sens. Lorraine L. Berry, Roosevelt C. David, Liston Davis, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Richards, Ronald E. Russell and Celestino A. White Sr.
Sen. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion was absent.
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