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HomeNewsArchivesNew V.I. Emergency Communications System Plan Gets Congressional Support

New V.I. Emergency Communications System Plan Gets Congressional Support

June 10, 2008 — Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s trip to Washington last week has netted support from a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee for a completely revamped 911 and emergency communications system in the Virgin Islands.
Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, has asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to "carefully examine the project and give it his full support."
DeJongh went to Washington specifically seeking financial aid for the $15 million project.
"The governor is after federal dollars to augment the limited local funds in putting together a complete 911 and radio-communications systems for the law enforcement community," Government House spokesman Jean Greaux said Tuesday night.
The governor is happy about the almost immediate response to his request, according to a statement released earlier by Government House: "I am pleased that less than one week after our meetings in Washington, D.C., in which we sought congressional support for funding of the new 911 system, a longtime friend of the Virgin Islands, Senator Brownback has responded favorably."
In a June 10 letter to Chertoff, Brownback drew attention to the importance the territory plays in the security of the U.S. mainland.
"The [Hovensa] refinery is one of the largest in the world and is a primary supplier of oil to the Department of Defense, among others," Brownback wrote. "Residents, tourists and first responders are at significant risk because of the territory's substantial deficiency in comprehensive radio coverage, modern software and adequate tower functionality."
Acting Police Commissioner Novelle Francis Jr. released a statement Tuesday night saying he, too, was pleased to hear about the congressional support for the new system.
"A comprehensive overhaul would enable a quicker response to those needing police and other emergency assistance, as well as adding to the safety of first responders while performing their duties," Francis said. "The police department looks forward to working with the deJongh administration in making a state-of-the-art emergency communications systems a reality in the Virgin Islands."
DeJongh addressed the need for a new system in this year's State of the Territory Address, and he brought it up again in March at a St. Croix Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"Not this year, but over the next two years, we are putting in a 911 plan, finally," deJongh said. "We are going to approach it not as a solely police function, but emergency services: Health, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) fire and all first responders. … We need to do it in a way so that calls are never dropped."
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