A portion of a beat-up road adjacent to the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s St. Croix plant in Estate Richmond will be closed to traffic to increase safety and security at the plant if a bill sent out of committee is enacted into law.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Novelle Francis at the request of WAPA, and would give the authority, with consent from the departments of Police, Public Works, and Property and Procurement, to close "a portion of Route 752 between Par 6 and 11B 4 and C adjacent to the former Richmond Penitentiary in Christiansted." The affected road runs east to west, parallel to the shore, just south of WAPA and the recently condemned and emptied LBJ public housing community.
WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. and Public Works Commissioner Gustav James both said the road is in poor shape and gets little vehicular traffic. Hodge said the utility plans to install a gate that would be manned 24 hours a day. Having a gate will help keep people safe from accidents and protect WAPA from vandalism or terroristic attacks on its facilities, Hodge said.
Francis asked Hodge what the biggest benefit to WAPA would be if the road were closed.
Hodge said the underground circuits to Christiansted are adjacent to that road, along with the island’s power generating capacity and propane gas infrastructure. The greatest benefit, Hodge said, was "knowing you have security in that regard, because we only have one generating facility (on St. Croix). We don’t have that redundancy; we have one point of failure."
Senator after senator said they supported the bill.
"This bill before us is a very simple one,” said Sen. Jean Forde. “No one is in disagreement and everyone can understand why. It deals with safety, preventing accidents and protecting against terroristic attacks. It is all about safety for our community," he continued.
Voting to send the measure on for another round of debate in the Rules and Judiciary Committee were Forde, Sens. Clifford Graham, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Kenneth Gittens, Marvin Blyden and Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly. No one opposed the bill. Sen. Neville James was absent.
The committee also sent on a bill to allow the V.I. Next Generation Network to gift unused construction equipment bought to build the network to Public Works.
The haul is four Bobcat small loaders; six Anderson trailers; four ditch witch trenchers, two ditch witch vacuums, four mini excavators and four air compressors. VINGN Chief Executive Officer Tonija Coverdale said the equipment was new and unused but had been in storage for several years. It has an assessed value of about $1 million, she said.
The Public Works commissioner said his staff has inspected the equipment "and found it to be more than satisfactory."
"We are very confident this equipment will help us carry out our mandate more efficiently. … This generous donation is greatly appreciated," James said.
The committee voted without opposition to send the bill on to Rules and Judiciary Committee, the next step before a final up and down vote on the Senate floor.