The Legislature and Department of Public Works are hoping to put steel roofs and lighting over the public basketball courts in Frederiksted’s Estate Profit and in Estate Grove, in the center of St. Croix.
"We want to just put some roofs over basketball courts throughout the territory," Sen. Sammuel Sanes said, introducing the measure. They plan to start on St. Croix and move to St. Thomas when funds permit, he said. Having steel roofs and lighting would allow athletic activities when it rains and at night, Sanes said.
"We think: What can we do to prevent crime? What can we do to enhance our community? And this is one of the little things we can do," Sanes said.
Sanes sponsored the measure, which appropriates $467,660 from bond proceeds still remaining from $35 million in new bond debt for energy conservation projects in 23 Education Department facilities and both hospitals, which are expected to ultimately save millions of dollars over time. (See Related Links below)
Public Works Commissioner Gustav James said each roof would cost about $350,000, including a concrete foundation and new lighting and the new funding, combined with some existing funding, should make it possible to cover the two courts. The funding would not pay for resurfacing the courts, he said.
Finance Commissioner Valdamier Collens suggested the funding source, which is different from the original source in the bill, which Collens said was not readily available and would require a new bond issue. The new source of funding is from tax exempt bonds and its uses are restricted as a result, so he would have to consult with bond counsel to ensure it can be used for this purpose, Collens said.
"The Public Finance Authority, with assistance from its bond counsel, is amenable to collaborating with the Legislature to determine whether the project related to the construction of steel roofing structures in public parks … is acceptable for tax exempt financing," Collens said.
Finance also approved a bill, sponsored by Sen. Neville James, appropriating $35,000 from the Casino Revenue Fund as matching funds for a USDA grant to help support farm-to-school education training.
The funding will pay for a two-year training program for farmers and teachers on food handling practices and farming education, according to Sommer Sibilly-Brown, executive director of the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition.
All the bills were approved without opposition and will now go to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for more debate. If successful there, they will go to the full Senate for a final vote.
Present were: Sanes, Sens. Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden and Clifford Graham. Absent were Sens. Myron Jackson, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Tregenza Roach.