Along with a slew of other measures, Gov. Kenneth Mapp approved spending $2.5 million in reprogrammed bond funds for emergency repairs and sewer line replacement at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center on St. Croix.
He line-item vetoed a measure within the bill to reprogram another half a million dollars for energy conservation measures.
On May 2, sewage pipes backed up in the JFL Emergency Department and the hospital has been scrambling to deal with the problem ever since, calling in pumping trucks, cleanup crews, VITEMA and Public Works officials and more.
Ultimately, the problem is that the cast iron pipes of the gravity-fed sewer system beneath most of the hospital have corroded and are collapsing. Salty groundwater has wreaked havoc with old cast iron sewer pipes all over the territory and the Waste Management Authority has put the cost of replacing the entire system territory-wide in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The money for JFL comes from an array of past appropriations and bond funds for projects that either had funds left over or were never fully funded and could not use the partial appropriation.
The bill also appropriated rum funds and hotel occupancy tax funds to the General Fund, so another bill could spend them on federal matching funds for Medicaid and other priorities of the governor. Senators reduced the amount and ultimately devoted $7 million in rum funds for Medicaid matching; $1.7 million for school maintenance and $250,000 for youth summer employment through the Department of Labor.
Mapp signed a bill which authorizes the government to purchase parcels of land in Frederiksted for rebuilding the Paul E. Joseph Stadium. He is sending down a funding request to the Legislature for up to $480,000 from the Community Facilities Trust Account and/or the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund, both of which consist of portions of the federal alcohol excise tax revenues remitted to the territory. He also has approved a measure that reprograms funds from the Community Facilities Trust Account for renovations at the Kirwan Terrace, Joseph Aubain, and Emile Griffith Ballparks on St. Thomas.
Mapp also has approved a bill increasing the current fiscal year appropriation for the Department of Human Service to increase matching funds for Medicaid. With the federal government’s approval of an increase in the territory’s poverty level, more residents are eligible for health insurance coverage under the Medical Assistant Program, which is the local vehicle for Medicaid. The local government must continue to provide its matching contribution to the cost of coverage, which is significantly less than bearing the full cost of uncompensated care for otherwise uninsured patients, Mapp said.
He also approved legislation to allow any Real-ID compliant identification to take the place of special senior IDs issued by the government. V.I. senior citizens currently get four benefits from the V.I. government: free transportation on VITRAN buses, free tuition at the University of the Virgin Islands, a 50 percent discount on driver’s licenses and various other discounts.
Another bill he signed will give the Division of Licensing and Consumer Affairs new power to determine how many tavern liquor licenses are allowed in the historic districts of the territory. The previous limit of 75 tavern licenses for Charlotte Amalie was last amended in 1966.
There was a moratorium on new tavern licenses in the historic districts from 2006 to 2011 but some licenses were issued anyway during that time. Since the moratorium’s expiration, the only limit has been the 75 license cap for Charlotte Amalie. But DLCA officials testified there are more than 100 active right now.
Also approved were:
– A bill giving $543,000 to Schneider Regional Medical Center for repairs to internal piping and water heaters, re-appropriating leftover and unused funds from an array of bond-funded projects.
– A bill to re-appropriate $75,000 left over from work on St. Thomas’ Emancipation Garden Park from the Communities Facilities Trust Account for work at the Kirwan Terrace Ballpark, the Joseph Aubain Ballpark, and the Emile Griffith Ballpark on St. Thomas.
– And several coastal zone management permits.