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Horse Racing Returns to St. Thomas for Carnival; Bryan Reveals Incentive for Government Retirees to Rejoin Workforce

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. provides updates during a Government House weekly press briefing on Monday. (Photo courtesy Government House Facebook live stream)

Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack Reopens 

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. declared that horse racing will return to St. Thomas on May 3 for the Carnival celebrations this year. Horse races last occurred at the track in 2017, before it was damaged during hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“As governor, I want to officially announce that we will be having Carnival races this year at the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack,” he proclaimed.

The governor was joined by Calvert White, commissioner of the Sports, Parks and Recreation Department, to provide details regarding reopening the racetrack.

“Today marks a momentous occasion as we gather to announce the long-awaited reopening of the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on the island of St. Thomas,” White said. “Since the turn of the century, the sport of horse racing has been a cornerstone of the Virgin Islands community, embodying our culture and traditions and serving as a gathering place for family friends and racing friends alike,” he explained.

“On May 3, we will witness six electrifying races featuring some of the finest horses and most skilled jockeys in our region. This event is more than just the thrill of competition,” White said. “With a total purse of $115,000, this will be the biggest race day in Virgin Islands history in St. Thomas.”

White stressed that the event has been well-planned, and safety and accessibility are top priorities. The Virgin Islands Police Department, the National Guard, and additional security teams are expected to be present.

“We have worked tirelessly to make this event accessible to all, ensuring that families can come out and enjoy this event without breaking the bank,” White stated. “In reopening the track, our utmost priority has been the safety and well-being of our horsemen, patrons, participants, and staff,” White explained. “We have left no stone unturned in ensuring the stringent precautions and protocols to safeguard the public,” he added.

White explained the significance of the return of horse racing on the island will be a “Rebirth of Carnival Races.” He also expressed gratitude to Southland Gaming for their support in reopening the track.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. announces the reopening of the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy Government House Facebook live stream)

“This day will be more than just a return of racing,” White said. “It is a testament to our unwavering commitment to our territory, our passion for the sport, and our dedication to those in our community and those who travel to share in this occasion.”

Bryan expressed gratitude for the efforts to reopen the racetrack and noted that he is thrilled to present the Governor’s Cup trophy for the first time during his tenure. He briefly stated that work is ongoing at the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack on St. Croix so that races can eventually resume.

Government Retirees Invited to Rejoin the Workforce

The governor also announced an initiative to encourage government retirees to return to vacant positions. Known as the Retirees Returning Program (RRP), the goal is to address the urgent need for qualified employees to fill vacancies.

“This program addresses critical workforce shortages within the government by encouraging experienced retirees to return to public service in jobs that we desperately need to be filled,” Bryan said.

The governor was joined by Cindy Richardson, director of the Division of Personnel (DOP), to deliver details regarding RRP.

Cindy Richardson, director of the Division of Personnel, shared details regarding an initiative to incentivize government retirees to return to the workforce. (Photo courtesy Government House Facebook live stream)

“The RRP represents a strategic initiative to harness the experience and expertise of retired government employees to fill critical workforce gaps in public service,” Richardson said. “This program offers a pathway for retirees to return to government service in hard-to-fill positions without forfeiting their annuities, thus presenting a win-win scenario for the government and the retiree,” she continued.

“Key aspects of the program underscore its focus on addressing professional skills shortages within the government sector while ensuring that retirees are not disadvantaged in terms of their retirement benefits,” Richardson noted.

Retirees eligible to take advantage of this opportunity and rejoin the workforce must meet several requirements, including having been out of service for a minimum of nine months. The DOP website provides additional information about eligibility and program details.

Richardson explained that approximately 140 positions are currently available within the government.

“Right now, we have approximately 140 positions that are posted [to the DOP website], Richardson said. “As it pertains to the retirees, anything that is listed as ‘continuous’ on the Division of Personnel website is what the retirees would be eligible” to apply for, she added.

Bryan commended the initiatives to expand the workforce, and he added that the program is flexible for retirees, permitting part-time work if desired.

Renewable Energy Update

In other community news, Bryan discussed his administration’s commitment to renewable energy across the territory. The governor reported that he toured a VIElectron solar farm in Estate Petronella on St. Croix recently and noted that the farm is nearing completion and is expected to be fully operational by May. According to the Government House Facebook page, the solar facility encompasses 51 acres, contains 31,000 solar panels, and will provide 16 megawatts of power.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. provided updates regarding renewable energy across the territory, and he recently toured a VIElectron solar farm on St. Croix. (Photo courtesy Government House Facebook live stream)

Multiple solar farms are being constructed across the Virgin Islands, which will help create more sustainable energy and electricity options and reduce fuel dependence, Government House has said. Bryan also discussed plans to integrate electric vehicles into the territory and noted that loans will be available for residents who choose solar power.

“All of these initiatives are the foundation of a future of cleaner air, lower energy cost for businesses, and resilient communities,” Bryan said.

More information regarding renewable energy projects can be found at the V.I. Energy Office website.

Estate Planning and Wills Conference 

Finally, the governor explained that the Economic Development Authority will hold a free informational seminar on Wednesday to give individuals helpful advice about estate planning and wills.

“The USVI Economic Development Authority is hosting a free real estate planning conference on Wednesday, March 20, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” Bryan said. “They will educate the public on wills, trusts, probate issues, and powers of attorney.”

Interested parties can attend the conference in person on St. Croix and St. Thomas, or they can attend virtually via Zoom meeting. Details are available on the EDA Facebook account. Registration is required.

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