LATEST ARTICLES

Judge Denies Delay, Limetree Sale Set for Friday

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Limetree Bay Refinery (Source file photo)
A judge has rejected St. Croix Energy’s emergency motion to delay the sale of the Limetree Bay Refinery. Sale of the bankrupt Limetree Bay Services’ assets to Jamaica-based West Indies Petroleum is now set to be finalized Friday. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David R. Jones ruled Thursday that St. Croix Energy’s objection — that West Indies Petroleum was unfairly allowed to bid — did not meet the criteria needed to stop the sale and reopen the auction. St. Croix Energy was initially declared the winner in November, with a $20 million bid. Jones, however, reopened the auction in early December after West Indies Petroleum appealed, saying its chief executive had intended to participate but was unable to when he needed emergency medical care. Lawyers for two other bidders – Texas-based Bay Ltd. and Sabin Metal Corp. – also initially objected to the delay. Jones, who works with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, denied those objections and found West Indies Petroleum’s case credible. He allowed bidding to resume. The result was a $62 million winning bid, beating out St. Croix Energy’s $57 million bid. St. Croix Energy, a group of undisclosed partners who reportedly reside in the Virgin Islands, has also objected to its competitor’s validity as bidders, claiming West Indies Petroleum was bidding on behalf of two entities not qualified by the court to participate: West Indies St. Lucia — West Indies Petroleum’s majority shareholder — and newly-formed Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation. Jones’ ruling did not mention the V.I. government’s claim of $7,534,247 for Limetree Bay Refining’s outstanding contractual payments. The refinery encountered numerous problems since its restart by Limetree in February after being shuttered in 2012 by former owner Hovensa following several years of heavy losses. Hovensa declared bankruptcy in 2015. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the refinery shut down for 60 days due to toxic emissions that affected scores of neighboring properties. In June, Limetree announced it was closing indefinitely, and in July, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

St. John Recovery Choir Invites Singers Everywhere to Join “Love City Soul”

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Photo: Recovery Choir members sing a Motown song in 2018, Top Row: Suki Buchalter, Sharelle Francis, Inez Quetel; bottom row: Melody Smith, Eva Chinnery, and Chris Meyer. (Photo by William Stelzer)
Kristen Carmichael-Bowers, the director of the St. John Recovery Choir, has a plan to “blow out the pandemic cobwebs during the next three months.” Everyone is invited to join the choir as members start Zoom rehearsals on Tuesday, Feb. 1, for the “Love City Soul” session. After producing several concerts on Zoom during 2020 and 2021, Carmichael-Bowers was really looking forward to bringing choir members together to sing live this spring. Two evenings of caroling throughout the towns of Cruz and Coral bays in December reminded her how sweet it is to share the spirit of live song. “When I heard the news of Omicron’s arrival, I felt deflated for the better part of a day,” said Carmichael-Bowers. “But then I realized that we don’t need to let this pandemic take control of our joy!” She’s programmed a concert of soul music classics most people already know; “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Respect,” “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” are just a few of the titles. The plan is to start rehearsals on Zoom and move to live rehearsals outdoors one day a week with masks, social distancing, and other protocols in place as soon as possible. Since she’s learned there are no guarantees when it comes to this pandemic, Carmichael-Bowers has already determined that the “Love City Soul” concert will be virtual. But the good news is, “There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough” to keep anyone away who wants to join the choir. In the past year, participants from as far away as California and England have sung with the choir. For those who have never been part of an online choir before, the process may seem off-putting but never fear: Carmichael-Bowers sends customized vocal tracks and sheet music to participants, and she’s perfected the art of directing choir members as they come together to rehearse on Zoom. Members are expected to tune in regularly for rehearsals. Sectionals that focus on soprano, alto, and tenor/bass parts are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. AST on Mondays, and full rehearsals will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. AST on Tuesdays. To sign up, go to the Recovery Choir’s registration page at https://www.singstjohn.org/program-registration. There’s a $50 materials fee that may be waived, if needed, by selected “fee waiver” under payment options. The registration process takes less than a minute, provided that applicants read all the way to the end and click the “Submit” button at the bottom of the page. As a bonus, choir members are eligible to sign up for small group sight-singing classes. Veteran choir members are already familiar with some of the songs that were performed in the Motown concert of 2018. That’s when the Recovery Choir was formed as a way to bring the community together after hurricanes Irma and Maria. “Now I figure we are needing to recover our sense of joy because of Covid-19,” said Carmichael-Bowers. “There’s no shortage of things to recover from, it seems, but the Recovery Choir is also always here to help us to feel lively again. So log in, everybody; put on those headphones or earbuds, and let’s sing our hearts out to some classic soul tunes.” For further information about the Recovery Choir, which is one of several programs produced by Sing St. John, follow this link: https://www.singstjohn.org. Sing St. John is funded by the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virgin Islands Lottery, and many community donors.

Friends of V.I. National Park Publish ‘Here, St. John’ Oral History

A sunrise at Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. (Source file photo)
The Friends of Virgin Islands National Park have published “Here, St. John,” an oral history about Virgin Islands National Park and St. John that serves to give voice to the heritage, culture and natural history as told by born St. Johnians and resident scientists. These stories recall historical details of the people and the natural life of the island that shape this place, according to a press release announcing the project. The stories of “Here, St. John” can be found here. “On St. John much of the cultural heritage practices, traditions, and arts are deeply connected with the natural resources including the use of local plants and animals and the physical spaces now defined by the park,” said Tonia Lovejoy, executive director of the Friends. “By better understanding what the impacts on culture are when the relationship with nature and native land is changed, we may begin to better preserve cultural heritage on St. John and forge a healthier partnership between the Virgin Islands National Park and the local community.“ The many voices and stories in “Here, St. John” include tales of growing up in Cruz Bay and Sieben and childhood stories from the 1930s through the 1990s by Eulita Jacobs, Faye Fredricks, Dr. Hadiya Sewer, Paul Thomas, and Elroy Sprauve. A history of Queen Brefu and the Slave Revolution, including its repercussions across the Caribbean, is told by Kurt Marsh Jr. Jacobs talks about bush medicine, the main medicinal plants of St. John, and recalls life as a local herbalist over the past many decades. Eleanor Gibney tells of her journey to becoming a St. John naturalist and discusses St. John trees like the Bay Rum. Resident scientists Jeff Miller, Dr. Caroline Rogers, Adren Anderson and Willow Melamet give voice to coral reefs, mangroves, and turtles. “Here, St. John” was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was produced by Outer Voices, which specializes in creating audio documentaries.
Stephanie Guyer-Stevens
Stephanie Guyer-Stevens (Submitted photo)
“St. John is a place that is much beloved by thousands of people from around the world. However, it is not common to hear about the place from the perspective of the people who are from here. In creating Here, St .John we hope to take a small step towards changing that,” said Stephanie Guyer-Stevens, Outer Voices executive producer. Friends of Virgin Islands National Park is the official philanthropic partner of Virgin Islands National Park. Friends supports the National Park Service in assuring the park’s unique terrestrial and marine resources are protected, the Virgin Islands’ cultural treasures in the park are preserved, and visitors and community are connected to the park through volunteerism, education, and advocacy. For more information visit the website.

Coral Bay Community Council Seeks Stories About St. John Schools

The East End School on St. John. (Submitted photo)
The Coral Bay Community Council is starting this new year with a full schedule. Besides working to keep the landscape and beautiful waters clean in Coral Bay, it is also devoting some time to preserving the rich cultural heritage of St. John. CBCC is collecting the stories of two schoolhouses: the East End School and the original schoolhouse at the Guy Benjamin School and documenting their important roles in the culture and education from 1870 to about 1970. Members of the community are invited to share their own stories and recollections of these schools. CBCC is using a grant to prepare National Register of Historic Places applications for these properties to help preserve these two historic landmarks. A vital step in this process is documenting their role for generations past and significant events and people associated with them. Email cbcc@coralbaycommunitycouncil.org or call the office at 340-776-2099 to share any information you have. There will be a virtual public meeting in cooperation with the St. John Historical Society and others to share information about the schoolhouses within the next two months.

Coral Bay Community Council to Hold ‘Stuff Depot’ Fundraiser

  The Coral Bay Community Council will host a “Stuff Depot” on Saturday, Jan. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. outdoors at Caribbean Oasis on St. John. This is the traditional Coral Bay yard sale where people are invited to sell/donate their old stuff and find some interesting things that others are selling or giving away. The goal is to keep usable furniture and household goods and clothes out of the landfill by reusing them and extending their useful life. It’s also a great chance to do some house cleaning and make good use of the things you no longer need or want. Participants can have their own “table” of goods to sell and make a little money. Or they can donate “stuff” for CBCC volunteers to sell or give away, by dropping it off at Oasis between 9 and 10 a.m. the morning of the event. Any proceeds will go towards paying for the cost of the event and supporting the many programs and services that the CBCC provides. Any useful items that are left at the end of the day will be donated to the Resource Depot. There will be food trucks, music, and the Oasis bar will be open. The event will follow the latest COVID-19 protocols so please be sure to wear a mask. For information or to reserve a table, call 340-776-2099 or email cbccstuffdepot@gmail.com.

VIAC Hiring a Part-Time Administrative Assistant

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VIRGIN ISLANDS ARCHITECTURE CENTER FOR BUILT HERITAGE AND CRAFTS, INC.

WE ARE HIRING! Part-Time Administrative Assistant

The Virgin Islands Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts is seeking a tech-savvy, part-time Administrative Assistant to assist the Board of Directors and consultant team in managing the day-to-day operations of the organization. Applicants should have previous experience as an administrative assistant with excellent written, verbal, and digital communications skills and a get- it-done attitude. Applicants must be proficient in Microsoft Office and Google Workspace as well as customer relationship management (CRM) software. Proficiency in social media and graphic design software is desirable. This position is for 20 – 25 hours weekly for one year.  Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to info@viacstx.com. Funding provided through a grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. www.viacstx.com

Climate Assessment Workshop Set for Jan. 19

Tropical storm Laura’s winds blow through the palm trees on on St. Croix’s south shore on Aug. 23, 2020. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
The Caribbean chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment will host a virtual workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 19 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to gather participants’ thoughts on the climate change issues that are most important to the U.S. Caribbean region. This workshop is free and open to the public. The information gathered will help the authors of the Caribbean chapter decide which topics to cover in their chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment, a major U.S. government report on how climate change affects people and places in the United States. For the full list of public engagement workshops, registration information and agendas, or to learn more about the Fifth National Climate Assessment, visit the website. The Fifth National Climate Assessment is a function of the U.S. Global Change Research Program established by presidential initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990. Its mandate is to develop and coordinate “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” The research program comprises 13 federal agencies that conduct or use research on global change and its impacts on society. It functions under the direction of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment. In addition to an annual report to Congress and a Strategic Plan, the GCRA mandates that USGCRP prepare and submit to the president and the Congress a quadrennial assessment, referred to as the National Climate Assessment, which:
  • Integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings
  • Analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity
  • Analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and project[s] major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years
       

Students Stress Inclusion, Social Justice and Tolerance as Hebrew Congregation Honors Eight at MLK Awards Ceremony

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“What an amazing group,” said Rabbi Michael Feschback at Friday’s virtual awards ceremony. (Screenshot)
The universality of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work was not lost on the eight students who spoke to the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas virtually on Friday night about their hopes for steering our community toward a path of tolerance, equitable communication, acceptance, and change. The Hebrew Congregation’s special Shabbat Service in honor of King is a favorite for many in the community, as it puts the spotlight directly on students within the community who embody the Civil Rights activist’s philosophies and embrace his passion for service. Each year, the honorees leave the audience with a promise of hope – hope in the next generation and hope in their ability to leave the world a better place than they’ve found it. Whether that includes being a voice for disenfranchised populations, creating accessible health care facilities, creating discussion groups for students on pressing world issues, or simply offering safe spaces for all identities within schools or community centers, this year’s student honorees all agreed that the impetus for all of these plans begins and ends with love, and they appeared ready Friday to lead by example. The featured speaker of the virtual program, Delegate Stacey Plaskett, tied the students’ speeches together while recalling King’s last Christmas Eve sermon in 1967, where he stressed the interconnectedness of all human beings on the planet. “In order to achieve peace on earth, we must develop a world perspective,” she quoted from King, adding later that his work extended beyond championing racial equality, but rather a range of causes that he believed all lead to the same goal. Plaskett juxtaposed the photos taken a year later in 1968 by the crew aboard Apollo 8, which she said gave the public its first views of the earth from space in its totality to King’s call for a “nothing less than a restructuring of the very architecture of American society.” “His view was that the Civil Rights Movement was part of a broader revolution of values that was forcing the Americans to face all of its interrelated flaws,” Plaskett said, adding that society’s inability to do so, even now, stems from its failure to understand how everything is linked. While written separately, the students’ speeches seemed to embrace that interconnectedness. With inclusion as the ultimate goal, each stressed a component that they were passionate about bringing to the table – separate pieces that all came together to form a whole. For Anadelle Brown of All Saints Cathedral School, that piece was stricter enforcement of gun violence laws and a public education campaigns that emphasizes the impact ready access to firearms has had within schools and the broader community. “Shootings just don’t happen on an impulse,” she said. “They happen for a reason.” Working with government leaders and law enforcement on peaceful resolutions and effective conflict management is the first step and putting in more deterrents. Stressing the importance of inclusivity within schools and professional settings was the focus for Araba Penn of Antilles School. She said embracing the views and ideas of others is imperative to advancement and progression in society. Weaving together her realities – experiences living in the territory, as a person of color, as a woman – Penn said she wanted to become a voice and advocate for those whose voices have been “diminished, excluded or silenced.” Penn said she’s seen first-hand how the restructuring of organizations and initiatives to embrace values of diversity, equity, and inclusion has changed perspectives and opened minds. The value of selfless service was highlighted by Charlotte Amalie High School’s Shaudae Richardson, who spoke about leading by example within her church and school activities and meeting King’s anti-violence, anti-hate message by treating those around her with acceptance and respect. Her words were echoed by honoree Jada Jn-Phillip, of Gifft Hill School, who took it a step further by advocating for the formation of a diversity activism group that would give students the chance to connect and work together to discuss pressing social issues and opportunities to become more involved in the community. A weekly discussion series would also help students build their public speaking skills so that they, too, could become powerful advocates for change like Dr. King, Jn-Phillip said. For Mariah Loo, a senior from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, change also starts with creating a healthy community, which can be more productive and efficient. Many families in need of insurance only visit the hospital in times of emergency, but establishing a free clinic focused on preventative care and treatment would give all access to a primary care physician and early detection methods that can keep diseases from becoming worse. “Early detection can keep families leading longer, healthier lives,” she said. Eden-Ahle Jania Baptiste, from Seventh Day Adventist School, was also a proponent for good mental health and zoned in on a perpetual community need: adequate care and treatment facilities for the mentally ill and homeless populations, which she said she hopes to remedy by pursuing a degree in public health and coming back home to help set up a program. Adding the need for a recycling center to cut down on trash and community centers that offer activities for children, Baptiste described, from her vantage point as a student, these three components as “urgent” and in need of an immediate fix. Tolerance, equitable communication, and education were stressed by the final two speakers, Caleb Stadelman Martinez from Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School and Gabriel Hess of the V.I. Montessori School, and Peter Gruber International Academy both said embracing differences and choosing love was the first step on King’s path of peace. Speaking about his travels around the world, Martinez said the power to thoughtfully communicate one’s perspectives and ideas – a trait admired in King – has been lost in conflict and argument as topics such as race, religion, and gender become more and more “taboo.” The need for peaceful communication is more important than ever if society is to resolve its differences, which Martinez said are only “skin deep.” “Variety is really the color that makes the world a beautiful place,” he added. An advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, VIMSIA senior Gabriel Hess, spoke of hanging the Pride flag for the first time in 2021 and working to establish safe spaces for students that identify to interact. Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is illegal in 71 countries and punishable by death in 13 – a reality that no one should have to face, he said, adding that promoting inclusivity also includes bringing queer education into spaces so that everyone can understand the history of the LGBTQIA+ community, its struggles, and triumphs. “Everyone should be able to live in a world where they don’t have to fear being in love with someone or of expressing who they are,” he said. Prior to Friday’s service, Rabbi Michael Feschbach was asked if past scholarship winners ever return to the Congregation to share how their ambitions as high school students had flourished. The rabbi said he had only been with the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas for a few years, but in living his daily life, the scholarship awards popped up in conversation. “I can tell you that I’ve had multiple encounters with past award winners. One day, I was at Magens Bay Beach; I was talking to someone who was there at the beach, and the person said, ‘I won that award.’ And then, one year, we had a saxophone player at the ceremony, and while I was talking to him, he said, ‘I won that award.’ This has had an impact on people’s lives. I believe we have had a very positive impact,” Feshbach said.

CEKA Air Traffic Tower Re-Opens, Airport Operating As Normal

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Cyril E. King Airport (Source file photo)
Staffing shortages were responsible for the temporary closure of the air traffic control tower at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, which reopened Saturday and reported one cancellation, though the airport itself is open and operating as normal. The V.I. Port Authority began advising the public that the tower was closed early Saturday afternoon, with airplanes en route to the airport communicating with air traffic services in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The move is a standard backup procedure approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a news release. While flight delays were expected, only American Airlines reported a cancellation, a flight from Miami to St. Thomas. The air traffic control tower was reopened around 4 p.m. by VIPA, who is still advising travelers to contact their airlines directly concerning flight schedules.

V.I. Board of Education Begins Application Process for Financial Aid Program on Jan. 17

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Virgin Islands Board of Education
The Virgin Islands Board of Education (VIBE) will commence its Territorial Scholarship Fund and Special Legislative Grant Financial Aid Program application period on Jan. 17. The VIBE program offers territorial scholarship fund loan/grants, special legislative grants and in-service training grants to bona fide residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands at the time of application, notwithstanding that the applicant might have been living outside of the U.S. Virgin Islands temporarily while pursuing a course of study. To be eligible, the applicant:
  • must be a graduate of a Virgin Islands high school or authorized home instruction program,
  • must have a financial need,
  • must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 or 2.5 (for certain grants),
  • must be accepted to/or attending an accredited college, university or trade/vocational school, and
  • must be attending school full-time.
  • First time applicants must submit an official high school transcript (sent directly from the school to the VIBE) and an acceptance letter
  • Continuing and graduate applicants must submit an official college, university, or trade/vocational school transcript (sent directly from the school to the VIBE)
Access to the online application at www.myviboe.com begins on Jan. 17; the deadline is April 18. For more information, call 772-4144 or 774-4546, or email the Virgin Islands Board of Education at financialaid@myviboe.com