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Overnight Blaze Devastates Historic Royal Dane Mall

A roaring blaze engulfed the Royal Dane Mall in downtown Charlotte Amalie overnight, devastating the mall and damaging adjacent buildings. In a press conference Friday, Fire Service Director Daryl George said the call came in around 10:45 p.m. July 4. Multiple units were sent to respond, including 18 on-duty officers, 12 off duty officers and seven trucks and other fire fighting machines. Multiple businesses were damaged. "It took about three hours to get it under control," George said. One officer injured his hand but there were no other reported injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Gov. Albert Bryan reviewed the scene early Friday afternoon. Two fires damaged businesses right in this area very recently, in March. One broke out in the storage room of Tavern on the Waterfront restaurant, which is part of Royal Dane Mall. The other occurred in a second-floor warehouse space that was undergoing renovation three blocks to the west. Both of those fires are still under investigation. Electrical problems may have played a role, officials said at the time. These fires all occurred in the same area as devastating fires in 1804, 1806 and again in 1826, wiping out large parts of downtown Charlotte Amalie.
Juan F. Luis Hospital in pre-hurricane file photo. JFL was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria.

JFL Execs Say Crime, Abandoned Patients Cost Hospital

Tens of millions of dollars in uncompensated care continues to strain the budget of St. Croix's Juan F. Luis Hospital, JFL officials told lawmakers Tuesday, with violent crime-related injuries and long-term boarders incurring some of the higher-cost, unpaid medical services.
VIPA Director Carlton Dowe in 2016 file photo)

Dowe Officially Returns to V.I. Port Authority

Carlton Dowe will return to the Virgin Islands Port Authority as its executive director after an official vote of approval from the authority’s governing board Wednesday.
From left, Rules Committee Chairman Janelle Sarauw confers with Sens. Steven Payne, Myron Jackson, Novelle Francis and Oakland Benta at Monday’s hearing. (Photo Courtesy of the V.I. Legislature)

Rules Panel Approves Tabled Medicaid Windfall Bill

The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee made a quick turnaround on Monday, convening in the late afternoon and approving the bill redirecting some $39 million in Medicaid payments that it held in committee on Friday.
Nathan Simmonds, director of finance administration at the Public Finance Authority, testifies before the Senate Finance Committee Monday. (Photo by the V.I. Legislature)

PFA Looking into Reprogramming Unspent Capital Projects Funds

The Public Finance Authority is exploring ways to address roughly $115 million in unexpended capital projects funding, a chronic problem among local agencies. Reprogramming them for other purposes is not off the table, Nathan Simmonds, the director of finance administration at the Public Finance Authority, told lawmakers Monday.

Rules Committee Tables Medicaid Windfall Bill

Senators in the Rules and Judiciary Committee Friday tabled a bill outlining how to spend a $39.5 million from Medicaid. The bill was introduced last month and voted out of the Finance Committee, then special ordered to the Committee of the Whole and from there bounced back to Rules.
DLCA Nominee Richard Evangelista takes the oath before testifying at Thursday’s Senate Rules Committee hearing. (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)

DLCA Nominee Vows Ramped-Up Consumer Protection, Faster Licensing

Richard Evangelista, Gov. Albert Bryan’s nominee to lead the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, told lawmakers Thursday his appointment signaled a new day for businesses and consumers, pledging a strengthened consumer protection division, a more efficient license application process and year-round compliance monitoring.
Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital in March 2018. (Bill Kossler photo)

JFL Reopening Could Be Delayed Until May 2020

Dyma B. Williams, acting chief executive officer of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital, and her staff told Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and members of his executive team Wednesday that the projected opening date of the modular replacement for the hurricane-damaged hospital may have to be pushed back to May 2020. Work on the physical structure of the modular hospital to take the place of the facility is progressing, according to a news release from the hospital. But the scheduled opening may be delayed due to the prior hospital administration’s failure to procure the furnishings, fixtures and medical equipment, according to the current hospital administration. The current administration of the hospital has been working since late 2018 to secure those needs JFL has requested Bryan’s assistance in utilizing the territory’s resources to expedite this process. Bryan expressed his support for the hospital's request, the news release said. "We have to move to secure the best healthcare access we can as quickly as we can," Bryan said. "We recognize the importance and value of supporting access to healthcare for all Virgin Islanders. We support ...  Williams in stabilizing the infrastructure of the hospital and completing these projects as soon as possible." Bryan also said his administration is lobbying to address the 100 percent Medicaid funding for the territory, which expires in September. Members of his administration were in Washington D.C. Thursday testifying before Congress for the Medicaid funding. Due to the delays in getting the modular hospital online, JFL staff has executed temporary repairs on the existing hospital to enhance the quality of the patient and employee experience. With the support of the Bryan Administration, JFL intends to utilize Public Finance Authority funds allocated by the Legislature for capital improvements to complete repairs. These include temporary repair or replacement of air handlers damaged in the storm and repairs to the air handler room and the electrical motor control room, which were deferred initially in anticipation of the demolition of the hospital. “The continued collaboration and support of the administration is essential to the success of the hospital during this extended recovery period," Williams said. "We are working diligently to ensure that our current facility meets the healthcare needs of our community, until we transfer to the temporary modular hospital.”
Gov. Albert Bryan testifies before the House Energy Committee earlier this year. (Photo supplied by Government House)

V.I. Health Officials to Testify in D.C. on Medicaid

Administration officials from the Department of Human Services will testify Thursday before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in Washington D.C., continuing the administration’s push for congressional action to prevent the U.S. Virgin Islands and other insular territories from falling off the Medicaid "fiscal cliff."

Work Underway at Frenchman’s Reef But No Opening Date Yet

Work on Frenchman's Reef resort, St. Thomas' largest hotel, is well underway, with parent company DiamondRock Hospitality saying they have already spent more than $60 million and plan to spend $200 million on remediation and construction.

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