Governor de Jongh submitted to Senate President Shawn Michael Malone, the
final report from the public-private working group
he created to recommend measures that will place the Government Employees Retirement System
on a track for long-term financial solvency. The report outlines proposals to halt and subsequently reverse the pension fund’s escalating unfunded liability.
“It is my intent that we begin a process of dialogue and engagement in which we seriously consider these recommendations -- a necessary process to ensure the viability of GERS and its continued ability to meet retiree payments and secure a future for those currently in the system,”
the governor said. “The reality of where we are is based solely on an analysis of the numbers and not subject to any other interpretation, the solution is also based on numbers. Therefore, in this context the path forward is quite clear – it is a matter of the numbers and what decisions will be made to ensure solvency or put the annuity payment of many at continued risk,”
He noted that in addition to implementing reforms, “we will have the responsibility to educate all GERS participants so they fully understand the consequences of taking no action on the health of the system in the long-term and the effect that such non-action will have on their future benefits.
He established the taskforce through executive order, delegating to public and private officials the responsibility of studying the territory's laws, actuarial information and GERS financial requirements in order to ensure public employees will receive full retirement benefits in the future.
On Monday and Tuesday,
Governor de Jongh joined participants at the Virgin Islands Policymakers Summit on early childhood investment. In remarks at both events
he, reinforced his administration's posture that the territory must focus on early childhood education. As did several of the day’s speakers,
he said investing in our youth would provide the Virgin Islands with a way to combat many of its long-term social and economic problems.
Earlier today, Governor de
Jongh praised the partnership between ConnectSpace.vi and the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) for yielding 100 new jobs on the vanguard of the territory’s emerging high-tech economy.
ConnectSpace.vi is looking to hire 100 employees in the Virgin Islands to work from their homes as Personal Technology Experts on behalf of a Silicon Valley-based partner that offers technical services to some of America’s largest companies.
“When we first envisioned the project to bring high-speed Internet to the Virgin Islands, the potential for generating employment opportunities was a key driving force—jobs that Broadband Internet would facilitate by not only encouraging high-tech companies to relocate to the Virgin Islands, but by allowing our skilled professionals to work remotely for major companies outside of the territory. Now we are beginning to see the fruits of this vision at a time when our territory needs quality, well-paying jobs more than ever,”
the governor said.
ConnectSpace.vi, a program of the viNGN and Broadband USA, has a mission to leverage the territory’s new broadband resources to create career opportunities for Virgin Islanders while promoting entrepreneurship values to build a sustainable community.
On Saturday night, the
governor and first lady
joined with members of the business community on St. Thomas
to honor the recipients of the 2013 Wilbur “Bill” LaMotta Community Service Awards and the Award for Community Economic Investment. The event was hosted by the St. Thomas – St. John Chamber of Commerce.
John P. de Jongh and and Mrs. de Jongh with 2013 St. Thomas St. John Chamber of Commerce honorees. From left to right: Cornell and Lena Williams, Mic Akin, Idalia "Dolly" Dockery, Sharon Mc
Collum, Governor and Mrs. de Jongh, Innovative Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Employee & Customer Experience Michael Soileau and St. Thomas - St. John Chamber of Commerce President Sebastiano
“As usual, this year’s honorees are exceptional in their commitments to the territory. On behalf of the people and Government of the Virgin Islands, I extend sincere congratulations to the following extraordinary honorees: Michael Akin, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands and recipient of the non-profit LaMotta Community Service Award; Idalia “Dolly” Dockery, French Language Teacher, Charlotte Amalie High School and public sector recipient of the LaMotta Community Service Award; Sharon Ann McCollum, Ph.D. Principal of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and public sector recipient of the LaMotta Community Service Award; Cornel Williams, President of International Capital & Management Company, LLC and private sector recipient of the LaMotta Community Service Award; Lena Steele Williams,Director of Central Office Engineering for Innovative Companies and private sector recipient of the LaMotta Community Service Award; Innovative Companies, recipient of the Award for Community Economic Investment.
The Office of the
Governor has launched a joint messaging campaign to
alert the public of construction projects that will
adversely affect traffic and as a result, delay traffic
movement across the territory.
VIRGIN ISLANDS NEXT GENERATION NETWORK
Asphalt repair will also continue along Smith Bay Road (Route 38) near Pineapple Village Villas and moving towards Cassi Hill. Also, road repair will continue along Mandahl Road at the back of Anna’s Retreat towards Hometown and Mandahl Intersection.
Aerial crew will be installing aerial fiber from Valdemar Drive Intersection down Mafolie Hill and Dronningens Gade to Norre Gade, then along Norre Gade to Taarneberg Gade Intersection.
Underground fiber will commence from Veterans Drive near the Boys Scout building, up Lovers Lane to Race Track Road/Sugar Estate Road Intersection.
Traffic vault installation will commence along Moravian Highway from Airport Intersection to John’s Brewer Bay.
Asphalt paving will continue from St. Joseph Catholic School moving along Centerline Rd. (Route 70) heading west to Frederiksted. Also asphalt road repair will commence along Estate Herman Hill Road to VITEMA Road.
Traffic vaults installation will commence along Centerline Road from UVI to Kingshill Intersection. Also, traffic vaults installation will continue from Five Corners to Kingshill along Northside Road (Route 75).
Aerial hardware installation and aerial fiber will commence from Salt River Intersection along Northshore Road (Route 80) to La Valley Glad Hill Road Intersection.
On the eve of Mother’s Day, Governor de
Jongh issued his annual Mother’s Day message.
“I wish a loving and blessed Mother’s Day to each and every one of the territory’s moms, grandmoms, great-grandmoms, and all the matriarchs of our community. It is because of their courage and strength that so many children in the Virgin Islands enjoy the blessings of a secure and nurturing upbringing, and a new generation of young Virgin Islanders is entering adulthood with good moral values and strong character.
For many of us, Mother’s Day is an opportunity to express our deepest love and appreciation for the special person who brought us into this world and raised us to be the boys and girls, men and women we are today. So if you are lucky enough to be with your mother on this holiday, buy her something special, take her somewhere nice, treat her to something she likes, and most of all, let her know how much you love her.”
At today’s Virgin Islands Next Generation Network’s board of directors meeting, Governor
deJongh and board members heard that good progress continues to be made with regards to the middle mile network build out. Underground conduit and aerial fiber installation work are well underway on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. Paving repairs are also moving along well, with St. Croix expected to be completed by the end of May and St. Thomas expected to be completed by mid-June.
Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. chairs
a meeting of the board of directors of the Virgin Islands Next Generation
Network, May 7, 2013.
Additionally, J. Benton Construction, Inc., a St. Croix-based contractor, was awarded a $907,000 contract for the construction of seven (7) manholes for viNGN’s submarine fiber optic cable landing sites which will support the connection of viNGN’s network facilities on St. Thomas to its network facilities on St. Croix via undersea cable and will provide significant and reliable bandwidth connectivity between the islands. The landing points in St. Croix are in Altona Lagoon and Frederiksted. The landing points in St. Thomas are in Great Bay and Brewers Bay.
With this most recent contract award viNGN has now awarded a total of more than $34 million in local construction-related contracts in the territory for work on its high speed broadband network.
Governor de Jongh this evening congratulated Virgin Islands native son Kevin Krigger and St. Croix resident Victor Lebron as they represented the territory at today’s Kentucky Derby. Krigger was the jockey on Goldenscents and Lebron was the jockey on Frac Daddy.
“Krigger and fellow jockey Victor Lebron have brought an unprecedented level of attention to the territory in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby,”
he said, adding, “Kevin and Victor have made us all proud as their career have come under the national spotlight. They have represented the territory well, speaking to countless reporters about their life on St. Croix and their careers in the horseracing industry. “I also commend the work of Gareem Nicholas, the assistant trainer for Itsmyluckday. And I am extremely pleased that a contingent of Virgin Islanders was on hand to wish Kevin Krigger and Victor Lebron well and to cheer them on in today’s race.”
“On behalf of Virgin Islanders both here in the territory and abroad, we congratulate, Kevin Krigger, Victor Lebron and Gareem Nicholas. Today’s Kentucky Derby is an example of Virgin Islanders coming together not to focus on our daily challenges but instead to cheer on three individuals who have represented our territory well. We now look forward to welcoming them when they return to the Virgin Islands,”
The Office of the
Governor has launched a joint messaging campaign to
alert the public of construction projects that will
adversely affect traffic and as a result, delay traffic
movement across the territory.
Innovative is currently working on one project that will affect the flow of traffic over the next two weeks on St. Croix:
Cotton Valley to Cramer’s Park-- May 2, 2013 to May 16, 2013
On May 2, 2013, Innovative construction crews began performing excavation work along Route 82 (East End Road) starting at the Cotton Valley Central to the intersection of Cramer’s Park to facilitate the placement of fiber optic and coaxial cables. The construction zone is 2.1 miles and this project will take approximately two weeks to complete.
At the present time, Innovative does not have any projects on St. Thomas and St. John that will affect the traffic flow.
V.I. WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY
The VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) updates St. Croix residents of the Week of May 6th’s planned schedule for the LBJ Phases 2 & 3 Force Main Sewer Line Rehabilitation Project.
The road and land closures for this week include the following:
Queen Mary Highway, ROUTE 70: continuing on Monday, May 6th, thru Sunday, May 12th, the road will remain reduced to one lane from the entrance of Queste Verde Condominiums northward to the intersection by the entrance to the JFK Housing Community in 1000ft intervals each day.
The contractor will be testing the newly installed pump around sewer line system on Monday, May 6th. The flow of sewage from the LBJ Pump Station to the Anguilla Treatment Plant will be re-directed through these temporary lines while the existing sewer pipes are inspected and cleaned prior to the lining of the pipes. Inspection and cleaning of the 4,500 linear feet of sewer line piping will begin on Tuesday, May 7th.
Motorists are asked to adhere to the directives of the flagmen and to reduce vehicular speed when approaching the construction zone. Motorists are also encouraged to use alternate routes during this construction period.
The Department of Tourism on Thursday concluded a four-day marketing mission in the Greater New York City area, led by Governor de
Throughout the initiative in the territory’s number one source-market for tourist arrivals, the delegation engaged with more than 90 editors, contributing writers, travel bloggers, meetings and incentive planners and business location advisors to promote the U.S. Virgin Islands not only as a leading destination for leisure travelers, but also as a prime business-investment location in the Caribbean.
“We’re on a strategic mission to expand the number of development projects and business investments coming into the territory, and sustain growth in our tourism arrival numbers,”
the governor said. “As economic indicators in the U.S. shift in a positive direction, we’re launching every effort to ensure we maintain warm business leads and high interest among our key audiences in our top state-side market.”
On Tuesday, 60 editors and contributing writers from New York’s leading newspapers, magazines and news websites assembled in midtown Manhattan to get a “taste” of the U.S. Virgin Islands and learn why their readers should visit St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John this summer. Attendees were greeted with the sights, sounds and aromas of the U.S. Virgin Islands as Chef Theo Gumbs prepared seafood kalallo and fungi, artisan Judy Bain displayed her Caribbean Cultural Dolls and mixologist Al Boston served signature cocktails featuring Cruzan Rum’s newest flavors and St. John Brewers’ one-of-a-kind ales. Dion Parson and the 21st Century Band also performed for the crowd while dancers in colorful costumes brought the spirit of Carnival to the venue.
The Healthcare Reform Task Force met recently to consider the findings of the just-completed draft health insurance market analysis. The meeting offered Task Force members another opportunity to pose questions to the vendor preparing the Private Market Analysis Insurance Report. Data compiled will assist the Healthcare Reform Task Force in determining the feasibility of a health insurance exchange and further positions the Territory to refine ongoing health care initiatives that were undertaken with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
John McDonald, the Director of the Division of Banking and Insurance, chaired the meeting on behalf of Lieutenant Governor Gregory Francis. He reminded the group that one key consideration in the healthcare insurance exchange decision is the size of our current private insurance market and the impact of the lack of an insurance mandate like the mainland states. In the absence of an individual and small business insurance mandate, companies would be subject to adverse risk selection, thereby making it difficult to keep plan premiums and/or co-pays at an affordable level.
Data under review by the Task Force will also help to determine if Medicaid expansion could provide a better option than an insurance exchange for the Territory. The Task Force is presently awaiting the final reports of the private market analysis before it makes a recommendation about the health insurance exchange to Governor
deJongh. The Territory must make a decision about the health insurance exchange by October 1, 2013 and anticipates release of the final report by the end of May.
Governor de Jongh today condemned a shooting which critically injured a St. Thomas resident and wounded two other persons during the Carnival J’ouvert pre-dawn tramp. The shooting occurred near the Blyden Marine Terminal on Veterans Drive and brought an immediate end to J’ouvert which was beginning to increase in numbers about 9 a.m. when the shooting took place.
“It is beyond basic understanding and unacceptable that a person would pick up a firearm and shoot into a crowded event,”
The governor praised the work of Police Commissioner Designate Rodney
Querrard, Sr. who displayed a zero tolerance for violence during J’ouvert but has also mobilized the department’s tactical team to augment the manpower strength and is using information gathered by the department’s intelligence unit.
Commissioner Querrard said Police Chief Darren Foy and Deputy Chief Dwayne DeGraff met Thursday afternoon to further develop their strategy for greater deployment of manpower at the remaining nights of Carnival Village, the two parades and the much anticipated Carnival horse races.
Police Commissioner Designate Rodney F. Querrard, Sr. today briefed Governor de
Jongh on a number of shootings and other incidents that have been reported on St Thomas within the past several days. At the conclusion of this briefing, the Governor and the Police Commissioner warned that continued violence in the community will impact the Carnival last lap events, including Thursday’s J’ouvert.
“I have discussed the recent incidents with Commissioner Querrard and we are both extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of residents and visitors who are enjoying and planning on participating in the remaining Carnival events, including today’s food, arts and cultural fair, Thursday’s J’ouvert, the Carnival races on Friday afternoon and the two parades on Friday and Saturday,”
the governor said.
“I recognize the impact canceling J’ouvert or closing the Carnival Village early or curtailing the parades will have on our community, but the events of the last several days -- the shootings, the retrieval of guns, and what appear to be acts of retaliatory violence -- have me very concerned. I have given the Police Commissioner full operational discretion with respect to changing the carnival schedule or curtailing or
canceling events which actions will be done without hesitation if public safety so requires.”
He observed that “Carnival is a time for celebration of the true culture and real traditions of our islands. This festive season should not be taken as an opportunity for persons to engage in unlawful behavior. Gunplay and violent crime have no place in the celebration of Carnival. It is up to us all to assist the police in seeing to it that the actions of a few do not destroy the joyful events of Carnival enjoyed by so many.”
Jongh has requested the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide additional assistance to Virgin Islanders struggling to pay their electricity bills.
In a recent letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the governor petitioned for favorable consideration of another $1 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding for fiscal years 2013 to 2015 to deal with the territory’s “energy emergency.”
The territory’s government is trying to help low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities afford their power bills by greatly supplementing LIHEAP funding, having spent $1.5 million per year over the past few years on its own Energy Crisis Assistance Program. But with the highest electricity rates in the country, the local government is forced to cap the assistance it offers those in need, according to
"The geographic isolation of the U.S. Virgin Islands, compounded by the inability to achieve an interconnected grid within the Territory, and therefore necessitating the operation of two isolated electric systems, has resulted in power generating costs from fuel oil combustion that currently exceeds 51 cents per kilowatt-hour, and based on current market factors are threatening to go even higher. That is 5x the stateside average, for an economy with a per capita income well below that of the poorest state, even before the closing last year of our largest employer and taxpayer, the HOVENSA refinery on St. Croix,”
Virgin Islands utility customers currently pay two and a half times more per kilowatt-hour than residents of Hawaii, the state with the most expensive rate for electricity.
The Department of Tourism has jumped on the opportunity to support Crucian jockeys, Kevin Krigger and Victor Lebron, making history as the first Virgin Islanders to qualify for the prestigious Kentucky Derby.
Mr. Krigger qualified for the Derby by winning the Santa Anita Derby in April on Goldencents.
Mr. Lebron rode Frac Daddy to a second place finish at the Arkansas Derby qualifying for a coveted spot in Kentucky. The duo will compete in the 139th running of the Derby in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, May 4. Both jockeys will wear apparel that includes the USVI logo at the race which will be broadcast live on television, radio and on the internet around the world.
"The participation of two Virgin Islanders in such a prestigious event, who got their start in the Virgin Islands and still participate locally, is a tremendous recognition of the talent we have in the Territory and how we must nurture our young people for the eventual exposure as Ambassadors they bring to us," declared Governor de
Jongh. "The community's coming together and pride that is felt and exhibited is on par with the international recognition that we are receiving because of these two young men."
Following the announcement of their historic victories, the Department of Tourism reached out to
the jockeys to offer congratulations and discuss promotional opportunities. "We are extremely proud of these talented Virgin Islands athletes and pleased that both were very willing to partner with us to promote the USVI," said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
Governor de Jongh was among the many participants at Thursday night's "A Taste of St. Croix" event at the Divi Carina Bay Resort. It was the opportunity for local chefs to show the world what they are capable of. A total of 28 restaurants, farms and caterers participated in the event which benefits the St. Croix Foundation. A Taste of St. Croix has been named by Forbes Traveler as one of the top 10 international food and wine events in the world.
Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. at A Taste of St. Croix with students: Breanna Mc Cleary, Jared Matthews, Ricardo Romero and Stefon
Ambrose, April 18, 2013. The students are in an after school program, Carib Project, at Central High School. Their faculty advisor is Burton Peterson.
Governor John de
Jongh met with officials of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) on Friday following their five-day tour and project review of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) high speed broadband development project which included various viNGN site visits where high speed Internet connectivity is being installed across the two island districts.
Officials of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program,
BTOP, met with Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. to update the steady progress being made by viNGN on territory's broadband
project, April 19, 2013.
During the meeting at Government House on Friday, officials reported on their weeklong visit and the execution of a strategy that has addressed various phases of the multi-million dollar project. “I am pleased that within the last year the leadership at the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) has been successful in demonstrating that this major development project for the territory is on target. The members of the BTOP team were able to see the level of ongoing construction activity and they also visited public computer centers and spoke to those participating in the program,”
the governor said.
The Office of the Governor has launched a joint
messaging campaign to alert the public of construction projects that will
adversely affect traffic and as a result, delay traffic movement across the
VIRGIN ISLANDS WATER AND POWER AUTHORITY
The Charlotte Amalie Hazard Mitigation Project will have limited work in the areas of Store Tvaer Gade, Raadets Gade, and Veterans Drive. There will be very minimal effect on vehicle traffic and no disturbance to pedestrian traffic.
The work, which will include termination of high voltage cables, installation of transformers and excavation in alley ways off of the main road, will be nightly from 6 p.m.-6 a.m. Construction crews will be very flexible with work schedules to accommodate any Carnival activities that may occur near the work areas. This schedule will exist until May 11.
There are no major traffic flow interruptions scheduled during the Carnival season.
At this time, no regular water or power line maintenance projects are scheduled for next week.
During a teleconference with news reporters Governor de
Jongh announced this afternoon that he has accepted the resignation of Education Commissioner Dr. Laverne Terry.
The governor informed the public of Terry’s resignation, effective at the end of the month, and said that he will appoint Assistant Commissioner Donna Gregory as Acting Commissioner of Education effective May 1.
“I am very appreciative of all that Dr. Terry has done for the territory in her time as our Commissioner of Education and I am also respectful of the reasons for which she needed to leave us at this time,”
he said, noting Terry’s resignation came because of personal reasons involving the health of a family member.
“During her time as our Commissioner of Education, Dr. Terry has been instrumental with respect to putting our Virgin Islands school system back on the right track to improving the education system for our children”
He also revisited some of Dr. Terry’s accomplishments as the head of the territory’s public education system during the teleconference call.
Commissioner Terry oversaw the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in school curriculum, and under her leadership, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education recently recommended full accreditation for Central High School, the governor noted.
Consistent with a Presidential Proclamation issued by President Barack Obama, Governor de
Jongh has directed that flags on all public buildings in the Virgin Islands fly at half-staff until sunset on Saturday.
The White House on Tuesday ordered flags at half-staff as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on April 15, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Over the weekend, Governor de
Jongh addressed the annual conference of the Virgin Islands EPSCOR program this weekend. The conference, held over two days, reflected on the program’s last five years of supporting research in the Virgin Islands.
In remarks prepared for the conference,
he noted that over the last ten years, VI-EPSCOR has transformed the Virgin Islands into a center of advanced research. “Through its partnership with the University of the Virgin Islands, the local government and non-profit groups, EPSCOR has directed the attention of leading academics and eager young researchers toward pressing environmental dangers that unfortunately are too easily ignored until they cause irreversible harm to fragile marine life and diminish biological diversity. And in the past five years, since the National Science Foundation awarded this territory its second Research Infrastructure Improvement grant, we have expanded our research focus, and with it our understanding of our one-of-a-kind coastal ecosystems.”
John P. de Jongh, Jr., UVI President Dr. David Hall, VI Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen at VI-EPSCOR
conference on April 13, 2013.
He said that tremendous results have been witnessed from the Biocomplexity of Caribbean Coral Reefs program, which has been expanded into the Integrated Caribbean Coastal Ecosystems program. “Much of the important research enabled by these programs takes place right here at the MacLean Marine Science Center. Thanks to the recent renovations and state-of-the-art improvements to the MMSC scientific research facilities, this program will be able to yield even greater knowledge of the complex and diverse marine ecosystems that surround our territory’s islands and offshore cays,”
Governor de Jongh recently wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency officials requesting their guidance and support as the Virgin Islands works to break its historic dependence on fuel oil.
He asked Judith Enck, Regional Administrator of the EPA, to help facilitate the issuance of all required environmental permits over the next few weeks so as to enable the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to convert its power and water generating facilities to use new fuel sources. Both officials also discussed
his request during a meeting held in New York last week.
“This is a major environmental and economic initiative for WAPA and our community. This is a path that your agency has strongly encouraged and I am seeking the help and guidance of you and your staff in expediting this effort,”
In the letter, the governor outlined WAPA’s efforts over the past few years to evaluate the technical and economic hurdles to implementing new energy sources that could replace oil. Wind, waste-to-energy, hydro-current, liquefied natural gas (LNG), solar panels, as well as an undersea cable between the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, all have been studied.
On Tuesday, Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls reported substantial progress in advancing several projects that will improve public transportation, on land and on sea, in the Virgin Islands.
A marine consultant has been chosen to work with the Department of Public Works and Department of Tourism on developing a marine transportation system to serve Charlotte Amalie, Smalls said. The consultant will help determine appropriate vessels and marine transit routes they can follow, as well as study how residents of St. Thomas and visitors alike can benefit from new sea routes that will reduce traffic congestion in downtown Charlotte
This evening, Governor de Jongh released
the following statement on today's bombing at the Boston Marathon:
The prayers of the people of the Virgin Islands are with the residents of Boston, Massachusetts tonight as the search for answers continues into a senseless loss Monday afternoon. During events such as the tragedy in Boston, all residents of the United States stand together in concern for our fellow citizens. We salute those who responded to the scene of the bomb explosion without regard for their own safety in clearly a dangerous and difficult situation. Without question, their quick response sustained the lives of many who were injured.
The search for answers continues tonight and I like the residents of the Virgin Islands know that those responsible will be brought to justice. It is ironic that these incidents occurred on Patriot’s Day, a holiday in Massachusetts which celebrates the spirit of this great American city.
Cecile and my family join me in offering our prayers for the people of Boston and for the victims and families of today’s explosions.
On Friday, Governor de
Jongh thanked FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate for pledging the emergency agency’s continued support for the Virgin Islands during natural or manmade disasters.
In a meeting with FEMA officials,
the governor discussed the support required during the hurricane season, the continued advancement of emergency management systems in the Virgin Islands, and assistance being provided to further develop the territory's tsunami response program. A tsunami public awareness campaign is now underway inclusive of signage showing flood zones and evacuation routes.
John P. de Jongh, Jr. and FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate discusses emergency management issues during a meeting on St.
Thomas, April 12, 2013.
Mr. Fugate praised the territory’s reorganization of emergency management resources in recent years.
“A lot of people who have worked, and have been responding to disasters in the
USVI, have been very impressed,”
“There’s a lot more understanding that we want to get behind your efforts. For a long time, the position that FEMA had was when the VI gets hit hard, we’re going to have to come in and do everything ourselves instead of having a partner to work with. You are the partner that we’ve been looking for,”
he told the governor.
Human Services Commissioner Chris Finch said this week that several upcoming events that will advance the work of the Governor’s Children and Families Counsel to improve the health and
well-being of children in the territory.
“Right now, there’s a tremendous amount of activity in the early childhood field,”
he said, “and it is all part of the work of the Governor’s Children and Families Counsel, its Early Childhood Advisory Committee, and led by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.”
“We are dedicated to improving the quality and scope of services to young children, because we have learned and have come to strongly believe that a focus on early childhood health and education offers children the best chance of success at school and beyond,”
The Week of the Young Child starts today, but the entire month will offer exciting events and community
Governor de Jongh expressed concern today that officials in authority at the Government Employees Retirement System have not made a public statement to date about the reasons which have delayed the processing of the bi-monthly pension payments.
He also made it made clear that he expected an explanation to the public shortly. “I am sure there is a valid reason that the required payments have not been made, but it is not acceptable for the GERS Administrator to remain silent and not explain to the retirees how these problems are being addressed as well as provide a timeline for when overdue pension payments will be received.”
Government House was made aware of a problem at GERS from numerous retirees who contacted the Governor’s Office today. Upon an inquiry from Government House, GERS Administrator Austin Nibbs asked that affected government retirees contact the system offices on St. Thomas at 776-7703 and at 718-5480 on St. Croix.
Governor de Jongh returned to the territory
today after holding a productive discussion on the future of the territory’s rum industry with St. Lucia’s prime minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, the night before.
The visit was part of an outreach effort the governor is making to friends and neighbors in the Eastern Caribbean, primarily members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as rum production is becoming an increasingly contentious economic issue. As part of this effort,
the governor recently wrote to all ministers of CARICOM to explain the importance of the rum industry in the Virgin Islands and the legal basis of long-standing agreements with the federal government.
Governor John P. de Jongh,
Jr. and St. Lucia Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony during a meeting on
St. Lucia on April 11, 2013.
Prime Minister Anthony and the governor discussed a number of issues on Thursday, including CARICOM's concerns, as expressed to the federal government, on the historic protection that has been extended to rum producers in the Virgin Islands, and the impact of the closure of the HOVENSA refinery on St. Croix.
Some Caribbean leaders have suggested the possibility of taking their complaint about the rum agreements between the Virgin Islands and United States government to the World Trade Organization, an action that would create years of litigation and not benefit any parties, according to
“I’m optimistic that they will understand that an action with the World Trade Organization really does none of us any good. It doesn’t help any of our economies,”
the governor said, adding the Virgin Islands industry is focused on branded rums, not in bulk trade, the part of the industry that many of the other islands’ producers are looking at.
Jongh has nominated Rodney F. Querrard, Sr. as Commissioner of Police. During a news briefing on St. Thomas this morning,
he described Mr. Querrard as “no stranger to the department, to the law enforcement community or even to my administration having served as Police Chief in the St. Thomas – St. John district from 2007-2012.”
Mr. Querrard was tapped by the governor in January as Assistant Commissioner and on the day of his appointment, he was asked to assume the position of Acting Commissioner. His
nomination will be formally sent to the 30th Legislature today which will trigger a Senate approval process.
John P. de Jongh, Jr. announced the nomination
of Rodney F. Querrard, Sr. to be
Commissioner of Police at a Government House news
briefing on April 9, 2013.
“I cannot say enough about Commissioner Querrard’s willingness to use his experience and talent in a key leadership position within the VIPD, the agency that is charged with providing for our community’s safety and security,”
the governor said.
Mr. Querrard is a career Virgin Islands Police Department officer who joined the agency in 1987 and rose through the ranks of the department with assignments that included the patrol division and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, an assignment he held until become Chief of Police six years ago.
On Sunday evening, Governor de
Jongh hosted a screening of a documentary on the life of former Virgin Islands Governor Cyril Emmanuel King. The event was held at Government House in Christiansted, St. Croix.
“I was pleased at the opportunity to host Sunday’s reception for the premiere of this documentary which focused on the life of our second elected governor. And it was fitting that the event was held to coincide with the anniversary of King’s birth. He would have been 92 on Sunday,”
the governor said.
The documentary which also aired on public television last night explored Governor King’s early beginnings, his family life, as well as his political career. Born and raised on St. Croix, he attended Catholic Schools and the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp before leaving the territory to serve in the military.
He later attended American University and worked for Senator Hubert Humphrey. It is during that time that he gained much experience in national and international politics which paved the way for his career in service to the people of the Virgin Islands.
On Monday, Governor de Jongh extended congratulations to jockey Kevin Krigger on his impressive win at Saturday’ Santa Anita Derby in California.
“All Virgin Islanders join me in congratulating this son of our soil and Central High School graduate on his outstanding performance with Goldenscents during Saturday’s derby. We are excited about the potential for Kevin to become the first African American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in over 100 years,”
he said today.
He said it is clear that Kevin Krigger possesses a love of horses and an undeniable passion for horseracing, the sport of kings. “I heard an interview he did before the race and it was clear that all eyes were on him but that he remained focused on the race and is now looking ahead to the Kentucky Derby. He spoke of his journey which began in St. Croix and continued as he has honed his skills as a horseracing jockey. He has done well so far and much of that success is a result of his hard work, his dedication and commitment as well as the level of confidence the trainers and owners have placed in him.”
This evening, Governor de
Jongh confirmed that the Government of the Virgin Islands and the Owners of the HOVENSA refinery on St. Croix have reached an agreement that will govern a 14-month sale process of the refinery’s assets on the island’s south shore.
He briefed members of the 30th Legislature this afternoon on these developments. Lt. Governor Francis also participated in the meeting.
He said he was pleased that negotiations which began back in August 2012 have concluded with the Owners of HOVENSA agreeing to submit to a sales process. “I view this as a significant step forward towards our goal of seeing if we can find a new owner who will re-open the refinery thus providing jobs on St. Croix and economic stimulus to our entire community. Our negotiations with the refinery’s Owners have been long and difficult, but seeing if we can get the refinery reopened has been important to me and to many in our community,” he said.
“Over the last few days, attorneys for both the Owners of the refinery and the Government have finalized the terms of the process that will govern the sale. Our agreement assures us that will retain some of the benefits presently in place, such as the continued sale of fuel from the HOVENSA truck rack, even as the sale process goes forward. The agreement will also permit HOVENSA to operate as an oil storage terminal during the sales process period,”
The Office of the Governor
has launched a joint messaging campaign to alert the public of construction projects that will adversely affect traffic and as a result, delay traffic movement across the
Governor de Jongh this afternoon reaffirmed this week's statements by Finance Commissioner Angel Dawson and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb as regards the overall health of government finances and the fact that while expenditures have been reduced by some 13 percent, the major tax categories are seeing an overall reduction on the order of seven percent or some approximate $22 million dollars.
Earlier today, Governor de
Jongh welcomed the recent announcements by two companies that are making investments in the territory which represent advances in technology and job opportunities for Virgin Islanders.
Orbitel, LLC, a local company owned by long-time St. Croix resident Todd Klindworth, is to invest about $70 million to build a fiber optic network which will be available to every home in the Virgin Islands.
The governor said he met recently with Mr. Klindworth to discuss the investment and to gain a first-hand understanding of how the network will gain access to the high speed connectivity be provided by the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, viNGN.
“I welcome the investment by Orbitel as another step forward is taken in the effort to bring affordable Internet access to residents of the Virgin Islands,”
he said, adding, “One of my primary goals with the viNGN middle-mile broadband network development was to make affordable high speed Internet access available to all in our territory and this investment gets us ever closer to that goal.”
The governor described the investment by Orbitel as another example of Todd Klindworth and his family’s belief in the future diversification of the Virgin Islands and their continued commitment to the continued economic development of the territory.
First Lady Cecile de Jongh welcomed executives from Little Switzerland and the Breitling Boutique for a presentation of funds for the Virgin Islands Literacy Initiative.
“This Initiative is so very important to the future of our islands and to the lives of our children. Reading is a fundamental tool that will not only give our young people the basic tools they will need for a lifetime of learning, but also opens doors to the wider world of entertainment and opportunity.”
Little Switzerland President and CEO, Hal Tayler today presented Governor de Jongh and First Lady Cecile with a check for $10,000 on behalf of Little Switzerland, their Breitling Boutique and local businesses and private citizens. The funding is geared specifically at the First Lady's Literacy Initiative.
Audio file: presentation by Hal Tayler and remarks by First Lady Cecile de Jongh and Governor John P. de
Little Switzerland President and CEO, Hal Tayler presented
the first lady with a check for $10,000 on behalf of Little Switzerland, their Breitling Boutique and local businesses and private citizens. “It is our pleasure to fund the Literacy Initiative; a project that has far reaching benefits for all Virgin Islanders.”
The first lady graciously accepted the donation saying “This gift will touch the lives of thousands of students through the purchase of books, reading guides, and a variety of teaching and learning programs. I personally thank Little Switzerland and Breitling for leading the way to a brighter future through literacy.”
At the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network’s Executive Board meeting held on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, representatives from viNGN’ Sustainable Broadband Adoption Grant vendor BetterWorld, d/b/a/ ConnectSpace.vi announced that 80 new work-from-home Remote Services Technician job opportunities are now available for residents of the territory. Matt Bauer and James Kenefick, of BetterWorld/Connectspace.vi reported that the new positions that have become available are with the firm Support.com. A Connectspace.vi representative also reported that were holding a second round of meetings with executives from several other tele-work providers in the hopes of providing additional employment opportunities in the Virgin Islands.
John P. de Jongh, Jr. chairs a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network,
viNGN, April 2, 2013
“I am pleased that the efforts of viNGN and BetterWorld/Connectspace.vi have resulted in this first round of job creation in our newly developed technology sector,”
Governor deJongh said. “One of the primary goals of the SBA Grant investments was the creation of tele-work and entrepreneurial opportunities for our territory’s residents and this is a significant step towards that goal.”
The board also learned that the viNGN trenching project is now almost 83% complete. Interduct installation in WAPA conduit and aerial fiber installation on WAPA utility poles is also currently in progress on both St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Ed Note: Updated
with audio from Budget Director Debra Gottlieb and
Finance Commissioner Angel Dawson
Earlier today, members of the governor’s financial team reported on the continued precarious financial health of the territory when they noted that through the end of February, General Fund tax revenues are off as much as seven percent.
Overall tax revenues received by the government are down seven percent in the first two quarters of the fiscal year which opened on October 1, 2012. “While we have taken steps to reduce the operating budgets of departments and agencies by five percent for the remainder of this fiscal year, the tax revenues remain below last year’s collections,” said Office of Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb. In addition to the reduction of operating budgets, the government has also taken steps to reduce overall expenditures by some 13 percent below last year’s levels, she added.
This week, Governor de Jongh extended a hearty welcome to forty or so persons who became naturalized citizens of the United States during ceremonies at the U.S. District Court on St. Thomas.
In a letter to each naturalized citizen, he took note of the fact that as a U.S. citizen, each now belongs to the electorate of the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the world and they enjoy the benefits that flow from a free and open society. “As a citizen, you are the owner of our government at the local, territorial and federal levels, which status carries many privileges and no small responsibility.”
Accompanying all the benefits and privileges of citizenship is one major responsibility, to involve yourself in your own governance. “Educate yourself about political issues and politicians. Get involved in a political party. Attend public meetings and let your voice be heard. Men and women have died to gain and retain these privileges for you and your children. It is your duty to exercise the rights that so many have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to hold unto,”
he wrote in his letter to the naturalized citizens.