78.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSAFETY SERVICES CITE PERSONNEL, BUDGET WOES

SAFETY SERVICES CITE PERSONNEL, BUDGET WOES

Police officers, firefighters and corrections officers filled the chamber at the St. Thomas Legislature Monday night to hear their leaders present a bleak picture of protective services in the St. Thomas-St. John District to the Senate Government Operations Committee.
The committee will hear more on the topic Tuesday when it convenes at 6 p.m. in the Legislature Building on St. Croix.
Fire Services officials said fire emergencies on the North Side and West End of St. Thomas are out of rapid reach because the Dorothea and Fortuna stations remain closed for budgetary reasons.
Police Commissioner Franz Christian said he couldn't make any promises as to when working conditions would improve for officers and supervisors at the Zone A Command police station in Charlotte Amalie, despite assurances from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull last week that he would expedite temporary repairs.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron said the Bureau of Corrections is caught between a personnel shortage and administration demands to cut overtime spending.
All of the protective services are under the administration mandate to cut their spending, even though it means providing fewer essential services. At the hearing, committee member Lorraine Berry suggested it may be time to reconsider the Revenue Enhancement Act of 1999.
Berry said that some revenues projected in the legislative process have not materialized, leaving an already financially strapped government looking for ways to distribute fewer resources. She said the revenue act was recently amended to lift the hiring freeze for police officers, firefighters and nurses.
"Protection of life and property is more important than some of the things I see the government spending money on," Berry said. "Right now our community is in a state of siege," she told Christian. "Right now, what is your immediate need?"
"Right now our immediate need is for manpower," the commissioner replied.
In his prepared statement Christian said the Police Department is 90 officers short of its authorized complement of 760. "There are 70 vacant police officer positions territorially," the statement said, and "20 officers are out on leave — either sick, duty-related injuries or administrative leave." He also said overtime spending is down 60 percent from last year.
Firefighters union president Darryl "Mousie" George and committee chair Gregory Bennerson, himself a former police union official, pointed to critical needs for equipment, better facilities and better maintenance.
The Charlotte Amalie fire station at Fort Christian has working conditions so bad that it has been condemned by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, George said. Union officials had gone so far as to serve Fire Services authorities last October with a "failure to abate" citation which carries penalties. But conditions at the station and the one on St. John remain uncorrected, according to Sgt. Andre Smith, the supervisors union president.
And at the administrative office in Havensight, Smith said, fumes from a dumpster behind a first-floor restaurant have sickened office workers.
George said fire trucks with 10 to 15 years in service are "breaking down constantly" and essential equipment cannot be purchased, although revenues have been raised through fire inspection and compliance programs. "The money is sitting in Finance, but we can't buy essential equipment because we can't get a hand on it," he said.
Fire Services director Pedro Encarnarcion said he hoped to free the funds needed to reopen either the Dorothea or the Fortuna station.
Christian could not give a target date for Zone A police to move back into the refurbished headquarters in the Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex, despite the governor's personal intervention in the negotiating process last week with Territorial Court officials.
"The union representatives are satisfied with the progress that's being made, and very soon we will be able to move those officers into the new building," Christian told Bennerson. But the committee chair responded with disbelief. As a former policeman, Bennerson said, "When it comes to these conditions of these police department buildings, I know."
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole expressed reservations about the anticipated move to the complex because of the jail on the top floor. He said prisoners stuffing debris in toilets had created plumbing problems for the whole building. "Once it's fixed, the prisoners will do the same thing they did before," he said. "It's time to move the prisoners from there."
Stridiron said his most immediate concern, like Christian's, is for personnel. Corrections will have to absorb an influx of some 90 prisoners now housed off island who are being returned because the government cannot meet payments for their mainland incarceration. For that reason, he said, he cannot envision reducing the need for either personnel or overtime.
In a prepared statement, the attorney general said that "the legislatively mandated reorganization of departments and agencies has negatively impacted the Bureau of Corrections and as a consequence has not yielded the savings contemplated."
Some police and fire officers congregating at the Legislature Building entrance as the four-hour hearing wound down expressed sentiments that the lawmakers would do nothing to ease their plight.
Smith was a little more philosophical as he returned to his assignment on St. John. He said he knew the administration was under the gun financially and that it would take time to deliver on promises.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,722FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Police officers, firefighters and corrections officers filled the chamber at the St. Thomas Legislature Monday night to hear their leaders present a bleak picture of protective services in the St. Thomas-St. John District to the Senate Government Operations Committee.
The committee will hear more on the topic Tuesday when it convenes at 6 p.m. in the Legislature Building on St. Croix.
Fire Services officials said fire emergencies on the North Side and West End of St. Thomas are out of rapid reach because the Dorothea and Fortuna stations remain closed for budgetary reasons.
Police Commissioner Franz Christian said he couldn't make any promises as to when working conditions would improve for officers and supervisors at the Zone A Command police station in Charlotte Amalie, despite assurances from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull last week that he would expedite temporary repairs.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron said the Bureau of Corrections is caught between a personnel shortage and administration demands to cut overtime spending.
All of the protective services are under the administration mandate to cut their spending, even though it means providing fewer essential services. At the hearing, committee member Lorraine Berry suggested it may be time to reconsider the Revenue Enhancement Act of 1999.
Berry said that some revenues projected in the legislative process have not materialized, leaving an already financially strapped government looking for ways to distribute fewer resources. She said the revenue act was recently amended to lift the hiring freeze for police officers, firefighters and nurses.
"Protection of life and property is more important than some of the things I see the government spending money on," Berry said. "Right now our community is in a state of siege," she told Christian. "Right now, what is your immediate need?"
"Right now our immediate need is for manpower," the commissioner replied.
In his prepared statement Christian said the Police Department is 90 officers short of its authorized complement of 760. "There are 70 vacant police officer positions territorially," the statement said, and "20 officers are out on leave -- either sick, duty-related injuries or administrative leave." He also said overtime spending is down 60 percent from last year.
Firefighters union president Darryl "Mousie" George and committee chair Gregory Bennerson, himself a former police union official, pointed to critical needs for equipment, better facilities and better maintenance.
The Charlotte Amalie fire station at Fort Christian has working conditions so bad that it has been condemned by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, George said. Union officials had gone so far as to serve Fire Services authorities last October with a "failure to abate" citation which carries penalties. But conditions at the station and the one on St. John remain uncorrected, according to Sgt. Andre Smith, the supervisors union president.
And at the administrative office in Havensight, Smith said, fumes from a dumpster behind a first-floor restaurant have sickened office workers.
George said fire trucks with 10 to 15 years in service are "breaking down constantly" and essential equipment cannot be purchased, although revenues have been raised through fire inspection and compliance programs. "The money is sitting in Finance, but we can't buy essential equipment because we can't get a hand on it," he said.
Fire Services director Pedro Encarnarcion said he hoped to free the funds needed to reopen either the Dorothea or the Fortuna station.
Christian could not give a target date for Zone A police to move back into the refurbished headquarters in the Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex, despite the governor's personal intervention in the negotiating process last week with Territorial Court officials.
"The union representatives are satisfied with the progress that's being made, and very soon we will be able to move those officers into the new building," Christian told Bennerson. But the committee chair responded with disbelief. As a former policeman, Bennerson said, "When it comes to these conditions of these police department buildings, I know."
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole expressed reservations about the anticipated move to the complex because of the jail on the top floor. He said prisoners stuffing debris in toilets had created plumbing problems for the whole building. "Once it's fixed, the prisoners will do the same thing they did before," he said. "It's time to move the prisoners from there."
Stridiron said his most immediate concern, like Christian's, is for personnel. Corrections will have to absorb an influx of some 90 prisoners now housed off island who are being returned because the government cannot meet payments for their mainland incarceration. For that reason, he said, he cannot envision reducing the need for either personnel or overtime.
In a prepared statement, the attorney general said that "the legislatively mandated reorganization of departments and agencies has negatively impacted the Bureau of Corrections and as a consequence has not yielded the savings contemplated."
Some police and fire officers congregating at the Legislature Building entrance as the four-hour hearing wound down expressed sentiments that the lawmakers would do nothing to ease their plight.
Smith was a little more philosophical as he returned to his assignment on St. John. He said he knew the administration was under the gun financially and that it would take time to deliver on promises.