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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 17, 2024


Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on Friday approved Bill 23-0165 appropriating $600,000 for Vitran operations and $350,000 for the purchase of land for a V.I. veterans' cemetery and reprograming $182,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to the Family Resource Center but also vetoing various sections of the wide-ranging measure.
Information concerning the actions was circulated by Government House via a series of press releases distributed after 5 p.m. Saturday.
The Legislature appropriated the $600,000 for Vitran from the Indirect Cost Fund prior to the layoff of half the Vitran work force as of May 11. The administration said the cuts were made "for lack of funds to continue operations after amassing a $12 million deficit."
The $350,000, also from the Indirect Cost Fund, will go to the Office of Veterans Affairs to provide survey and infrastructure development for land.
Family Resource Center will use $150,000 of the CDBG funds to purchase a property on lower Garden Street and the other $32,000 to renovate it for use as a permanent administrative and counseling center.
The provisions of the bill that the governor vetoed and the reasons given for his action:
– A section requiring that the Public Finance Authority lend $100,000 to the Police Department for use as reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons involved in drive-by shootings and providing for the police commissioner to repay the loan with federal funds. The governor said the department already has a reward fund established by statute and that the proposal was "an infringement on the authority's autonomy" and "a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers."
– A section granting certain organizations the right to conduct bingo games for six years without being subject to review or regulation. Saying the measure "erodes the purpose of legalized gambling," Turnbull added: "Because bingo is a gaming operation, it should be regulated and controlled as much as any other form of gambling. Accordingly, I urge the Legislature to enact a comprehensive regulatory scheme for bingo."
– A section providing for the chief judge of the District Court judge to administer and promulgate the rules for a Judicial Council Imprest Account. Turnbull said the account "will consist largely of local funds" and that giving a federal judge that authority would go against federal principles. He asked the Legislature to reconsider a proposal in the Territorial Court fiscal year 2000 budget or to create "a fund which will be administered by the presiding judge of the Territorial Court and/or the Judicial Council."
– A section establishing a Public Transportation Enabling Fund with the same funding sources as the existing Public Transportation Fund — making it, Turnbull said, "duplicitous."
– A section proposing to rezone a low-density residential area of about 0.6 acre on St. John to a medium-density residential area. The rezoning for Parcel No. 10-11 in Estate Carolina, No. 1 Coral Bay Quarter, "is for the purpose of establishing a commercial activity in a residential area, which may have ecological and environment issues," Turnbull said, noting that the Planning and Natural Resources Department "is in the process of reviewing this application and has indicated that public hearing will be held in the near future."
– Part of a section providing for a three-member quorum for a seven-member board and requiring that at least four members have camped at Cramers Park for five years. The governor said "a quorum should require at least a majority of the board members" and the camping provision "is too restrictive."
– A section regarding the appropriation of funds for the Public Services Commission for an assistant executive director. The governor cited errors in the bill for which the administration "will be submitting corrective legislation."
The governor also approved four bills passed by the Legislature on May 1. They are:
– Bill 0186 to amend the V.I. Code to depoliticize hiring practices by eliminating the option of government employees in exempt and unclassified positions as designated by the governor and legislature to become classified after two years on the job. Turnbull stated that the measure's aim is consistent with his administration's efforts to contain the growth of the government payroll.
– Bill 23-0198 making it unlawful to cause any pollution of Virgin Islands waters, bringing the territory into compliance with federal guidelines.
– Bill 23-0201 to prevent water, soil and sub-soil contamination from the failure of underground storage tank systems, again bringing the territory into compliance with federal guidelines.
– Bill 23-0042 to create staggered terms for the members of the Health Consumer Complaint Review Committee.
Turnbull also acknowledged Senate resolutions asking the federal government to turn a parcel of land in Estate Wintberg over to the V.I. government and to authorize the governor to negotiate a land exchange with the National Park Service to acquire property "suitable for the construction of an educational complex on St. John," and honoring the V.I. National Guard 666thArmy Band.

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