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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Leaders of the Public Safety Coalition aren’t impressed with the Turnbull administration’s announcement that more than $2 million had been found to fix deteriorating police and fire stations.
At their weekly protest in front of St. Croix Government House on Thursday, members of the Public Safety Coalition, which consists of police, fire and other public safety workers, continued their calls for better pay and working conditions despite the administration’s pledge to tap an obscure fund to make repairs.
Following weeks of protests, the administration on Wednesday said it was going to use the Asset Recovery Fund to pay for $1.5 million worth of repairs to fire stations and another $567,000 to renovate the Patrick Sweeney Headquarters and the K-9 building on St. Croix.
The same fund will be used to purchase equipment for the Motor Vehicle Bureau on St. Croix, for repairs to the Forensic Unit and communication system on St. Thomas and St. John and for relocation costs to reduce annual rent expenses, according to the administration.
"The money they claim they have . . . are monies we’ve been hearing about for a year and a half," said Naomi Joseph, president of the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association. "Our situation still continues."
Attorney General Iver Stridiron said Thursday that the Asset Recovery Fund contains money paid by insurance companies for damage done to government structures. For example, he said that following Hurricane Lenny last November, Golden Grove Correctional Facility was damaged but the government had already secured bond funding for overall repairs and expansion of the prison, freeing up the insurance proceeds.
Stridiron said the money in the Asset Recovery Fund has no restrictions. Neither Stridiron nor James O’Bryan, an assistant to Gov. Charles Turnbull, knew the fund's current balance.
Arthur Hector, president of the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union, questioned why the money in the Asset Recovery Fund hadn’t been tapped earlier.
"That is money that has been there all the time," he said.
Wingrove Creighton, president of the St. Croix EMT Association, said a recent meeting between the coalition and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II to discuss issues regarding pay and working conditions was uneventful. He said recent action on the administration’s part is only because of the coalition’s protests.
"It was a heap of words and promises. When the pressure is applied, they say they have the money," Creighton said. "There ain’t no money."
Joseph, meanwhile, said police officers are still waiting on raises and a negotiated contract.
"Until this government finds money to pay us, we’ll be out in the street," she said.

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