78.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, February 22, 2024


Nov. 21, 2003 – A group of Estate Mon Bijou residents were finally paid for damages by the government Thursday after waiting nearly 20 years to get their money.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards summoned the news media to Government House on St. Croix at 9:30 a.m. to conduct a mini-ceremony, handing attorney Richard Hunter — who represents 15 aggrieved parties in the area — a bundle of drafts amounting to about $390,000.
"This money has come from emergency funds," Richards said without elaboration. He said the situation in the Frangipani area of the estate is "bleak" and characterized the attempts to settle with the government "a long fight."
Richards said the area's long-standing sewage problems, which still exist, should not be allowed to continue. He cited "inappropriate engineering" as the cause of the troubles and said that he has brought the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Public Works Department together to clear things up.
"It wasn't the residents' fault," Richards said.
When he learned during a recent visit to the Mon Bijou area of the V.I. government's failure to comply with court orders to pay the claims, Richards said, he spoke with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, and measures were immediately taken to make things whole for the residents.
Hunter first sued the government in 1984 on behalf of his clients, who claimed that poor-quality work on the part of Public Works had allowed floodwaters to enter their properties, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Sewage routinely flowed into cisterns and homes, they complained, and any heavy rains compounded the mess.
The deluge of recent days brought home the reality that the problems remain unresolved, and it is likely more claims will be lodged, Hunter said on Friday.
Territorial Judge Edgar D. Ross found the V.I. government in contempt of court last July 2 for failing to comply with a 1986 District Court order accepting Hunter's clients' claims and a 1998 Territorial Court order to pay the damages and make repairs.
The July 2 ruling contained a stipulation requiring Public Works to clear Mon Bijou drains of all debris and vegetation by July 7. Ross had further ordered that Hunter's clients be paid, with accrued interest, by the end of October. They had been expecting payment by virtue of Ross's previous order five years earlier, but nothing was done, and no one was paid.
The $390,000 paid out on Friday includes interest accrued at 9 percent per annum over the last two decades. Individual claims ranged from $4,000 to $22,000.
Richards said some homes in the area will be condemned because of the problems, and the owners will receive just compensation.
None of Hunter's clients appeared at the press conference on Thursday, although some had met with Richards earlier in the day.

Back Talk

Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.

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.