March 5, 2004 – Three-year-old plans to establish a veterans cemetery on St. Croix are stalled because the administration has yet to take preparatory steps, the Senate Labor and Veterans Affairs Committee learned on Thursday.
According to a Senate release, the committee chair, Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, expressed dismay that Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood did not attend the committee meeting. Public Works has not completed a design study necessary to the project.
Veterans and their representatives have been trying to get a designated burial ground for years.
Elston George, Property and Procurement deputy commissioner, told the committee that about 4.6 acres next to the existing public cemetery on St. Croix has been designated for burial of veterans. However, he said that construction has not begun because an "architectural and engineering study" must be done before an application to the federal Veterans Administration will be considered, according to a report in the Friday Avis.
The Veterans Administration provides grants to cover part or all of the cost of building a veterans cemetery, but the territory so far has submitted only a preliminary application, the Avis story said.
Justin Harrigan, director of the V.I. Office of Veterans Affairs, said Public Works needs to do the preliminary work. "Many of these things are outside the scope of my ability," he said, adding that he has made repeated pleas to Callwood to carry out the mandated study.
The committee also learned that construction of a new St. Thomas public cemetery in Smith Bay apparently also has been delayed. Responding to questions from Jn Baptiste and Sens. Louis Hill and Usie Richards, Harrigan said funding is needed for the grant process.
Under further questioning, Harrigan said no formal application has been sent to the federal government. The release quoted Hill as saying that "We are not doing the administrative things to move this project forward."
Work on the Smith Bay cemetery began last August. See the St. Thomas Source report "Construction begins on new St. Thomas cemetery".)
The committee voted to subpoena Callwood to a future hearing on the matter, according to the Avis.
In another matter, Lawrence Bastian, American Legion District 10 commander, told the committee he doubts that the old Catholic convent property in Frederiksted will ever be turned over to the legion as mandated by the Legislature. "No correspondence from the government has been given to us regarding that matter," he said.
Alphonso Franklin, who chairs the Legion post's building committee, said acquisition of the property is now a "done deal," according to the Senate release. He said what is needed now is "financial assistance."
Attending the committee meeting were Sens. Hill, Jn Baptiste and Richards. Not present were Sens. Douglas Canton Jr. and Celestino A. White Sr.
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