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Senators Have Questions About Double Dipping, Tires

Aug. 3, 2005- Senators may have hoped to see a clear picture of the transition between the Department of Public Works and the Waste Management Authority, but ambiguous remarks from department representatives concerning the possibility of double dipping left the picture murky.
"Because these departments are still in the process of transitioning employees, it is likely that there are certain individuals who are collecting more than one paycheck," Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said at a public hearing held Tuesday to address the matter.
While George Phillips, DPW acting commissioner, said that he was unaware of any individuals utilizing this "dual system of employment," WMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall said she would look into the issue to make sure that such activity stops.
Unsatisfied with this answer, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg further questioned Cornwall as to whether employees transitioning into the WMA would be given permanent employee status—or whether they would even be able to perform within their new capacities.
Cornwall responded that new employees would be placed on "permanent" probationary status within the WMA until supervisors evaluate them as to whether they could perform efficiently within the agency. "If they do not meet the criteria for that job, then they will be placed in a position which is better suited to their abilities, and that will be their permanent position," Cornwall said.
Donastorg replied by saying that both agencies will have a definite problem with this system because of the possibility that many employees might not be able to function under such a new, and different, department.
While Cornwall assured Donastorg that every position at DPW has its equivalent in the WMA, she did additionally acknowledge that her organization might have to hire additional employees if transitioning individuals were unable to carry out their new jobs.
"I have also told my employees that they can stay at Public Works if they wish to," Phillips said, implying that this may also cause vacancies in the WMA which would have to be filled by new hires.
Senators became concerned about the additional money needed to fund the cost of new employees—a cost not wholly factored into both departments' budget request for fiscal year 2006.
Cornwall added that the Office of Management and Budget's recommendation of $26 million for the WMA is also not enough to cover all operating costs once the organization is up and running. "We were asking for $36 million when OMB cut it," Cornwall said.
Hoping that the WMA would be receiving some substantial assets from DPW in order to compensate for some of the new costs, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson became discouraged when Cornwall responded negatively to the idea. "Much of what we're getting in not very valuable…it's a lot of dead assets," Cornwall said.
Cornwall also addressed concerns brought up by Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville regarding the disposal of tires to curb the spread of dengue in St. Croix, particularly in the William's Delight area.
"We are having problems with tire disposal…there is no place to store shredded tires on the island…most of our disposal services are shipping them off island to be taken care of," Cornwall said, adding that a tire shredder on St. Thomas has yet to be set up because of permit and power problems.
Cornwall also admitted that the build up of tires in the William's Delight area is directly linked to the dengue outbreaks.
"We are currently looking into temporary storage facilities for these tires. Part of our goal is to deal with the illegal dumpsites within the community…however, part of the problem is that we don't have all the funds to do so," Cornwall said.
In order to solve the problem of costs, Cornwall also discussed various fees, which will soon be imposed upon residents—in addition to the current tire tax. Such fees include an Environmental Users fee, which will be placed on goods coming in from the mainland, which would end up at the dumpsite.
Senators present at Tuesday's hearing were Lorraine Berry, Liston Davis, Donastorg, Louis P. Hill, Nelson, and Figueroa-Serville. Sens. Ronald Russell and Shawn Michael-Malone were absent.
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