Nov. 14, 2005 A bill unanimously approved by senators at a full session Monday provides startup loan financing for the construction of the University of the Virgin Islands technology park.
Lawmakers also appropriated funding for a Supreme Court building on St. Croix and three other capital improvement projects on St. Thomas.
Funding for the tech park loan, which was originally part of a $65 million economic development package for St. Croix, will now come from $10 million the Legislature appropriated in 2001 for construction of Carifests cultural entertainment park (See "Cell Phone Regulations, New Appropriations Move Through Committee".) The Carifest park has been in the works for at least ten years, according to the bills sponsor Sen. Usie R. Richards, and there is no proof that organizers have identified any other form of financing.
Since UVIs loan request uses $7 million out of the $10 million set aside for Carifest, Sen. Liston Davis quickly introduced an amendment to the bill appropriating the remaining $3 million for projects on St. Thomas. The $3 million is divided among:
— $1.5 million to the Human Services Department to fund the construction of the Keith Massac Nursing Center.
— $750,000 to help fund the construction of the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute.
–$750,000 to begin renovations on Lionel Roberts Stadium.
Sens. Ronald Russell and Louis P. Hill loudly voiced their opposition to the amendment by saying Davis hadnt obtained any information on how much the projects will cost or how the money will actually be spent.
"We cant just give away $3 million if we dont know where its going," Hill said. "Lets really exercise some prudence here have these organizations come in, testify that they need the money and tell us what it will be used for."
Davis said appropriations for the stadium and cancer institute are much needed. And he said he had been told by Human Services Commissioner Sedonie Halbert that construction of the nursing home would cost $1.5 million.
"The nursing home on St. Thomas is overcrowded. We have people waiting for this new facility to be built," he said. "And we all know the Kimelman Center needs money for construction, and that Lionel Roberts is in deplorable condition."
Despite the opposition, however, the amendment was approved, with Sens. Lorraine L. Berry, Davis, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn Michael Malone, Richards, and Celestino A. White Sr. voting for it. Voting against the amendment were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Juan-Figueroa Serville, Hill, Neville James, and Russell. Sen. Roosevelt C. David abstained, and Sens. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, and Terrence "Positive" Nelson were absent.
Another amendment to the bill, appropriating $5.75 million in bond proceeds for the construction of a Supreme Court in St. Croix, was unanimously approved at a Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting last month.
Russell, who sponsored the amendment, said money appropriated in a bill recently sent to the Legislature by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to fund start-up costs for establishing the court will also be used (See: "Governor's Bill to Fund High Court Likely to Meet with Opposition".)
Turnbulls bill has not yet been assigned to a committee of jurisdiction since he calls for the court to be built on St. Thomas despite a law passed by senators in May calling for the court to be established on St. Croix.
At Mondays session, Russell said Turnbull needs to amend his bill to reflect this law, and allow all money to be used for the courts operations.
Also unanimously approved by senators Monday were bills to:
— honor Yvonne E. Milliner Bowsky for her service to the community and to rename the Peace Corps Elementary School in her name.
— honor Isidor Paiewonsky posthumously for his contribution to the beautification and preservation of local environment, and to designate the first week of December "Isidor Paiewonsky Plant a Tree Week."
— honor Gladys A. Abraham for outstanding service to the people of the Virgin Islands, and to rename the Michael J. Kirwan Elementary School the Gladys A. Abraham Elementary School.
— honor Esther Virginia Brow Moorhead posthumously for contributions to Virgin Islands community and politics, and to name the Frederiksted Mall in her honor.
All senators were present at Mondays meeting except Encarnacion and Nelson.
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