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Senate Committee Approves Governor's Choice for Public Works Commissioner

May 25, 2007 — The Senate Committee on Rules and Judiciary has approved Darryl Smalls, Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s choice to serve as Public Works commissioner, passing his nomination on to the full Senate.
Smalls was the highest ranking of four nominees passed forward at Friday’s hearing in Charlotte Amalie. The committee also heard from Cassan Pancham, deJongh’s nominee to serve on the Port Authority Board; Mulchand Alwani, nominated to serve on the St. Thomas/St. John governing board of Roy Lester Schneider Hospital; and Jennifer Nugent-Hill, picked for the UVI governing board.
Committee Chairman Carlton Dowe said the full senate will hear and vote on the nominations Tuesday. The senators peppered Smalls with questions about road projects over all three islands, but also offered praise for him and the general caliber of deJongh’s appointments. Sen. Pres. Usie Richards set the tone of high praise blended with tough questions.
“I’ll tell you now I’m going to give you my vote,” Richards said as he began questioning Smalls. “The governor is sending down very qualified young people. In my opinion you are a competent person capable of getting things done.”
Richards then cut to the chase.
“With several road projects we have appropriated funds to the tune of four, five and six million dollars,” Richards said. “The monies are available and allocated and no work has commenced. . . . Have you had a chance to review the monies territory wide?”
“Yes, I have begun,” Smalls replied. “What I have found so far is, yes the money has been appropriated, but it has not been released to us from the Office of Management and Budget.”
Smalls cited severe understaffing as another cause of delay. Asked why Public Works is understaffed, Smalls said it is difficult to attract and retain qualified people because the salaries are below the national norm.
Sen. James Weber III asked Smalls what he hoped his legacy at Public Works would be.
“A comprehensive prioritization of the various projects,” Smalls said. “Right now we prioritize, I feel, haphazardly. A comprehensive plan, regularly updated, for the entire territory would improve the quality of our infrastructure, make planning and funding easier and save money in the long run.”
Weber asked Smalls about the Christiansted Bypass, a road project originally planned in the 1970s.
“The Christiansted Bypass is set for groundbreaking May 30,” Smalls said. “The first phase is to be complete in 2009. Then it will be another two years at least for the remainder. Money, $4.8 million is in place for the first phase. At that point we will have to go to the feds for more.”
Smalls outlined an ambitious reorganization program for Public Works, with plans to improve Vitran public bus service, efforts to clean up the territory’s historic cemeteries, reorganize government-property maintenance and changes in how Public Works oversees large projects.
“The time may be right for us to consider the utilization of independent project managers for our larger projects,” he said. “The role of a project manager is to objectively ensure that we receive a quality product, on time and within budget. Generally a project manager’s fee schedule is based on cost savings, and any cost overruns that they fail to predict will be charged directly to the project manager.”
Consolidating maintenance under one roof would improve efficiency, Smalls suggested.
“One short-term solution would be to develop a pooling mechanism,” he said. “This would require the pooling of similar type disciplines from various government departments and agencies to create teams that … would perform the various tasks on all government buildings … reducing the overall maintenance costs.”
Each in turn, the senators praised Smalls and voted without dissent to forward his nomination to the floor of the full Senate.
“After hearing his plans for the department, I believe Mr. Smalls is the right man for the job,” said Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone in a release from his office issued shortly after Smalls’ testimony. "His passion is definitely what the department needs."
An electrical engineer by training, Smalls has overseen facilities maintenance at Schneider Hospital for the past 14 years. He steadily rose through the ranks and since 2003 he has been vice president of facilities management and capital development for the hospital.
Port Authority nominee Cassan Pancham would be one of nine board members, with less power than a commissioner to set broad agendas. In recent days there has been competition between the Port Authority and the West Indian Company over whose facilities will get how much cruise-ship business. Pancham weighed in on the issue.
“I am not sure that it is a good idea to have the port of Charlotte Amalie somewhat bifurcated in the manner that it is,” he said. “Secondly there has to be a reasonable compromise … and finally on this point, I have a question: Why does the government own two entities which essentially are competing against each other rather than complementing each other?”
Pancham also wants to focus attention on federal funds lost to the Port Authority as a result of problems at Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix.
“It is my understanding that the property under the landfill is owned by the Port Authority while the landfill itself was previously operated directly by the government of the Virgin Islands and is now under the management of the Waste Management Authority,” Pancham said. “The Anguilla Landfill is the subject of federal … mandates with respect to air safety at the nearby Henry Rohlsen Airport. Non-compliance with these mandates over many years is affecting the discretionary federal funds flowing to the territory …. I understand there are indeed plans for remediation, and this would be an area of great interest to me.”
Schneider Hospital board nominee Mulchand Alwani, a retired jeweler, has lived in the Virgin Islands for the past 30 years. He has a long resume of civic activity, from Rotary Club to personally contributing to St. Thomas’s Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute.
The governor's nominee to the UVI governing board, Jennifer Nugent-Hill, is a graduate of St. Croix Central High, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UVI. As with other areas of government employment in the territory, one of the biggest problems with faculty recruitment is the difficulty of offering competitive salaries, Nugent-Hill told the committee.
After approving all four nominees, the committee passed on several pieces of legislation for consideration by the full body. Several of these were considered earlier in the week in a hearing of the committee of jurisdictions: the Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice. (See "FYI: Committee Approves Public Safety Bills.")
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May 25, 2007 -- The Senate Committee on Rules and Judiciary has approved Darryl Smalls, Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s choice to serve as Public Works commissioner, passing his nomination on to the full Senate.
Smalls was the highest ranking of four nominees passed forward at Friday’s hearing in Charlotte Amalie. The committee also heard from Cassan Pancham, deJongh’s nominee to serve on the Port Authority Board; Mulchand Alwani, nominated to serve on the St. Thomas/St. John governing board of Roy Lester Schneider Hospital; and Jennifer Nugent-Hill, picked for the UVI governing board.
Committee Chairman Carlton Dowe said the full senate will hear and vote on the nominations Tuesday. The senators peppered Smalls with questions about road projects over all three islands, but also offered praise for him and the general caliber of deJongh’s appointments. Sen. Pres. Usie Richards set the tone of high praise blended with tough questions.
“I’ll tell you now I’m going to give you my vote,” Richards said as he began questioning Smalls. “The governor is sending down very qualified young people. In my opinion you are a competent person capable of getting things done.”
Richards then cut to the chase.
“With several road projects we have appropriated funds to the tune of four, five and six million dollars,” Richards said. “The monies are available and allocated and no work has commenced. . . . Have you had a chance to review the monies territory wide?”
“Yes, I have begun,” Smalls replied. “What I have found so far is, yes the money has been appropriated, but it has not been released to us from the Office of Management and Budget.”
Smalls cited severe understaffing as another cause of delay. Asked why Public Works is understaffed, Smalls said it is difficult to attract and retain qualified people because the salaries are below the national norm.
Sen. James Weber III asked Smalls what he hoped his legacy at Public Works would be.
“A comprehensive prioritization of the various projects,” Smalls said. “Right now we prioritize, I feel, haphazardly. A comprehensive plan, regularly updated, for the entire territory would improve the quality of our infrastructure, make planning and funding easier and save money in the long run.”
Weber asked Smalls about the Christiansted Bypass, a road project originally planned in the 1970s.
“The Christiansted Bypass is set for groundbreaking May 30,” Smalls said. “The first phase is to be complete in 2009. Then it will be another two years at least for the remainder. Money, $4.8 million is in place for the first phase. At that point we will have to go to the feds for more.”
Smalls outlined an ambitious reorganization program for Public Works, with plans to improve Vitran public bus service, efforts to clean up the territory’s historic cemeteries, reorganize government-property maintenance and changes in how Public Works oversees large projects.
“The time may be right for us to consider the utilization of independent project managers for our larger projects,” he said. “The role of a project manager is to objectively ensure that we receive a quality product, on time and within budget. Generally a project manager’s fee schedule is based on cost savings, and any cost overruns that they fail to predict will be charged directly to the project manager.”
Consolidating maintenance under one roof would improve efficiency, Smalls suggested.
“One short-term solution would be to develop a pooling mechanism,” he said. “This would require the pooling of similar type disciplines from various government departments and agencies to create teams that ... would perform the various tasks on all government buildings ... reducing the overall maintenance costs.”
Each in turn, the senators praised Smalls and voted without dissent to forward his nomination to the floor of the full Senate.
“After hearing his plans for the department, I believe Mr. Smalls is the right man for the job,” said Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone in a release from his office issued shortly after Smalls’ testimony. "His passion is definitely what the department needs."
An electrical engineer by training, Smalls has overseen facilities maintenance at Schneider Hospital for the past 14 years. He steadily rose through the ranks and since 2003 he has been vice president of facilities management and capital development for the hospital.
Port Authority nominee Cassan Pancham would be one of nine board members, with less power than a commissioner to set broad agendas. In recent days there has been competition between the Port Authority and the West Indian Company over whose facilities will get how much cruise-ship business. Pancham weighed in on the issue.
“I am not sure that it is a good idea to have the port of Charlotte Amalie somewhat bifurcated in the manner that it is,” he said. “Secondly there has to be a reasonable compromise ... and finally on this point, I have a question: Why does the government own two entities which essentially are competing against each other rather than complementing each other?”
Pancham also wants to focus attention on federal funds lost to the Port Authority as a result of problems at Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix.
“It is my understanding that the property under the landfill is owned by the Port Authority while the landfill itself was previously operated directly by the government of the Virgin Islands and is now under the management of the Waste Management Authority,” Pancham said. “The Anguilla Landfill is the subject of federal ... mandates with respect to air safety at the nearby Henry Rohlsen Airport. Non-compliance with these mandates over many years is affecting the discretionary federal funds flowing to the territory .... I understand there are indeed plans for remediation, and this would be an area of great interest to me.”
Schneider Hospital board nominee Mulchand Alwani, a retired jeweler, has lived in the Virgin Islands for the past 30 years. He has a long resume of civic activity, from Rotary Club to personally contributing to St. Thomas’s Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute.
The governor's nominee to the UVI governing board, Jennifer Nugent-Hill, is a graduate of St. Croix Central High, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UVI. As with other areas of government employment in the territory, one of the biggest problems with faculty recruitment is the difficulty of offering competitive salaries, Nugent-Hill told the committee.
After approving all four nominees, the committee passed on several pieces of legislation for consideration by the full body. Several of these were considered earlier in the week in a hearing of the committee of jurisdictions: the Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice. (See "FYI: Committee Approves Public Safety Bills.")
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.