The local charitable organization My Brother’s Workshop hopes to set up a center to teach carpentry and other trades to St. Croix youth, and that legislation giving them free use of a government-owned complex in Kingshill is enacted into law.
The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee voted Friday to send the bill, [Bill 31-0110], sponsored by Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and several other senators, on to the full Senate for a final up-or-down vote.
It permits My Brother’s Workshop to occupy its Kingshill facility at Matricular No. 23-AA Estate Kingshill, St. Croix, for three years in exchange for refurbishing the site according to Human Services specifications.
O’Reilly talked about the many young lives helped by a similar program on St. Thomas, and recounted a resident telling her that the Senate should "give My Brother’s Table whatever they ask for," because of the good the group does, from feeding people to programs like this. She displayed slides of the building in question, showing that it currently is being used for miscellaneous storage.
"I’ve seen the revolving door" as a police officer, Sen. Novelle Francis said. "This will help stop the revolving door of our youth going in an out of prison.”
The committee approved the bill without opposition. Voting yes were: O’Reilly, Francis, Sens. Jean Forde, Justin Harrigan and Kenneth Gittens. Sens. Neville James and Janette Millin Young were absent.
The Rules Committee also sent on legislation, sponsored by Harrigan, to make it easier for police to tow abandoned vehicles and charge the owner for the cost. Harrigan said the goal of the bill was to reduce blight and increase parking in downtown areas.
Under current V.I. law, an abandoned vehicle must be “inoperable or over eight years old" and abandoned more than two days. But there is no provision saying who is responsible for the cost of towing, leaving that to the taxpayers. Harrigan’s bill would direct police to treat any vehicle without a valid registration sticker or tag left on the public roadways or public property for more than two days as an abandoned vehicle. Police can tow it and bill any costs to the registered owner, and Property and Procurement can sell any unclaimed vehicles as salvage.
Rules also sent on a bill from O’Reilly to exempt condominiums with 10 or fewer units from a 1960s-era law requiring all condominium associations to conduct annual audits. Instead, small establishments could make the financial records available to members who ask, and condo association members could vote to require an audit. O’Reilly said several condominium associations had contacted her office, saying the audits were extremely expensive. When the bill was heard in committee for the first time in April, condo owners testified the cost of an audit was between $4,000 and $5,000 and possibly more, putting a serious burden on smaller properties.
The committee sent on the nomination of Laurel Hewitt-Sewer to serve on the V.I. Port Authority governing board representing St. John. Hewitt-Sewer was born and raised on the island of St. Croix and a 37-year resident of St. John. She is a part-time professor of Inclusive Early Childhood Education in the School of Education at the University of the Virgin Islands and a retired family and consumer sciences teacher. Hewitt-Sewer holds a master’s in child and youth care administration from Nova South Eastern University.
All the votes were unopposed, with James and Young absent.