The Senate on Wednesday approved two leases and three zoning issues, along with a resolution honoring Valrica Miranda Bryson for her contributions to the school system, her mentorship of Virgin Islands youth and her many years as a music educator.
These, along with 12 bills, were moved forward to the governor for consideration and action.
Two zoning requests that had opposition from neighbors were removed from the agenda. One was for a gift shop at a scenic overlook in Estate Elizabeth and the other was for an electronic shop in Estate Mandahl.
A third request for a zoning change for a small hotel in Estate Bakkero also had neighborhood opposition but was approved and forwarded to the governor for consideration.
Two rezoning requests were approved in Estate Smith Bay. One would allow a small restaurant to open and another would bring several rental apartments into compliance.
A bill that would allocate $500,000 from the Beautification and Anti-Litter Fund to fund cameras at dump sites was sent back to subcommittee. Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory said, the money might better be used to pay the garbage haulers.
“They are owed millions of dollars and still pick up garbage. It is a crisis. We need to look comprehensively when we make these decisions.”
When Sen. Kurt Vialet moved for the bill to be sent back, he echoed Frett-Gregory’s concerns and added that a more comprehensive plan with cameras at high crime areas and well-travelled areas might be better.
The resolution commending Bryson received universal approval.
Sen. Dwayne DeGraff said, “She is a gem.”
Sen. Athneil Thomas said, “She is a wonderful person, but she is more than that, she is a veteran.”
Sen. Allison DeGazon said, “What stands out about her is the fact she is passionate about education, passionate about culture.”
Vialet said Bryson was responsible for cultivating a love in many students for the art forms of Quelbe and the Quadrille.
Another action receiving universal favor was approving the name Veterans Circle for the roundabout in Cruz Bay, and allocating $20,000 for a monument for those who died serving their country.
Senators spoke positively of two government lease agreements before sending them to the governor. They were both for plots in Sub Base. One would allow Panyard People to establish headquarters and the second is where a concrete business could be established.
Sen. Marvin Blyden said the cost of concrete on St. Thomas is “astronomical,” making construction on the island cost prohibitive for many. He said he hoped competition could bring the price down.
During the hearing, the only rift between senators came during the discussion of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ role in the zoning process and leading up to the zoning process. Sen. Janelle Sarauw pointed out that when DPNR did not enforce regulations, businesses invested money in their property and then came forward to the Senate to get an OK on what had been established on the property. Sen. Alicia Barnes, a former commissioner of DPNR, defended the agency.
Frett-Gregory said she was a former commissioner of Education but she “would not defend it when it was wrong.”
Other bills forwarded to the governor for his consideration and action were:
– An act relating to benefits and insurance coverage for officers and members of the National Guard of the Virgin Islands, to provide for pay comparable to those serving in the armed forces of the United States and to ensure that the territorial active duty members have insurance to cover any illness or injury sustained while on active duty not covered by other health insurance coverage.
– An act requiring the development of a stormwater runoff plan.
– An act requiring the Department of Agriculture to establish and implement a Well-Drilling Unit Program.
– An act relating to the issuance of and usage of government credit cards.
– An act requiring the director of Management and Budget to conduct a mid-year review and budget and to report the review findings to the chair of the Committee on Finance and the Post Audit Division of the Legislature.
– An act establishing the Virgin Islands Virtual Information System.
– An act amending transferring various duties and responsibilities from the Department of Property and Procurement and to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority.
– An act funding the St. Croix Motor Sports Complex through the Caribbean Drag Racing Association.
– A Medicare Integrity Act.
– An act allowing the territory’s single podiatrist to hire physician assistants.
– An act giving $2.1 million to the Government Employees Retirement System to cover the recent increase in employer contribution.
– At the beginning of the session members of the Senate signed a Statement of Support Agreement with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. The ESGR operates under the Department of Defense to foster employer cooperation, understanding and support to the Reserve Component Service members while encouraging employee participation in the military.
Attending the session were Sens. Barnes, Blyden, DeGazon, DeGraff, Novelle Francis Jr., Frett-Gregory, Stedmann Hodge Jr., Myron Jackson, Javan James, Steven Payne Sr., Sarauw, Athneil Thomas and Vialet.