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Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomeNewsLocal governmentNational Guard Says Finance Department Slows Vendors' Payments

National Guard Says Finance Department Slows Vendors’ Payments

Maj. Gen. Kodjo Knox-Limbacker testified to the Senate on Tuesday. (Photos by Alvin Burke JR., Mario Fonseca and Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)

Maj. Gen. Kodjo Knox-Limbacker, commander of the V.I Army and Air National Guard, Tuesday presented to the Senate’s Committee on Budget, Appropriations and Finance a budget for fiscal year 2025 requesting $2.9 million that compares with a projected contribution of $50 million from the federal government.

Sen. Novelle Francis called it a “no brainer” — $2.9 million for $50 million.

Knox-Limbacker, who also heads the Adjutant General Office, said the request represents an increase of 1 percent over last fiscal year.

The territory is required to provide local funds for expenditures such as maintenance for the St Croix Armory.

Sen. Franklin Johnson, however, had questions about the sometimes slow pay for guard members and local vendors. He said, “It is not pleasing to me when people are not getting paid.”

After more questions from Sens. Francis and Donna Frett-Gregory, Knox-Limbacker said the bureaucratic snarls slowing payments usually were part of the government of the Virgin Islands process, not the federal government’s. He said Finance was holding “a lot of checks” that should be sent to vendors. Francis noted that the Bryan-Roach administration has committed to having every vendor paid within 90 days of billing.

Nikita Ward, executive director for the Office of the Adjutant General, broke down the $2.9 million figure. She said it included $145,000 for the V.I. National Guard Pension Fund and $1 million for the Youth About Face and Forward March Program.

Her breakdown by account title was personnel services, $1.1 million; fringe benefits, $500,000; supplies, $141,160; capital projects, $220,000; and other services, including utilities, $937,000.

Knox-Limbacker concluded his written testimony with comments on what he called hot-button items: the loss of an aviation unit with two Lakota Helicopters and the failure of plans to build a $24 million hangar on St. Croix. He said the unit was being removed because the aircraft were reaching the end of their life cycle and would not be replaced. As for the hangar project, the bids were too high to be accepted by the Department of Defense.

Frett-Gregory said the sidelining of the project was very “unfortunate.”

Sens. Marvin Blyden, Diane Capehart, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Novelle Francis Jr., Donna Frett-Gregory, Javan James, Franklin Johnson, Carla Joseph, and Milton Potter attended the meeting.

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