LAWMAKERS VET LEASES, VIFEMS AND VITEMA DEFEND FY2025 BUDGET

Published: Jun 17, 2024

ST. THOMAS – The Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, under the leadership of Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory met in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Lawmakers vetted leases for the island of St. Thomas. Additionally, testimony was taken on the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 Budget for the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency. Approved leases will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.  

Senators considered the following leases: 

  • Bill No. 35-0263 – An Act approving the lease agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands and Sanchez Ventures, LLC for Parcel No. 1 Estate Contant, No. 7B Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Parcels No. 194-2 and 194-2A Estate Altona and Welgnust, Crown Prince Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Parcels No. 10 and 11A Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. 
  • Bill No. 35-0264 – An Act approving the lease agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands and Verdell Turnbull d/b/a Turnbull Welding Service for Parcel No. 99A-1 Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands  
  • Bill No. 35-0265 – An Act approving the lease agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, acting through its Department of Property and Procurement, and St. Thomas Properties, LLC for Consolidated Parcel No. 17-3A Estate Nisky, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. 

All measures were sponsored by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. by request of the Governor. All lease terms commence on the first day of the month following approval by the Legislature. The term of the lease for Bill No. 35-0263 is for 30 years. There is an option to renew the lease for three additional terms of 10 years each. The annual rent for the property would be $12,000, payable in monthly installments of $1,000 during the term of the lease. The property would be used to operate a bulk storage depot, construct a warehouse, if possible, from an engineering and financial standpoint, commercial, business space, parking, and any other allowed purposes. For Bill 35-0264, the initial term of the lease is 10 years. The lessee may renew the lease for two additional terms of five years. The annual rent would be $10,800.00, payable in equal monthly installments of $900.00. The property will be used to operate a welding business and other related purposes. For Bill 35-0265 the term of the agreement is for 15 years with a renewal option of three additional terms of 10 years. The annual rent will be $36,829.80, payable in equal monthly installments of $3,069.15 during the term of the lease. The property will be used for a parking lot.  All leases were approved.  

Additionally, the committee received testimony concerning the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States.  

Antonio Stevens, Director of the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services stated that the requested General Fund appropriation for Fiscal Year 2025 is $30,885,255, a reduction from Fiscal Year 2024. Personnel costs account for 97% of the appropriated funds, and the remainder will be used for utilities, supplies and other services. Federal funds account for $1,997,000, Emergency Services Special Fund accounts of $795,471, and Fire Service Emergency Fund of $851,805. There is $3,644,276 in total FY 2025 unappropriated other funds. This will give VIFEMS $34,529,531 in funding. VIFEMS operates 10 fire stations in the territory and three EMS bases. It employes 325 personnel. It is divided into four units, the Suppression Unit, the Arson Prevention Unit, the Administration Unit, and the Emergency Medical Services Unit. Stevens said he hoped to improve operations and the service that they provide to the community, as well as increasing staffing and improving facilities.  

Daryl Jaschen, Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency stated that the requested budget for Fiscal Year 2025 is $11,860,981. This is a 4.39% decrease from the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget. Of this, $5,945,456 comes from the General Fund, $967,243 comes from the Emergency Services Funds and $4,948,282 comes from Federal Funds. VITEMA has 146 funded positions. There are 54 classified positions and 92 exempt positions. 63 positions are funded by the General Fund. 20 positions are non-ECC related, one of which is vacant. The remaining 43 positions are ECC (911 positions), 41 operators and two managers, one in each district. VITEMA has 82.5 federally funded positions. 66 positions are funded by the Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Disaster Grants. 36 of these positions are filled and 30 are vacant. VITEMA currently is without a deputy Director of Human Resources and Labor Relations, and Public Information Officer. 16.5 positions are funded by other grants. Of these positions, 11 are filled and 5.5 are vacant. VITEMA has 101 full-time active employees.  

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Javan E. James, Sr, Kenneth L Gittens, Franklin D. Johnson, and Carla J. Joseph. 

The Division of Public Affairs is committed to providing the community with accurate information on proceedings at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. Visit legvi.org. 

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