SENATE HOLDS BILL FOR LAND SWAP ON ST. JOHN, VOTES TO FORWARD OTHER MEASURES

Published: Jul 20, 2023

ST. THOMAS – Members of the 35th Legislature, led by Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr., convened in Legislative Session at the Capitol Building. Policymakers voted to hold in committee Bill No. 35-0112, regarding the proposed land exchange of Whistling Cay and Estate Catherineberg to construct a school and hurricane shelter on St. John. The measure will be held for 45 working days to allow additional due diligence and stakeholders’ review and input. Separately, senators voted in the affirmative for a nomination, resolutions, and several bills. All approved items on the agenda will be forwarded to the Governor of the Virgin Islands for further consideration and action.

Weighing in on the bill, Senate President Francis stated that the children of St. John deserve a high school. “For over 50 years, students residing in St. John did not have a school. There are high schools on St. Thomas and St. Croix, but none in St. John. The existing high schools in the Virgin Islands were not a quid pro quo.”  He continued, “We didn’t have to give up something to get anything. There is a lot of argument here with the National Park Service. However, we cannot conflict over the issues. What side of history will we find ourselves on?”

Lawmakers unanimously voted to hold: Bill No. 35-0112, An Act approving the conveyance by the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States to the United States of America, Department of Interior, acting by and through the National Park Service, of Tract No. 02-101 Whistling Island a/k/a Whistling Cay, Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, Virgin Islands, in exchange for the Department of Interior, National Park Service’s conveyance to the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States of a portion of Tract No. 01-137A Catherineberg (Hammer’s Farm) Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John Virgin Islands, and directing the Government to deposit of the proceeds from the parcel exchange into the St. John Capital Improvement Fund.

The proposal was previously extensively vetted during the July 11th Committee of Whole, which was held at the Cleone H. Creque Legislative Conference Room on St. John. Lawmakers discussed the details of the proposal, which included costs, assessments, and appraisals. Whistling Cay, an undeveloped and uninhabited land owned by the Government of the Virgin Islands, is slated to remain unchanged under the real property exchange. The proposal would also maintain existing policies and procedures for non-commercial fishing in Whistling Cay’s surrounding waters. However, considerable changes are expected at Estate Catherineberg as the new Julius E. Sprauve PreK–12 school, a magnet school on St. John, is built and established.

Separately, policymakers unanimously voted favorably for the following nomination:

  • Lisa M. Alejandro, Commissioner Nominee, Virgin Islands Property and Procurement

Lawmakers unanimously voted and approved four Resolutions:

  • Bill No. 35-0100, A Resolution honoring and commending Music in Motion School of Higher Dance Education and its founder, Charlita Schuster, on the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of the Music in Motion Dance Academy.
  • Bill No. 35-0101, A Resolution honoring, and commending Dr. Olaf “Bronco” Hendricks for his tireless years of remarkable and invaluable contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands in the field of psychiatry, his advocacy for social justice for individuals with behavioral health and substance use issues, and for his music.
  • Bill No. 35-0029, An Act honoring and commending Donna Marie Christian-Christiansen, M.D., for her tireless contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands in the medical field and representation in the United States Congress.
  • Bill No. 35-0033, An Act honoring and commending Mr. Benburin “Benny” Stephens posthumously for his heroism in saving the lives of a mother and her children and to rename the Bovoni Road (Route No. 30), specifically from the entrance of the Abattoir to the entrance of the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School, “The Benburin “Benny” Stephens Drive.”

Lastly, senators voted with a favorable recommendation for the following bills:

  • Bill No. 35-0035, An Act amending Title 20 Virgin Islands Code, part II, chapter 39 section 436 (b), expanding the definition of “disabled veteran” for the purposes of eligibility for a handicapped window decal.
  • Bill No. 35-0036, An Act amending Title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 16, section 274, subsection (f), paragraph (11) to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the Executive Director of the Taxicab Commission.
  • Bill No. 35-0041, An Act awarding the Virgin Islands Medal of Honor posthumously to former Senator Edgar Milton Iles for his commendable public service and contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands.
  • Bill No. 35-0114, An Act honoring and commending the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games’ Gold Medal Winners.

Bill 35-0075, An Act to designate the third Monday in February as the Virgin Islands Governors Day, and  Bill No. 35-0078, An Act requiring the Commissioner of the Department of Tourism to conduct a survey to assist in the establishment of an official dish and dessert of the Virgin Islands, were removed from the agenda.

Senators present at the Legislative Session are Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Carla J. Joseph, Kenneth L. Gittens, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Diane T. Capehart, Samuel Carrión, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Marise C. James, Franklin D. Johnson, Milton E. Potter, and Javan E. James, Sr.

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