St. Thomas

St. John

St.Croix

UPDATES AND RESOLUTIONS HEARD IN COMMITTEE

Published: Nov 9, 2020

ST. CROIX– The Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, and Aging, chaired by Sen. Myron Jackson, held a public hearing on Monday in Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room to receive updates on Public Cemeteries, Libraries, Museums and Archives; and on several resolutions.

In his testimony, Shelton Shulterbrandt, DBE Program Director at the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works (DPW), said the DPW supervises, manages, and maintains all cemeteries in the Virgin Islands. The department also communicates with local funeral homes to schedule burials, consistent with the law.

On St. Croix, there are three public cemeteries. Fees collected for burial plot permits and tomb construction vary from $250.00 on a weekday and $500.00 on the weekend. The costs were raised from $16-$32 on September 1, 2020, territory-wide to allow the DPW to improve the cemeteries’ maintenance.

According to Shulterbrandt, the Frederiksted and Christiansted Cemeteries have their challenges as they are officially closed due to lack of space. Currently, only burials for citizens with previously purchased plots in those cemeteries or individuals who wish to be buried above their previously interred loved ones are allowed.

Keith Richards. Assistant Commissioner, Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), said the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums provides library and information services by developing and preserving its historical and archival collections.

According to Richards, the department is working towards the process of re-opening the Florence William Library. They procure quotes to clean and sanitize the building, and a contractor selected to overhaul and install a new air condition unit. The Athalie McFarlane Petersen Library in Frederiksted requires renovation and technological upgrades to provide a safer, secured, and comfortable location for residences and visitors to use this public library for life-long learning and discovery.

Richards told the Committee the Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is based in a rental office space at Vitraco Park on St. Croix. The office space accommodates the Virgin Islands Talking Books Library services to the entire territory. Hence its usefulness is a vital necessity of our community. He also said, for improvement, one step is to house the Regional Library on the first floor of the Athalie McFarlane Petersen Public Library. For the relocation to be possible, added Richards, several improvements are necessary.

Regarding Fort Frederik, Richards said that the facility would go through complete renovation and repairs such as all outer walls, wrought iron fencing, courtyard, repair, and cannon cartridges repair. He pointed out that overland flooding and massive wave action caused by Hurricane Maria resulted in severe erosion of the area along the La Grange Gut. According to Richards, there are three general areas of deterioration: the gut, the northwest corner, and the southwest corner.

He added that the estimated cost of the proposed mitigation is $599,778, and FEMA is funding the project. The Project Worksheet fixed price of $6.2 million was approved, he concluded.

Senator Stedmann Hodge Jr. sponsored Bill No.33-0312, a Resolution honoring and commending Janet Valencia Prince-Soto for her contributions to the St. Croix community through her years of educating and mentoring others in the field of cosmetology and her entrepreneurship.

Testifying in support of the resolution were Nathalie Hodge, Assistant Commissioner of DLCA, and Olympia Mitchell, a St. Croix resident. Both said Mrs. Prince-Soto left an indelible footprint that positively impacted the Virgin Islands as a whole. She added that the beneficiaries of her tutelage continue to be contributing members of the community as business owners, practitioners in the field of cosmetology, and private industry.

Senator Dwayne DeGraff sponsored Bill No.33-0345, an Act honoring and commending Judy M. Gomez for her contributions to the Virgin Islands community, especially the Virgin Islands’ children.

Testifying on the resolution was Dr. Tai Hunte-Caesar, who said Gomez had held many transformative positions. In these professional roles, she impacted, influenced, and empowered community members in so many ways. Dr. Hunte-Caesar added that Gomez had been an inspiration and an incredible mentor to her. She was confident that her career achievements as an Infectious Disease Physician in the public and private sectors would not have been possible without the influence of role models such as her.

Other testifiers on behalf of Gomez were Dilsa Capdeville, Shereese Jurgen, and Khadija Blyden. They all echoed Gomez’s sentiment on being of service and contributing to the community’s betterment and the children of the Virgin Islands.

Senator Oakland Benta sponsored Bill No. 33-0352, a Resolution honoring and commending Charles Lambert Alvarez Christian for his dedication and accomplishment in the field of martial arts and the Virgin Islands community.

Testifiers on behalf of Christian were Mrs.  Liston Lewis, Dr. Kisha Christian, James Hinds, and Apostle Elenor Estrada, who all spoke of his dedication, commitment, discipline, loyalty, and understanding the plights of others.

Bills 33-0312, 33-0345, and 33-0352 were voted out of the Committee with favorable recommendations and sent to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No. 33-0427 honors the late Mrs. Dorothy Lochart Elskoe for her vast contributions to preserving the Virgin Islands’ arts and culture by renaming Raphune Hill the “Dorothy “Dotsy” Lockhart Elskoe Drive. Senator Myron Jackson sponsored it.

In her testimony, Lori Elskoe-Rawlins, the honoree’s youngest daughter, said her mother was our Cultural Queen. The preservation of Virgin Islands culture was of great moment to this native virgin islander. According to her, she ensured that family members lived and respected the Virgin Islands’ culture.

According to Elskoe-Rawlins, her mother was sometimes a passenger on this meandering road of life but was always as equally focused as the drive. She added that in her mother’s pursuit to continue along the path of cultural authenticity and community awareness, they gained an educator, public servant, activist, culture-bearer, mother, and friend.

Other testifiers were Alrid D. Lockhart, Sr., President of Elskoe & Associates, Inc., also known as Elskoe & Associate Carnival Floupe, and Glenn Kwabena Davis, a St. Thomas Cultural Icon, educator, Calypsonian, and activists.

Bill No. 33-0426, A measure commemorating and recognizing the creation of the Senepol Cattle on St. Croix by Bromley Nelthropp; and recognizing the contributions to the development of the species by George Elliott, Bromley Nelthropp, Frits Lawaetz, Hans Lawaetz, Issac Gateward James, Oscar Henry, Olivia Hines Henry, and the University of the Virgin Islands.

Bill No. 33-0430, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, posthumously honored the late Reverend Vincent Hoover Adams Gordon. Sr., D.D. for his outstanding contributions to the Virgin Islands community. Pastor Gordon was a Minister of the Gospel for 51-years and, a teacher of English, and eventually an Assistant Principal of St. Croix Central High School.

In her testimony, Anna Marie Gordon said Rev. Vincent Hoover Adams, Sr. D.D. was a Minister of the Gospel, a Pastor of a congregation, a teacher, an assistant principal, a community activist, a cultural bearer, a musician and musical director, a mentor, a scout leader, counselor, but the most significant roles that he played were that of husband and father.

Bills 33-0427, 33-0426, and 33-0430 were voted out of the Committee with favorable recommendations and sent to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Senators present at Monday’s hearing were Chairman Myron Jackson, Senators Stedmann Hodge, Jr., Dwayne DeGraff, Oakland Benta, Kurt Vialet, Javan James, Sr., Steven Payne, Athneil “Bobby” Thomas, and Novelle Francis, Jr.

 

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