Senate Panel OKs Leases for Farmers, Trucker

Errol Chichester testifies at Friday's meeting of the Senate Finance Committee. (Barry Leerdam photo for the V.I. Legislature)
Errol Chichester testifies at Friday’s meeting of the Senate Finance Committee. (Barry Leerdam photo for the V.I. Legislature)

Two proposed leases Friday were not moneymakers for the Virgin Islander government, Finance Committee members greeted the leasers warmly and moved the leases on to the full body with a favorable recommendations.

The leases were lots to established farmers. Reuben Liburd and Sylvia Liburd are leasing two acres at Plot No. 4-LA VICORP Land, Prince Quarter, St. Croix, and Violet Drew and Samuel Tyson are leasing 3.7 acres at Plot No. 4-G VICORP Land, also in Prince Quarter, The leases are for 20 years. The Liburd lease is for $41 per year and the Drew-Tyson lease is for $73 per year.

“The mission of the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture is to support and promote the development of an economically profitable agriculture industry in the U. S. Virgin Islands,” said Errol Chichester, assistant commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.

He added the Virgin Islands currently imports more than 90 per cent of its food.

He had positive words for both farming teams. He pointed out that Reuben Liburd and Drew had both been honored as Crop Farmer of Year in different years at the St. Croix Agfair.

The Liburds grow tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, beans, sweet potatoes, sorrel and other crops. They sell their produce at La Reine Farmers Market.

Tyson grows melons, tomatoes, squash, peppers and herbs to sell at Ra’s Sonrise and Daughter Stand Farm in Upper Love. Drew also runs a restaurant in Upper Love.

The only concern expressed by the senators at Friday’s hearing was where was the next generation of farmers was going to come from. Drew told senators the younger members of her family were going where the money was and the money was not in farming.

Another lease moved forward by the committee Friday will earn the government almost $10,000 a year.

Vincent Richards, deputy commissioner of the Property and Printing Division of the Department of Property and Procurement, advocated approval of a lease agreement between Dave Jeffers, doing business as Paradise Trucking Service, for an unimproved land parcel, No. 99b-3 Submarine base No 6 Southside Quarters, St. Thomas. The tenth of an acre parcel will be used to operate a trucking, transportation and delivery service. The lease is for 10 years and includes a five-year option. Lease payments are monthly at $828.

Jeffers has been in the trucking business for 15 years. After the hurricanes his company was a contractor involved in clean-up on St. Thomas and St. John. His business presently has two employees.

“Once the committee has approved this lease and I have a home base to operate from, I could increase the number of employees as the business grows,” he said.

As part of the lease he is expected to invest $50,000 to erect a maintenance shed and office after clearing the property of trees, grass and shrubs and leveling the land.

“If approved, this lease will assist a locally owned small business to achieve its goals of expansion and improved operations,” Richards said. “This businesses will also continue contribute to recovery of the United States Virgin Islands, and the long-term expansion of our economy.”

Sen. Stedmann Hodge, noting that Jeffers had made his application for the lease in December 2017, said the process was taking too long.