St. John Vendor’s Plaza Clears First Hurdle

Committee on Finance Okays $300,000 Appropriation

St. John artisans will have a place to sell their wares in Cruz Bay one day.

The drive to construct a Vendor’s Plaza in the Cruz Bay area cleared the first hurdle towards becoming reality on Tuesday, May 17, when members of the V.I. Senate’s Committee on Finance unanimously voted to appropriate $300,000 to the Department of Public Works for the structure.

Bill No. 29-0072, sponsored by Senator at Large Craig Barshinger, sailed through the Finance Committee hearing last week despite some senators’ reservations about funding, explained Barshinger.

“There were some difficulties, but they were all surmounted,” said Barshinger. “Two people from St. John testified as well as a number of government officials. Even with the majority and non-majority in the Senate, it was not enough to derail this effort.”

“There were some criticisms that it was too little money and other people were upset that any money was appropriated at all,” said the senator. “Despite all of the objections, we had almost unanimous support for the concept.”

Obtaining approval of the bill was no easy feat in these tough economic times, Barshinger added.

“This is quite exciting to be able to do this in such a tough financial time,” he said. “I think it all depended on having a funding source available, which is the St. John Capital Improvement Fund.”

The Committee on Finance also voted last week to increase the motor vehicle rental surcharge from $2 to $3.75 and to establish a St. Thomas Capital Improvement Fund.

The committee passed Bill No. 29-0081, an act amending Title 20 Virgin Islands Code, Section 425, to increase the motor vehicle rental surcharge to $3.75 and to use the revenues generated from the increased surcharge for the completion of certain capital projects.

The monies will be equally disbursed between St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, according to a press release from the Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

The increased fees will be deposited into the General Fund for use by the Department of Public Works, according to the release.

Speaking in support of Bill No. 29-0075, an act amending Title 33 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 111 to establish the St. Thomas Capital Improvement Fund, Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said the fund would facilitate planning for new construction.

“Presently, there exists the St. John and the St. Croix capital improvement funds, respectively,” said Smalls. “The creation of such a fund for St. Thomas would facilitate the planning for new construction as well as for the reconstruction of existing infrastructure.

Once a viable reoccurring funding source is identified and can be sustained, the Department of Public Works under the direction of the commissioner will be one step closer to fulfilling its mission.”

All bills approved will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Committee on Finance members present were Senator Carlton Dowe, Senator Shawn-Michael Malone, Senator Ronald Russell, Senator Janette Millin Young, Senator Nereida O’Reilly and Senator Samuel Sanes, according to the press release. Non-committee members present were Senator Celestino White, Senator Patrick Simeon Sprauve and Senator at Large Craig Barshinger.