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USVI Community Pulse

Fresh Produce Reward for Health Expo Participants in the Virgin Islands

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The Virgin Islands Division of Personnel, in partnership with the GESC Health Insurance Board and Cigna, has announced a special initiative to distribute fresh local produce to attendees of the 2023 Virtual Annual Health and Wellness Expo. This initiative, which follows the successful online event held on July 13, is part of a broader effort to encourage a healthy lifestyle among the government employee community by providing the fruits of local agriculture.

Participant Eligibility and Verification

To be eligible for the complimentary produce bags, individuals must be active Cigna employees, Cigna retirees under the age of 65, or their dependents, who have both registered for and participated in the expo. Proof of identification will be required at the time of collection to verify participant eligibility.

United Healthcare members who attended the expo can expect a similar distribution event. Details on this will be communicated in the near future by the GESC Health Insurance Board in collaboration with United Healthcare.

Scheduled Distribution Events

The Division of Personnel has organized drive-through events for the collection of produce bags at the following locations and times:

  • St. Croix: November 13, 2023, at the DC Canegeta Ball Park, from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.
  • St. John: November 16, 2023, at the Cruz Bay Band Stand/Gazebo, from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.
  • St. Thomas: November 17, 2023, at the Emile Griffith Ball Park Parking Lot, from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.

Online Resources

For those who could not attend the live event, the Division has made all presentations and a full recording of the expo available at the GVI Wellness website under the resources section.

Ongoing Health Initiatives

The Division of Personnel reaffirms its commitment to promoting health and wellness among government employees, emphasizing that maintaining good health is invaluable. The community can anticipate ongoing and new health-centric programs from the GVI Wellness Program.

Inquiries and Contact Information

Should there be any questions about the produce distribution or the wellness program, Ms. Ladee Shanna Martin, the Wellness Program Coordinator, is available for contact via email at [email protected] or by phone at 340-774-8588, extension 5252.

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USVI Community Pulse

Property Managers Face New Licensing Rules in Virgin Islands Real Estate Overhaul

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Significant changes are on the horizon for the Virgin Islands’ real estate industry, which has remained largely untouched since 1968. Senator Novelle Francis announced on Monday his intention to modernize the sector with the introduction of Bill 35-0193, aimed at closing legislative gaps that have allowed for financial exploitation to the detriment of the local community.

Senator Francis noted that the outdated laws have led to the industry being perceived as a “wild wild west where anything goes.” The proposed bill seeks to enhance consumer protection through new definitions, licensing requirements, continuing education mandates, and disclosure obligations, thereby bolstering the regulatory role of the Real Estate Commission.

A key feature of Bill 35-0193 is the new requirement for property managers to obtain a property management license. Laurent Alfred, chair of the Virgin Islands Real Estate Commission and a drafter of the bill, emphasized that property managers have long operated without adequate oversight, causing public confusion. Developing the new property manager exam is projected to cost around $92,000.

The legislation also lowers the minimum age for entering the industry from 21 to 18, encouraging youth participation as apprentices. The Department of Labour will support training these apprentices.

The bill introduces several licensing categories: Short Term Rental Licenses for owners of short-term rentals like Airbnbs, and an Apartment House License for owners of more than four long-term rental properties on the same land. Notably, property owners renting up to four long-term units will not require a license.

To ensure practitioners are familiar with the local community, a 90-day residency requirement for operating in the Virgin Islands’ real estate market is also included.

Industry leaders have praised the proposed changes. Dan Savaro, president of the Territorial Association of Realtors, and Ava Gail Bourdon, president and Principal Broker at RE/MAX St. Croix, both commended the bill for providing a solid regulatory framework for future generations. B.J. Harris, vice chair of the V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Real Estate Commission, highlighted the importance of understanding fiduciary duties and accounting practices for property managers.

Despite general support, Carl Gotts, vice president of Vacation St. Croix, voiced opposition, particularly regarding association with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which recently settled a lawsuit for $418 million over anti-competitive practices. Gotts also raised concerns about the new license’s potential impact on collecting the 12.5% Virgin Islands hotel tax, though Alfred clarified that tax collection would remain unaffected by the regulation changes.

Senator Marise James suggested refining the bill’s language, while Senator Carla Joseph sought clarity on the implementation timelines for the new rules and educational requirements. Horace Graham, assistant commissioner of the DLCA, proposed a grace period for the educational component, estimating a reasonable timeframe of 90 to 180 days for compliance once the program is established.

Bill 35-0193 will next be reviewed by the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, alongside a companion bill to establish a property manager position on the Real Estate Commission.

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St. Croix Road Closure and Water Outage Scheduled for May 22

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ST. CROIX — The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) has announced a temporary road closure and water service interruption on St. Croix for Wednesday, May 22, due to critical maintenance work.

These disruptions are part of the ongoing Hannah’s Rest Waterline Rehabilitation project. The affected area will involve a two-lane closure on Queen Mary Highway, west of the Emancipation Drive intersection, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Motorists are advised to use alternative routes to avoid delays. Traffic control measures, including flaggers, will be in place to assist with navigation.

Additionally, residents in the Smithfield, White Lady, White Bay, Stony Ground, Two Brothers, Mars Hill, and Wheel of Fortune areas will experience a water service interruption from approximately 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. WAPA has provided a detailed map indicating the impacted areas and suggested detours.

This temporary inconvenience is necessary to facilitate a tie-in operation by WAPA’s Water System Maintenance crews and their contractor, Marco St. Croix. WAPA appreciates the community’s patience and understanding during this period of essential maintenance aimed at improving the local water infrastructure.

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Urgent Search Underway for Missing St. Croix Man Known as “Smiley”

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The Virgin Islands Police Department’s Forensic/Identification Section of the Criminal Investigation Bureau has issued a critical missing person alert for Raymond Ward, 62, affectionately known as “Smiley.” Ward, originally from St. Kitts, was last seen by a family member on April 29, 2024, and has not been seen since.

Ward is described as a Black male with a slim build, standing 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 147 pounds. He has distinctive brown and gray dreadlocks and a light complexion. When last seen, he was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. The details of his shoes are unknown.

He is known to frequent areas around Sion Farm, Sion Hill, Sion Farm Shop, and H&H Tire & Battery, as well as the Five Corners region.

Authorities urge anyone with information about Ward’s whereabouts to contact Officer T. Cox at the Wilbur Francis Command Police Station at 340-778-2211 or Officer M. Joseph at the Ancilmo Marshall Command Police Station at 340-773-2530. Information can also be provided to the 911 Emergency Call Center at 340-772-9111 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

The VIPD appeals to the community for assistance in ensuring Mr. Ward’s safe return to his family.

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