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Governor Bryan Advises Against Drinking WAPA Water in St. Croix Due to Lead

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In a proactive move addressing recent concerns over water quality, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a comprehensive “no drink advisory” for the potable water system on St. Croix. Residents are urged to avoid consuming tap water until its safety is assured, reflecting a cautious approach by the administration.

This advisory follows the unsettling disclosure over the previous weekend. Despite earlier assurances about St. Croix’s brown water’s safety, analysis of a significant portion of water samples revealed the presence of elevated copper and lead levels. Responding to these findings, the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) introduced several precautionary measures. Residents were advised to let their water run for a few minutes before usage to help flush out potential contaminants, likely originating from pipe stagnation. Other suggestions included employing water filters, with a clear reminder that boiling water does not remove lead. Particularly in Diamond, Castle Burke, Colquohoun, and Mon Bijou areas, where high metal concentrations persist, residents were strongly advised against tap water consumption.

Governor Bryan’s advisory, relayed by the Government House on Monday evening, extended the cautionary measures beyond the areas initially identified by WAPA. Until the water’s safety is affirmed, the community is recommended to use bottled water or other verified safe sources for both drinking and culinary purposes.

In a bid to uphold public safety, WAPA, alongside the USVI government, continues to liaise with the Environmental Protection Agency to refine testing methodologies for the utmost precision, as conveyed by the Government House.

During a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. alluded to forthcoming details from a Joint Information Centre discussion. Following this, WAPA communicated a scheduled system flush in the Colquohoun area via a social media post, anticipating temporary sediment disturbance.

The issues affecting the St. Croix water distribution system are recurrent, ranging from brown water grievances, sargassum odor problems, frequent leakage, to the newly discovered potential chemical hazards. Amid these challenges, WAPA reiterated its long-term objective: a comprehensive refurbishment of St. Croix’s water distribution infrastructure, entailing an upgrade of 681 miles of ductile iron pipes under the Prudent Replacement program.

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USVI Community Pulse

Christiansted’s Old Barracks Set for Revival with Humanities in Place Grant

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The V.I. Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts (VIAC) has received a significant boost for its project to transform the Old Barracks property on Hospital Street, Christiansted, into an educational center focused on built heritage, historic preservation, architecture, and the building arts.

On Thursday, VIAC announced a $200,000 Humanities in Place Grant from the Mellon Foundation. This grant, aimed at supporting “a fuller, more complex telling of American histories and lived experiences,” will fund strategic planning and design for the project. The revitalized Old Barracks property will feature spaces for community and cultural heritage displays and activities, aligning with the Humanities in Place goal of fostering innovative approaches to understanding and celebrating diverse histories.

“With this grant, our first from a private foundation, we begin to plan for and develop the content that will be featured in our exhibit, studio, auditorium, and library/archive that are part of our proposed development of the site,” said VIAC Board Chair Mary Dema. “According to our business plan, this creates a cultural center in Christiansted that can become an attraction for residents and visitors alike.”

The project planning team will now engage with local stakeholders and experts for their input into the process.

Earlier this year, VIAC secured $850,000 in community project funding from the federal government for the Old Barracks project, thanks to successful requests from Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2024. “These requests reflect the priority my office places on the need for community development and providing more economic opportunities for our most vulnerable populations,” Ms. Plaskett said at the time.

Additionally, VIAC obtained funding to ensure the comprehensive research and documentation of the 256-year-old property’s history. A $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, through the National Endowment for the Humanities, supports VIAC’s Storytelling project. This project is gathering historical material to develop a curriculum and conducting interviews for an eventual documentary.

VIAC also secured long-term stability for the project with a 50-year lease from the Virgin Islands government. “We are thankful to Governor Bryan, the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, and the Department of Property and Procurement for facilitating the acquisition of the lease, which is vital to our development efforts,” said Ms. Dema.

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USVI Community Pulse

V.I. Parole Board to Review Cases of Manslaughter, Robbery, and Fraud

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The V.I. Parole Board has released its schedule for parole hearings in June, inviting testimony from victims, family members, and other interested parties.

To submit testimony, written comments or requests to appear before the Board must be sent by May 30, 2024. Correspondence should be addressed to:

Chairman of the Parole Board
John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility
Rural Route 1, Box 9909
Kingshill, VI 00850-9715
Phone: (340) 773-6309 ext. 6817
Email: [email protected]

Hearing Schedule

June 3:
Edwin Rivera, convicted of second-degree robbery and currently incarcerated at the Citrus County Detention Facility in Florida, will have his parole application reviewed.

June 5:
Five inmates from the Tallahatchie County Facility in Missouri will be heard:

  • Jahzeel Fenton – First-degree assault (domestic violence)
  • Yamini Potter – Grand larceny, identity theft, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice
  • Jim Wallace – Voluntary manslaughter
  • Elieser Edwards – First-degree robbery
  • Dekumar Rogers – Unauthorized possession of a firearm

June 7:
The board will review the case of Mekel Blash, serving a sentence for second-degree murder, from the Wallens Ridge State Prison, Keen Mountain Correctional Facility, and Red Onion State Prison in Virginia.

June 10:
Applications from inmates at the John A. Bell Correctional Facility will be considered:

  • Francisco Tirado – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • Ethelbert Benjamin – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • William Wilson – Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute

June 11:
The board will hear applications from inmates of the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex:

  • Curtis Petersen – Stalking (domestic violence)
  • Edward Paul – Unauthorized possession of a firearm
  • Ray Sanderson – First-degree attempted robbery
  • Shamall Fleming – Second-degree assault (domestic violence)

Public Advisory

The Parole Board reminds the public that parole eligibility is based on the inmate’s sentence and V.I. parole statutes. Inclusion on the eligibility list does not guarantee parole or a scheduled hearing. Parole can only be granted on the recommendation of the Director of the Bureau of Corrections. Additionally, release dates depend on various conditions, including approval by the State Council of Interstate Compact for the Supervision of Adult Offenders.

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USVI Community Pulse

USVI Prosecutors and Public Defenders Now Eligible for Law School Loan Repayment Grants

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Prosecutors and federal public defenders in the U.S. Virgin Islands now have a chance to ease their law school loan burdens through a new grant program.

The Virgin Islands Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) has announced the acceptance of applications for the John R. Justice Grant Program. This initiative, established during the Obama administration, provides loan repayment assistance to qualifying prosecutors and public defenders who commit to staying in their positions for at least three years.

This year, the LEPC has secured $51,840 in grant funds for the program. They plan to distribute approximately 10 grants of around $5,000 each, although the final amount could vary based on the number of applicants. “Awards may increase depending on the number of respondents,” the LEPC stated.

The grants are available to full-time federal public defenders and prosecutors. Full-time is defined as working at least 75% of a standard 40-hour work week. The selection process will prioritize applicants who demonstrate the greatest financial need in repaying their student loans.

The application process involves several steps: income verification, school loan verification, and the completion of a John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program Service Agreement. Applicants must also submit additional documents, including education loan records and proof of employment. The LEPC has indicated it will work with the Department of Labor to account for any increases in the cost of living.

Applications must be submitted electronically to the LEPC by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at [email protected]. Incomplete applications or those lacking required signatures and documents will not be considered.

For further information or to request an application, interested parties can contact Ms. Carmen Potter, Executive Assistant to the Director, at (340) 774-6400 or via email at [email protected].

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