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Governor Bryan’s Decisive Actions Amid Water Crisis Highlight Leadership and Resolve

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Glass at water tap and filling water with lead contamination

In a decisive response to the critical water contamination issue in St. Croix, Governor Albert Bryan has taken commendable steps, demonstrating his commitment to the well-being of his constituents. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Governor Bryan promptly declared a local state of emergency on October 30, 2023, paving the way for a robust and effective response to this public health challenge.

The governor’s initiative is in direct response to alarming reports from the Environmental Protection Agency, which revealed concerning levels of lead and copper in the water supply of St. Croix. The discovery, based on water samples taken in late September, has prompted Governor Bryan to take swift and significant actions to safeguard the residents and ensure public safety.

Key initiatives by Governor Bryan include:

  • Implementing price controls on bottled water and water hauling services to protect consumers from unfair pricing.
  • Deploying the Virgin Islands National Guard, showcasing his ability to mobilize resources effectively.
  • Engaging the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) in St. Croix, ensuring a coordinated and efficient emergency response.

Governor Bryan has reached out to President Joe Biden, seeking an emergency declaration to provide additional federal support to the territory. This move could potentially unlock up to $5 million in resources, vital for tackling the crisis and aiding recovery efforts. The proposed emergency period, from November 15, 2023, to February 13, 2024, highlights the governor’s foresight in planning for both immediate and longer-term needs.

The territory has not been idle since the EPA’s announcement. A Joint Information Command was activated on October 16, extensive water sampling has been conducted, and proactive measures like testing school-aged children for lead exposure are underway. The governor’s office is also planning to distribute water vouchers and provide water purification equipment, further underscoring their commitment to resolving the issue.

Governor Bryan’s call for federal assistance is a strategic move in managing this environmental challenge and ensuring the continuous provision of safe, clean water to the residents of St. Croix. His leadership in these trying times is a testament to his dedication to the territory’s health and safety.

Residents with health concerns can access support through the Department of Health hotlines, available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The governor’s office, in collaboration with local agencies, is maintaining a stance of transparency and prompt action in addressing this emergency. Updates will be provided as the situation progresses.

For further information and ongoing updates, the public is invited to visit the official website: https://www.vi.gov/jic/.

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Government

Marijuana Regulations Approved in the U.S. Virgin Islands

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The U.S. Virgin Islands has taken a significant leap forward in its cannabis program with Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s approval of comprehensive rules and regulations governing marijuana use and distribution. The announcement was made during a press briefing on Tuesday by Government House Communications Director Richard Motta.

The newly sanctioned regulations establish a structured framework for both medicinal and adult use of cannabis. This dual approach aims to facilitate recreational cannabis use under regulated conditions while ensuring its availability for therapeutic purposes. According to Mr. Motta, the regulatory environment “provides special protections and benefits to medicinal cannabis users.”

Previously available in draft form for public comment, the regulations detail the process for obtaining various licenses and certifications necessary for participating in the cannabis industry. These roles include designated caregivers, prescribing physicians, licensees, third-party vendors, and consultants. Mr. Motta emphasized the importance of contacting the Office of Cannabis Regulation for those interested in getting involved.

Governor Bryan has expressed pride in the legislative and executive efforts that led to these comprehensive regulations. Notably, the Virgin Islands is the first U.S. jurisdiction to allow for the sacramental use of cannabis, recognizing its cultural significance. “With a closed economy such as ours, the governor believes it is important to provide opportunities for residents to participate in the program, whether as business owners, partners, employees, or patients,” added Motta.

In addition to facilitating legal cannabis use, the regulations address past injustices related to cannabis convictions. The new rules include provisions for the automatic expungement of certain cannabis-related crimes, enabling individuals previously marginalized due to past convictions to participate in the legal cannabis market. This initiative is part of a broader effort to promote social equity within the industry.

The governor’s approval marks the culmination of a long process of drafting and vetting. The regulations have been reviewed for legal sufficiency and are now ready for implementation. “For those of you who have been eagerly anticipating the rules and regulations for the adult use and medicinal cannabis rollout in the territory, they have officially been completed,” announced Motta.

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Bryan Names Kevin Rodriguez as Interim Island Administrator for St. Thomas/Water Island District

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Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has appointed Kevin Rodriguez, his former deputy chief of staff, as the Interim Island Administrator for the St. Thomas/Water Island District. This change follows Administrator Avery Lewis’s decision to pursue a seat in the 36th Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

Under Virgin Islands law (Title 18, Chapter 1, Subsection 2 of the Virgin Islands Code), candidates for the Virgin Islands Legislature must take a leave of absence from their government positions from the date they file their nomination petition until the general election concludes. Lewis filed his nomination papers on May 22, prompting the need for this interim leadership adjustment.

“Avery Lewis has been a dedicated and committed servant to the St. Thomas/Water Island district. Although we will miss his contributions in his current role, we support his decision to run for the Legislature and wish him success in his future endeavors,” Governor Bryan said.

Rodriguez’s appointment as Interim Island Administrator is backed by his extensive experience in public administration and his deep understanding of the community’s needs and challenges. Gov’t House officials believe his leadership will ensure a smooth continuation of services during this transitional period.

“I am confident that Kevin Rodriguez will effectively assist the residents of St. Thomas and Water Island during this time of transition. His proven record of effective management and community engagement makes him well-suited to advance our progress,” Governor Bryan added.

The governor expressed his gratitude to both Lewis for his service and Rodriguez for stepping into this vital role at a significant time for the islands.

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Central Government Staff Honored at Employee of the Year Ceremony

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The Government of the Virgin Islands recently celebrated its most outstanding employees in a series of ceremonies on St. Croix and St. Thomas. More than 6,000 government employees were eligible, but only a select few were honored for their exceptional service and contributions to their divisions and the community.

At the ceremony in St. Croix, Division of Personnel Director Cindy Richardson highlighted the critical role these employees play in enhancing the operations of their agencies and improving the quality of life across the territory. She lauded the honorees for their exemplary service and professionalism.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. dispelled the notion that government workers are lackadaisical, instead praising the honorees for their dedication and impact. “You are pretty special,” he affirmed, acknowledging their positive influence within the community and among their colleagues.

Senate President Novelle Francis identified the honorees as the “cream of the crop,” and spotlighted Alfred Donowa, the employee of the year from the facilities management division in St. Croix. Donowa was praised for setting a high standard for his team. In St. Thomas, Adele Thomas was recognized as the employee of the year for her role as a receptionist in the Legislature’s offices.

The Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach also took part in the celebrations, commending employees like Carmen Francis from the Real Property Tax Division for her exceptional customer service, and Chris George from the Geographic Information Systems Division for his leadership.

The ceremonies not only recognized the honorees’ professional excellence but also their passion for their roles within the government. Lieutenant Governor Roach emphasized the importance of ongoing professional development to maintain job satisfaction and retain valuable staff.

The list of honorees included individuals from various departments such as Rachel Haverkorn of the Office of the Governor and Marianne Navarro from the Virgin Islands Lottery. From the Department of Agriculture, Maxine Richards was honored, and from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Diana Gumbs took the title. Belgrave Stedman was recognized from the Water and Power Authority, celebrated for his achievements despite public skepticism about the utility’s successes.

These ceremonies serve as a vital reminder of the dedicated individuals who contribute significantly to the functioning and improvement of government services in the Virgin Islands.

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