Last Friday, the V.I. Taxicab Commission convened only to find itself entangled in a web of longstanding operational and fiscal challenges. A major factor inhibiting swift resolution is the absence of the commission’s Executive Director, Vernice Gumbs, due to medical reasons. Gumbs has been instrumental to the organization’s smooth operation.
The commission took a moment to reflect on past successes, such as the recent endorsement of novel bylaws and the signing of an agreement for the training and certification of cab drivers, which was done in collaboration with the Department of Tourism and the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Excellence in Leadership and Learning (UVI-CELL). Myrna George, Board Secretary and current overseer of the St. Thomas office in Gumbs’s absence, expressed optimism about future initiatives, stating, “The expected advancements will likely manifest sooner than anticipated.”
Nonetheless, pressing matters still linger. These include the pending contract for a new enforcement officer and unsettled payments from two previous invoices. Loretta Lloyd, the Board Chair, highlighted that these unresolved matters have been a significant hurdle in planning and financial operations. The commission’s hopes lie in the Treasury Department’s forthcoming insights on the financial variances, which are causing setbacks in the FY 2024 budget planning.
Current challenges are further intensified by the lack of adequate staffing. Given her unique position, George is now responsible for financial operations in the absence of a cashier. She’s also been managing several other administrative duties until Gumbs’s anticipated return. Surprisingly, enforcement officers have shifted roles to provide administrative support, a move that underscores the commission’s adaptability in these trying times.
The scenario is further complicated by Vice Chair Elizabeth Watley’s notable absence during pivotal discussions. This, George acknowledges, has put a damper on crucial staffing decisions. An increasingly impatient Board member, Sweeney Toussaint, openly lamented the unclear timelines for addressing these primary concerns, labeling the current state as “unsatisfactory.”
Despite the challenges, George remains in constant communication with the ailing director, reiterating that Gumbs is fully committed to propelling the commission forward. However, Toussaint raised concerns about the indefinite wait for Gumbs’s return. He advised the appointment of a dedicated individual to tackle the ongoing hindrances. He emphasized that his recommendation was solution-driven, not an affront to Gumbs’s capabilities.
Lloyd fervently defended Gumbs, arguing that the stagnation is more tied to fiscal strains than any perceived inactivity. Some board members were quick to counter Toussaint’s remarks, stressing that the real issue lies in the staff shortage. George’s dual roles at the commission and her deputy commissioner duties at the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs were cited as a testament to the overwhelming demands.
In concluding the meeting, board members engaged with the public, guiding an individual on medallion transfer procedures and recommending they reach out to the indisposed executive director.