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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 15, 2024


In a bid to quell dissent in the ranks of public school teachers and public safety workers, Government House announced Tuesday a broad yet somewhat vague effort to please everyone.
In a release, Gov. Charles Turnbull reiterated his position that teachers are his highest priority. To ensure that there are enough teachers on hand when the new school year starts at the end of August, he said he was "actively pursuing ways to provide a more attractive salary to prevent any anticipated mass exodus of teachers." It did not say where the funding would come from, however, or what the salaries would be.
New teachers are paid approximately $23,000 a year to teach in the territory’s public schools. Unions representing teachers have been negotiating a new contract with the administration but have agreed to keep the negotiations under wraps.
While Turnbull was vague about funding for education, he said he had authorized Police Commissioner Franz Christian to use $567,000 from the Asset Recovery Fund to repair the Patrick Sweeney Headquarters and the K-9 building on St. Croix. The same fund will be used to purchase equipment for the Motor Vehicle Bureau on St. Croix, for repairs to the Forensic Unit and communication system on St. Thomas and St. John and for relocation costs to reduce annual rent expenses, he said.
As of Tuesday evening Government House had not explained what revenue makes up the Asset Recovery Fund.
The Law Enforcement Planning Commission will also give the forensic unit $220,000 to build a structure to house recently purchased equipment. Turnbull also said the police department will receive a $45,361 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to purchase 90 bulletproof vests.
Meanwhile, V.I. Fire Services Director Pedro Encarnacion said the administration is also eyeing $1.5 million in the Asset Recovery Fund to "rectify concerns expressed by (fire) fighters about their working conditions."
Because of a lack of staffing and insufficient funds to cover overtime pay, the Cotton Valley fire station on St. Croix’s east end was closed two weeks ago. Encarnacion said the administration is advertising bids for $250,000 worth of repairs to the Richmond fire station. He said work on the Estate Tutu station on St. Thomas will start once the administration completes cost estimates for the building.
According to a Government House release, Encarnacion is "presently obtaining a clarification of the ability of the Asset Recovery Funds to be used for the purchase of vital equipment." If funding is available, Fire Services will order "essential" firefighting equipment.

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