April 5, 2004 One hand did not know what the other was doing, said Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission Chairman Edwin Davis as he explained the recent flap concerning money thought missing from the commission's funding.
The brouhaha began March 26 when the commission announced it had to stop all programs, including the popular recycling program in St. Thomas and St. John, because its account were empty.
He said that unbeknownst to the commission, the Legislature had been appropriating money from the fund for myriad purposes. Most of them were related to cleaning up the island, but a few in previous Legislatures went for unrelated purposes.
"We kept on planning on having that money," Davis said.
He said that neither the Budget Office nor the Finance Department let the commission know when money was used for other purposes.
"They didn't send us a letter that this had happened," he said.
He expects that communications between the commission and the two departments will now improve.
"We need to stay in constant contact," Davis said.
He said that Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull and Budget Director Ira Mills worked diligently to get to the root of the matter.
Davis said that while initial reports indicated the commission was missing more than $500,000 in funding, he said Monday the account was actually short $252,000.
In any case, the commission was forced to halt all programs. However, Davis said that the programs will resume once the coffers start to fill from the beverage tax collected from the sales of bottles and cans. He said March and April are big revenue months because of St. Thomas' Carnival.
According to Davis, the tax raises about $3 million a year.
He said that the contract with H & V Recycling, which started running programs in St. Thomas and St. John in February, is good for a year. This means that the commission will not have to put the contract out for bid like it did nearly two years ago when the commission had funding issues. This caused a big delay.
"Once we get money, he [H & V Recycling] can start up," Davis said.
He said it is important to get that program back on track because it keeps items out of the dump.
Davis said the contract may be extended because H & V Recycling has lost revenue during this hiatus.
The commission operates on a budget of $1.8 million a year, commission director Cordell Jacobs said.
Meanwhile, residents have stockpiles of aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, glass bottles, plastic, newspapers, and office paper waiting to be recycled. In St. John, someone left a big bag of cans at the spot where H & V Recycling usually showed up on Wednesdays. Davis said the commission will make sure it's cleaned up.
Davis suggested that residents stockpile items in anticipation that recycling will return soon.
St. John resident Emily Burton is planning to do just that. She's taking her blue and clear glass to Maho Bay Camps, where her brother makes decorative objects out of recycled glass, but the rest of it will get stashed beside her house.
"I hate throwing it out," she said.
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