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Leftover Problems Slowing Progress at Licensing

June 25, 2007 — Responding to complaints about the pace at which business licenses are being issued under his administration, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said officials circumvented established procedures during the previous administration, making it look like the process was more streamlined.
“What we found is that, in the past, the license-renewal process had bypassed obtaining necessary stamps of approval from various agencies in government, giving the public the perception that the process was efficient,” deJongh said in a recent news release from Government House.
As a result, Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Kenrick Robertson has concerns about the circumventing of the licensing procedures. He now insists that officials follow the correct process and that all agencies involved in license renewal follow the letter of the law. In fact, one source said recently that Robertson is reviewing each application personally.
This, deJongh said, gives an impression that the system has slowed down.
In an attempt to untangle the bureaucratic nightmare that obtaining a business license can be, deJongh brought together several key players recently to discuss the process, the release said.
At the meeting, deJongh heard from Robertson, Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Gizette Thomas, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Robert Mathes, Wanda Mills of DPNR, Environmental Health Director Felecia Lang, Health Inspectors Duane Maduro and Stevie Webster, Corporations and Trademarks Director Denise Johannes, St. Croix Fire Marshal Alejandro Rivera and St. Thomas Fire Marshal Richard Lindo.
According to Robertson, officials even kept DLCA's enforcement division out of the loop during the previous administration. He attributed the rise in bars and nightclubs to that fact. "The enforcement team is charged with looking at each application to determine whether the location is compatible with the area … that bars and restaurants and not too close to schools, churches and residences," the release said. The absence of enforcement in the process "has contributed to bars and restaurants popping up in inappropriate locations,” Robertson said.
The ultimate goal of the administration is not only to streamline the entire process but to make it more customer friendly, whether a license is new or a renewal, deJongh said.
"We should continue to refine the process using modern-day technology to reduce the time and effort our business owners put in to get their licenses in order,” he said. Licensing is also working to place the renewal process online on the department’s website: dlca.gov.vi.
Although licenses were being processed via the website, there were problems, including the fact that the final license being issued could have been altered. "We are working with our web master to ensure that this product is a read-only and printable document," the release said.
Calls Monday to former Licensing Commissioner Andrew Rutnik were not returned.
In the years that he was commissioner, Rutnik was vocal about wanting to see the licensing process done online. The department developed the website under his supervision. However, he has said in the past that problems occurred when trying to link the site to other pertinent departments with DLCA's process.
Meanwhile, the release from Government House said follow-up meetings are planned with a goal of seeing licenses issued or renewed within 10 days from application to issuance.

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