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Saturday, June 3, 2023
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East End Medical Center, Tourism Request Funds

The Senate Committee on Appropriations and Budget finished up a week of budget hearings on Friday with testimony from the St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation and the Department of Tourism.
STEEMCC, a non-profit 501 (C)(3) publicly supported primary healthcare facility serving the St. Thomas/St. John district, requested an appropriation of $1,580,142. Of that amount, $1,081,054 would go toward personnel services, $290,588 for fringe benefits, $37,200 for supplies, $27,500 for public utilities, and $143,000 for other services and charges. The center also expects to receive $636,313 in federal grant money.
The governor has recommended an appropriation from the General Fund of $1,095,494, an amount equal to the appropriation they received last year and $484,648 less than requested for fiscal year 2010.
The center has been plagued by challenges this year, including the resignation in January of the executive director and the vacancy since October 2008 of the chief financial officer position.
Contract negotiations with a new executive director, said to be a male with Virgin Islands roots, have just been completed and they are hoping for a start date of Sept. 1. In addition, the position of chief financial officer was filled on June 22 with the hiring of Carmencita Dorsett.
Dorsett had her work cut out for her, with $1.5 million in accounts receivables owed to the medical center, but she has managed to collect $60,000 of that in just a few weeks time.
Sen. Carlton “Ital” Dowe told the center’s representatives, including Dorsett, Moleto A. Smith, Jr., chairman of the board of directors, and Dr. Debra Wright-Francis, medical director, “The issue for me is that you have $1.5 million outstanding but at the rate you’re going I am prepared, along with my colleagues, to meet you halfway.”
Present at the STEEMCC hearing were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Dowe, Wayne A.G. James, Terrence “Positive” Nelson, Patrick Simeon Sprauve, and Sammuel Sanes.
Sen. Wayne A.G. James was scheduled to return to St. Croix but cancelled his flight when he learned Tourism would be testifying last. James said, “We would have very few budget hearings if not for this department’s contributions to the territory’s coffers.”
The main issue senators seemed to have with the department is the fact that raises were appropriated by the legislature a few years ago but never received by the department’s employees. Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson Doty informed the committee that although the raises were appropriated, the funds were never released.
Tourism is requesting a budget appropriation of $3,732,734, an amount equal to the governor’s recommended appropriation. The majority of that money, in the amount of $2,046,001, will go toward personnel services, $727,252 for fringe benefits, $805,297 for other services and charges, $30,384 for operating supplies, and $123,800 for utilities. Their request is a reduction of $134,878 when compared with last year’s appropriation.
Doty went into great detail in outlining the department’s goals to increase tourism in the territory, with the focus not only on marketing strategies but also on product development.
“Having a product that sells itself is equally as important as marketing.” Doty said.
She gave a short breakdown of areas in need of improvement, such as more activities and attractions and enhanced transportation on St. Croix. St. Thomas needs to improve roads, airport facilities, public restrooms, and quality of service.
Stressing the importance of the improvements, Doty said, “It’s less expensive to retain a customer than it is to get a new one.”
A secret shopper program is scheduled to commence soon and will further help the department to gauge those areas in need of improvement.
“Taxis are one of the main areas where we get a significant amount of feedback from visitors,” said Doty, adding that they have had participation from some taxi drivers in customer services training offered by the department. James asked Doty if she thought we should have a law requiring all taxi drivers to go through training in order to get a taxi medallion but followed up with an unrelated question and therefore no response was given.
Sen. Carlton “Ital” Dowe requested two things from Doty. Stating the department has too many unclassified employees, with 32 out of 43 employees listed as unclassified, Dowe wants to see some changes made there. He also asked that Doty compose a letter to Police Commissioner Novelle E. Francis, Jr. requesting more police presence in areas frequented by tourists. Tourism gives the police department approximately $800,000 annually for that very purpose.
Both Dowe and James commended Doty on the accomplishments achieved to date and the initiatives taken by her and the department staff. James even told her, “I wish you had doubled your request.”
Present at the tourism hearing were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Dowe, Louis P. Hill, James, Terrence “Positive” Nelson, and Patrick Simeon Sprauve.

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