Senate Renaming Road for Eddie Ortiz

The road running past St. Croix Central High School from Queen Mary Highway to Melvin H. Evans Highway will be renamed the "Route 663 Eddie Ortiz Drive," if a resolution proposed by Sen. Sammuel Sanes is enacted.

The Committee on Housing, Public Works and Waste Management on Friday unanimously sent on that measure and a bill to allow the Department of Public Works and Divine Funeral Services to trade about 1,050 square feet of land, clearing up some title and right of way issued.

Introducing the name change, Sanes said Ortiz "was instrumental in pushing for the only road that connects Harvey to the main road." He said Ortiz also started the annual St. Croix Three Kings Day celebration.

"He started it many, many, many years ago and it is still going strong," Sanes said, adding they did not always agree but that Ortiz was always a strong advocate for his community.

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Sen. Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly said Ortiz was a cousin of hers and that she worked with him years ago on the Estate Profit Community Association, where he spearheaded efforts to clean up trash, board up abandoned homes and worked to address problems of addiction in the community.

"He was also very strong in his political beliefs," she said. "And whenever there was an odor or fumes coming from Hovensa, you could always count on him calling each of us (senators) to intervene," Rivera-O’Reilly added.

Voting for the measure were Rivera-O’Reilly, Sens. Marvin Blyden, Jean Forde, Clifford Graham, Neville James, Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Kenneth Gittens.

The committee also approved a measure to authorize Public Works and the owners of Divine Funeral Home to exchange a small portion of land, slightly changing the cadastral maps of their boundaries. It affects a portion of Route 62, adjacent to Plot 129, Peter’s Rest.

Eldon Rey, one of the owners of the funeral home, said that when a survey was done to get a business loan, the survey found a portion of Route 62 is encroaching on the business property and a portion of the business property is encroaching on the government’s.

Public Works Commissioner Gustav James testified in support of the change. No government expense is involved. Senators amended the bill to waive the V.I. statute requiring a property appraisal prior to changing ownership of government property to save unnecessary expense on the part of the business owner.

They also amended the bill to limit the amount of land that is traded to 1,050 square feet.

The measure was approved unanimously.

Later the committee took testimony from James on the status of several Public Works projects and the territory’s cemeteries. Several St. Croix residents submitted written testimony complaining about poor upkeep, trash and homeless people in the Christiansted cemetery.

James agreed they need work but said funding is an issue. Homelessness needs a broader, territorywide solution, he said.

"As commissioner of Public Works, I can’t provide barriers that will make it impossible for homeless persons to enter," he said.

A ferry to run the St. Croix-St. Thomas route, designed through developer Warren Mosler and built by St. Croix by Gold Coast Yachts in Salt River, should be completed in the near future. A second vessel is in the design phase, James said.

Asked when roadwork, funded by federal grant anticipation bonds, or GARVEE bonds, will start, James said the work is still largely in the design phase.

Road work on Route 81 from Rattan to Bunkers on St. Croix is about 60 percent through the design phase, after which the bid process will begin. The bid process will take three months, then work will start at least two months after the bid is selected, he said.

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