Government wants HOVENSA off refinery property, seeks receiver to protect assets during foreclosure

ST. CROIX - The V.I. government is asking the court to appoint a receiver to preserve and organize HOVENSA's assets and property and to make the refinery pay up front for the costs of the receiver's efforts.

The government's six-page action for debt and foreclosure - which the territory filed in V.I. Superior Court this week - seeks a variety of other things, including a judgment to remove HOVENSA from the refinery property except to meet its obligations under its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act permit and its obligations to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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St. John man charged with negligent homicide in crash that killed Kean student

ST. THOMAS - A St. John man was arrested and charged in connection with a Jan. 10 car crash that left a 16-year-old boy dead.

Lester Jackson Jr., 27, of Calabash Boom, St. John, was arrested at 11:06 a.m. Wednesday and charged with negligent homicide. His bail was set at $10,000.

Jackson will be advised of his rights in V.I. Superior Court's Magistrate Division at 9 a.m. today.

Police said Jackson, who was the driver of the vehicle, fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of the car causing it to crash into a utility pole.

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Boy pleads guilty to conspiring to murder William Hyde

ST. THOMAS - One of the five boys accused of beating 65-year-old William Hyde to death in 2012 pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder Thursday.

Dionno Brooks, in glasses, a madras plaid shirt and khaki pants, mumbled "Yes, your honor," repeatedly as Superior Court Judge Adam Christian advised him of his rights for a second time and asked Brooks whether he understood what he was doing by entering a guilty plea.

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St. Thomas man charged with raping homeless woman

ST. THOMAS - A St. Thomas man was arrested on rape charges in connection with the sexual assault of a homeless woman.

V.I. Superior Magistrate Judge Henry Carr III found probable cause for the arrest of 51-year-old Kenrick Smith on Thursday.

Smith, of Estate Nazareth, was arrested at 8:40 p.m. Wednesday and charged with first-degree rape and unlawful sexual contact.

According to the affidavit filed by V.I. Police Detective Nigel James, officers traveled to Schneider Hospital on Jan. 15 to investigate an assault that had been reported to police.

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Judge hands down prison time for 4 Imperial Jewelers robbers

ST. THOMAS - Four men were sentenced in District Court on Thursday for the daylight armed robbery of more than $2 million worth of merchandise from a Main Street jewelry store last year.

Shaquim Fredericks, Warkim Gabriel, Alvin Thomas and Chefton Newton, all of St. Thomas, were convicted in July of interference with commerce by robbery; conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery; and conspiracy to use a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Elections System office in the Sunny Isle annex closed on Thursday morning and won't be open again until Monday "as a result of an intense odor that has been identified," according to a statement Elections issued Thursday morning.

The statement said that "corrective action has been taken to address the issue," and apologized for any inconvenience.

Thursday afternoon, business at the Social Security Administration office next door to Elections was bustling, and people there said they had not smelled anything unusual. The Kmart appliance store also was open for business.

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Housing Authority will open waiting list for Sugar Estate senior living facility in February

The V.I. Housing Authority plans to open a waiting list in February for the senior affordable housing development being built in Sugar Estate on St. Thomas, after the agency's board on Wednesday approved a measure that clears the way for the new list.

"I think this is exciting news," Housing Authority board chairman Luis Sylvester said.

Information accompanying the board resolution indicates that its passage would allow the authority to establish a separate waiting list for the Sugar Estate senior living facility, effective Feb. 1, which is Sunday, when the agency will be closed.

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Schneider board OKs $2M in raises for nurses

ST. THOMAS - The Schneider Hospital board voted Wednesday to give $2 million in raises to the hospital's nursing staff.

After an executive session - which is a closed-door meeting allowable by law for a very specific set of reasons - board member Maria Tankenson Hodge reported to the public on the board's actions in executive session.

The board voted to declare a state of public exigency, based on the fiscal challenges facing the hospital, to allow them to approve the raises.

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Sauter-Frett's trial to begin Oct. 19

ST. THOMAS - Almost five years after she went on the run from the law, Rosemary Sauter-Frett is scheduled to stand trial in October.

At a court hearing Wednesday, V.I. Superior Court Judge Denise Francois set Sauter-Frett's trial date for Oct. 19.

The former Realtor is facing a list of embezzlement and fraud charges in connection with the theft of $886,625 that was stolen from the escrow accounts of her clients.

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ST. THOMAS - Former V.I. Police Capt. Enrique Saldana posted a reduced bail amount and will be out on supervised release pending his May 4 trial.

Saldana, the former head of the V.I. Police Department's Criminal Investigations Bureau, is facing murder charges in the death of his wife, Jeanette Magras-Saldana.

The original bail was set at $500,000, but V.I. Superior Court Judge Adam Christian on Wednesday ordered the bail reduced to $100,000.

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St. Croix man charged with forging proof of insurance for 4 vehicles

ST. CROIX - Police on Monday arrested a man accused of forgery for a second time in less than a year, this time in connection with the cards he presented as proof of insurance on four of his vehicles when he registered them.

Aswad Petersen, 31, of Mount Pleasant was arrested Monday morning on a warrant charging him with four counts of forgery and four counts of filing or recording false documents.

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Golden Grove inmate gets 10 years for stabbing, killing fellow prisoner

ST. CROIX - A judge on Wednesday handed down a 10-year sentence to a prisoner who killed a fellow Golden Grove inmate inside the prison during the summer of 2011.

Jahni Hamilton, 28, pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of inmate Adrian Wheatley on July 9, 2011.

Hamilton originally had been charged with first-degree murder; first-degree assault; third-degree assault; using a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence; and a prison contraband charge in connection with the crime.

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Police find 23 lbs. of pot in man's New Works home

ST. CROIX - Police executing a warrant Tuesday morning on a New Works man accused of brandishing a weapon and shooting at a man in Mon Bijou in November said they discovered almost 23 pounds of marijuana in the house.

So, in addition to reckless endangerment, assault and weapons charges, David Brady Jr. also is facing a charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

According to an affidavit filed in connection with the reckless endangerment case, the victim told police he had gone to a Mon Bijou home on Nov. 16 to pick up his children and was on the porch when he heard tires come to a screeching halt.

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Jury finds St. Thomas man not guilty of killing convenience store owner

ST. THOMAS - A V.I. Superior Court jury found Errol Nisbett Jr. not guilty Wednesday in the 2012 murder of Soto-Town Mini Mart owner Ali Yanes.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Nisbett's defense attorney, Alex Moskowitz, said his client should be cleared of all charges because there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

On July 15, 2012, Yanes had just closed up shop and was outside the store getting into his car. Witnesses heard him say, "No, no, no, no, no, no," followed by multiple gunshots, according to Assistant Attorney General Hillary Krepistman, who was prosecuting the case.

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The Caribbean Writer is calling for submissions to its 30th Anniversary edition.

The Caribbean Writer is an international, refereed, literary journal published annually by the University of the Virgin Islands.

Issues unique to the Caribbean should be central to the work, or the work should reflect a Caribbean heritage, experience or perspective.

The 30th Anniversary edition will highlight the theme Journeys and Pathways, and writers are invited to explore this theme in the context of their unique personal, cultural, national or collective Caribbean memory.

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The snowy weather in the northeastern United States caused more delays and cancellations on Tuesday for travelers in the territory.

More than 6,700 flights into and out of the northeast were canceled Monday, including several into and out of St. Thomas. St. Croix's flights are not affected because they leave from Atlanta and Miami, areas that were not hit by the winter storm, according to the V.I. Port Authority.

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Legislators, delegate praise Mapp for frank, hopeful tone of State of the Territory address

V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett and members of the 31st Legislature gave Gov. Kenneth Mapp props for his first State of the Territory address, praising its frankness while they also spoke of feeling hopeful.

"I thought that it was a very substantive State of the Territory, and I was thankful for that," Plaskett said Tuesday. "We get now a clear picture from Gov. Mapp as to what areas he feels are important and what he is going to be working on in this first part of his administration."

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Trial begins for St. Thomas man charged in shooting death of convenience store owner

ST. THOMAS - Errol Nisbett Jr. is on trial in V.I. Superior Court this week for the 2012 shooting death of Ali Yanes, the owner of the Soto-Town Mini Mart.

The jury was selected Monday and heard opening statements from the prosecution and defense before leaving for the night. The jury returned Tuesday to hear witness testimony and evidence from V.I. Police officers.

Crime scene photos showed Yanes' body lying in a pool of blood and curled into the fetal position just steps away from his car. His car keys lay by his feet on the pavement, and his car door stood open.

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Police ID man killed in shooting at Hidden Valley

ST. THOMAS - Police have identified the man killed on St. Thomas Monday night as 21-year-old Ezekiah Joseph.

Police initially said Monday night that Joseph's body was found in Tutu Hi-rise, but on Tuesday, a news release corrected that information, clarifying that the body was found in Hidden Valley Apartments.

A call came in to 911 dispatchers at 6:13 p.m. Monday to report shots fired and when police arrived on the scene they found the body of a man who was shot and killed near Building 21 of Hidden Valley Apartments.

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Quantum of the Seas

Specs

Gross Tonnage: 168,666

Length: 1,141 feet

Max beam: 136 feet

Draft: 28 feet

Cruising speed: 22 knots

Double-occupancy capacity: 4,180

Maximum capacity: 4,905

Balcony staterooms: 1,570

Ocean-view staterooms: 147

Inside staterooms: 373

Amenities

Bumper cars

Rollerskating

Basketball court

Circus school

RipCord skydiving experience

North Star observation capsule

FlowRider surf simulator

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National Park hosts open house today to discuss proposed fee hikes for mooring, Trunk Bay entrance

The V.I. National Park is hosting an open house and discussion today to get public input about a proposal to raise the Trunk Bay entrance fees and overnight mooring fees in the park on St. John.

The meeting will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Virgin Islands National Park Visitors Center in Cruz Bay. For those unable to attend the open house, information on the proposed increase is posted on the park web page, and starting today, people can leave comments about the fee changes at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/viis_2015_fee_changes.

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ST. CROIX - In his first State of the Territory address Monday night, Gov. Kenneth Mapp painted a bleak picture of the territory's financial state, said things would get worse before getting better and described some steps he believes will help turn things around.

Just three weeks into office, Mapp spoke often in the speech - which was punctuated by frequent applause - of the need to work together to deal with the problems.

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"Our problems are great, and there are no easy fixes. Personality conflicts which tend to obscure our path to a brighter future will have to be set aside for the greater good of this territory if we are to be successful."

USVI debt

"Today, this new administration must begin to manage your affairs with a critical shortage of funds and obligations that far outpace revenues projected for Fiscal Year 2015."

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Woman extradited from Fla. to face forgery charges in V.I.

ST. THOMAS - Antionette Warner, 27, was extradited to the territory from Florida and advised of her rights Monday in connection with a scheme to steal more than $60,000 from the V.I. government.

Warner is charged with obtaining money by false pretense and forgery.

Following a nine-month investigation, the V.I. Justice Department's Special Investigations Unit arrested Tameika Ward, 25, of Bovoni on Jan. 8 on fraud charges.

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VIPA pays company $5K/day to idle in V.I. until it gets Crown Bay dredging permits

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Port Authority is paying a dredging company $5,000 a day to keep its equipment in the territory, in hopes the federal permits come through and work can begin on the Crown Bay dredge project.

Port Authority Director of Engineering Dale Gregory said if the contractor, Orion Marine Construction Inc., packs up its $4 million worth of equipment and goes back to Jacksonville, Fla., it will cost $500,000 to have them mobilize to come back to finish the Crown Bay project.

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Man killed in shooting Monday at Tutu Hi-Rise

ST. THOMAS - Police had few details Monday night on the territory's fourth homicide of the year.

A call came in to 911 dispatchers at 6:13 p.m. Monday to report shots fired in the Tutu Hi-Rise area on St. Thomas.

When police arrived on the scene they found the body of a man who was shot and killed near Building 21 of the Tutu Hi-Rise housing community.

"Major crime detectives are investigating," Police spokeswoman Melody Rames said Monday.

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BVI boat accident kills 2, injures 4 early Saturday

A boating accident in the British Virgin Islands last weekend left two people dead and four others in the hospital.

The Police Marine Unit and Virgin Islands Search and Rescue responded to a call about 2:45 a.m. Saturday morning reporting a boat crash on the north side of Virgin Gorda.

The officers found a boat on the rocks at Mountain Point with five men in it, one of them already dead, according to Royal Virgin Islands Police spokeswoman Diane Drayton.

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Gov. Kenneth Mapp's 2015 State of the Territory address

Mr. President and members of the 31st Legislature, Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter, honorable justices of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, honorable judges of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, honorable members of the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Delegate to Congress, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, members of the Cabinet, the reverend clergy, and my fellow Virgin Islanders; good evening.

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HOVENSA has held gasoline prices steady now for a dozen weeks

ST. CROIX - For the 12th week in a row, HOVENSA left the wholesale price of gasoline and diesel fuel at its truck racks unchanged today.

HOVENSA, which has said it plans to shut down operations on St. Croix by March 1, does not intend to replenish its fuel supplies.

Regular and premium gasoline, along with diesel fuel, were still available at HOVENSA's truck loading station as of Friday, but it was not clear how much longer supplies would last.

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Quantum of the Seas to make first V.I. visit on record-breaking day

ST. THOMAS - Tuesday will see a record-breaking amount of visitors arrive in on St. Thomas as the Quantum of the Seas makes its maiden voyage to the island.

"Tuesday is going to be an incredible record-breaking day for the Virgin Islands and the port of Charlotte Amalie," Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said. "It will be the first time a Quantum class and a Genesis class ship is in at the same time.

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Mapp to set forth his agenda tonight

Gov. Kenneth Mapp will offer his perspective on the current state of things at 7 tonight, as he takes the podium before the 31st Legislature to deliver his first State of the Territory Address.

With his fledgling administration just three weeks in office, Mapp is likely to offer a new perspective on the events and issues that have impacted and shaped the territory over the past year - and the years of the previous administration.

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Diase Coffelt says she refused to be Mapp's puppet

ST. THOMAS - During a press conference Friday, Gov. Kenneth Mapp's initial choice to be his V.I. Attorney General, Soraya Diase Coffelt, said she quit 10 days into her tenure because she refused to be a puppet.

During her press conference, Diase Coffelt accused Mapp of reneging on a promise not to micro-manage her department and making staffing decisions without telling her. She also accused Terri Griffiths - the attorney who replaced her as attorney general temporarily until Griffiths will be named solicitor general - of breaking the law, and she claims Mapp's chief of staff, Randy Knight, forced her to fire someone she hired to help with personnel matters.

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St. Croix students bring island history to life

ST. CROIX - The idea for the "Who Lived Here" project - which teaches children local history by embracing the past and the future - hit Valrica Bryson in the middle of the night.

"I have insomnia. I don't sleep," said Bryson, a teacher who chairs the music department at Elena Christian Junior High School. "So I think about different things I can do with students."

Struck with the idea that local students needed to learn more about their own histories, the histories of their families and the history of the island, Bryson developed a unique curriculum aimed at teaching children research skills and history through focusing in on the island's buildings and what they might reveal if the walls could talk.

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St. Thomas man pleads guilty to gun charges

ST. THOMAS - A man pleaded guilty to two firearms charges in District Court on Friday.

A federal grand jury handed up an indictment for Joseph Roberts Jr. in December in connection with a shooting that took place near Julius Sprauve School on St. John on Oct. 16.

According to the indictment, Roberts was found with a .40-caliber pistol and 12 assorted rounds of .40-caliber ammunition within 1,000 feet of the school.

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ST. THOMAS - Shandos Powell was sentenced Friday to 45 years in prison for shooting 33-year-old Akil Greig 15 times in the Motor Vehicles Bureau parking lot.

The sentencing was interrupted Friday when, after addressing the court in an emotional plea for justice, Greig's mother passed out and the court room was cleared. She was taken away by ambulance before court reconvened, and V.I. Superior Court Judge Denise Francois sentenced Powell.

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Authorities investigate fire, murder at Mandahl house

ST. THOMAS - Firefighters and police are investigating a house fire that they believe was set to cover up a murder.

Just after 8 a.m. Friday, a 911 call was made to report a house on fire in Estate Mandahl.

V.I. Fire Services Assistant Director Daryl George said two units from Lima Company in Tutu were dispatched.

"It was very difficult terrain to get to the fire," George said. When firefighters extinguished the blaze, they discovered a body, he said.

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Firefighters extinguish blaze in Mongoose Junction

A fire in Mongoose Junction on St. John on Friday took all day to get under control and left several businesses in ruins.

No one was hurt in the blaze.

Assistant Fire Service Director Daryl George said the fire was called in about 11:13 a.m. Friday, and three units from Zulu Company fire station in Cruz Bay were dispatched.

He said the 911 call said the fire was in the area of the Tap Room bar.

"They found heavy smoke and fire coming from said business," George said.

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Free screenings of 'Selma' for V.I. high school students

ST. CROIX - ViVid Streaming and NBA superstar Tim Duncan are offering local high school students a chance to view the motion picture "Selma" at no cost to them during two screenings, one on St. Thomas this afternoon and one on St. Croix on Tuesday evening.

"The critically acclaimed film chronicles a three-month period in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s crusade for equal voting rights in 1965, including the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.," a statement from the online radio station ViVid Streaming said. "Dedicated to providing opportunities for the youth of the Virgin Islands to learn and grow, it is the sincere hope of Tim Duncan and ViVid Streaming that this movie will both educate and inspire the students who view it."

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WAPA signs off on 2 new St. Croix solar facilities

ST. CROIX - The V.I. Water and Power Authority on Thursday signed off on two 25-year agreements to purchase six megawatts of solar power for St. Croix from facilities that are under development.

WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said the agreements with St. Croix Solar will provide a long-term, cost-effective renewable source of electrical energy, while reducing the overall cost of electric energy for WAPA customers.

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WAPA board OKs fuel deal with Puerto Rico supplier

ST. CROIX - The V.I. Water and Power Authority board on Thursday approved a new source for obtaining the No. 2 fuel oil that fires its generators, after HOVENSA's plan to shut down its petroleum storage terminal on St. Croix by March affected the utility's current supplier.

The board authorized executive director Hugo Hodge Jr. to enter into a contract with Trafigura AG to supply fuel oil to WAPA power plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

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St. Thomas man gets 31 years for coercion, producing child porn

ST. THOMAS - A St. Thomas man was sentenced to 31 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release Thursday for tricking young girls into sending him sexually explicit photos and then trying to use the photos to coerce them into having sex with him.

District Court Judge Curtis Gomez said the one word he would use to describe Tony Jefferson Browne's actions was "predatory."

Before Gomez issued his sentence, two of Browne's victims approached the court. The girls, who are still minors, were only referred to in court by their initials.

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Gov. Kenneth Mapp sent 12 nominees names to the V.I. Legislature for confirmation on Thursday:

- Pedro Cruz - Sports, Parks and Recreation commissioner.

- Vivian Ebbesen-Fludd - Human Services commissioner.

- Milton Potter - Personnel director.

- Eugene Farrell - Fire Services director.

- Gustave James - Public Works commissioner.

- Beverly Nicholson-Doty - Tourism commissioner.

- Carlos Robles - Agriculture commissioner.

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Staff shake-up adds to drama at Justice

ST. THOMAS - A week after her resignation - which came after only 10 days on the job - Soraya Diase Coffelt is holding a press conference today to talk about her experience and her reasons for leaving the post of V.I. Attorney General under Gov. Kenneth Mapp.

Diase Coffelt's announcement comes after days of controversy swirled around her resignation and as several staff members have also resigned or been terminated.

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Excerpt from the letter sent by "The Staff of the Virgin Islands Department of Justice" on department letterhead:

"We, the employees of the Department of Justice are in a state of shock after becoming aware that our new Attorney General Soraya Diase Coffelt has resigned after one week. This department after 8 years of failed leadership looked forward to embracing new leadership, and we are truly disappointed that Judge Diase Coffelt thought it best to leave us. There are many serious issues to be addressed in this department and we had faith in her abilities, but we understand that she has moral standards that she must adhere to.

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Family Resource Center honors 2015 Peacemakers

ST. THOMAS - The Family Resource Center honored three St. Thomians who, by their passion and care for others, demonstrate the essence of a peacemaker at the nonprofit's 2015 The Peacemaker Gala on Thursday night at Prior-Jollek Hall at The Antilles School on St. Thomas.

The honorees are boxing legend Julian "The Hawk" Jackson and Judge James Carroll III and his wife, Celia Carroll.

They were recognized for their servitude and the influence they have had in leading others to having a more meaningful life and their determination to guide and develop productive individuals within and beyond the St. Thomas-St. John District.

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4 V.I. soldiers return home

ST. CROIX - Four airmen of the V.I. National Guard's 285th Civil Engineering Squadron who had been deployed in Kuwait returned home Thursday to the USVI and a joyful crowd of family and friends who met them at Rohlsen Airport.

Sr. Airman Keithlyn Bailey, Staff Sgt. Akil McFarlande, Staff Sgt. Anthony Harley and Tech. Sgt. Shawn Bartley had deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in July and were welcomed back by their commanding officer, Maj. Michael Hinrichsen.

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GERS raises contribution rates for Tier II employees by 1% per year

During its regular monthly meeting Thursday, the Government Employees Retirement System board increased contribution rates for Tier II government employees.

The new rates will be implemented Feb. 5.

In November, the board voted to increase the contributions for Tier I employees effective Jan. 1. At the time, the board could not make the same increase for Tier II employees - those hired after Oct. 1, 2005 - based on the law. That law was amended by the Senate before the end of the year and allowed the board to make the same increase for Tier II employees.

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Luis Hospital board reaffirms wage, hiring freezes

ST. CROIX - The Luis Hospital board on Wednesday reaffirmed a March 2013 board mandate requiring a wage and hiring freeze at the hospital, except for certain positions or circumstances.

"We have decided we would just like to reaffirm so that those mandates that have been sent down from the board previously will be taken into consideration as we move forward," board chairman Dr. Anthony Ricketts said Wednesday at the board's regular meeting.

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Fort Christian gets a fresh paint job

ST. THOMAS - Fort Christian is returning to the deep red color that so many people know and love.

Last weekend the contractor, Custom Builders, began to paint the eastern wall, turning the white-washed exterior walls the familiar color.

The fort first was shuttered almost 10 years ago for renovations, but a number of delays have kept the historic site closed to the public far longer than planned.

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St. Croix Elections Board finally elects leadership

ST. CROIX - After failing twice this month to muster a quorum, the St. Croix Board of Elections on Wednesday finally was able to get enough members at a meeting to conduct business, and they elected Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal chairwoman.

After some back and forth - in which members Lisa Harris-Moorhead and Roland Moolenaar both said they did not want to be vice-chairman - Harris-Moorhead eventually agreed to step in to be vice-chairwoman temporarily, and the board plans to revisit that position when more members are present.

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