The Public Works Department will host a meetiing at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at the St. Croix Education Curriculum Centre, Estate Clifton Hill, to take public comment on the improvements to the Clifton Hill Connector Road project on St. Croix, Federal Aid Project No. Q-NH-75(3).

The proposed project will improve the conditions of existing Route 75, Clifton Hill Road. Enhancements include improvement of the vertical alignment; installation of sidewalks; drainage control improvements; and the reconfiguration of the Clifton Hill intersection with Route 66, Melvin Evans Highway and LaReine Intersection at Queen Mary Highway at the south and north terminals of the project.

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UVI turns to bricks to raise funds

The University of the Virgin Islands has established a solid foundation to raise money - literally.

UVI has launched a "Buy a Brick" campaign that allows individuals, businesses and others to purchase an inscribed brick that will be placed in one of three areas on the UVI campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Bricks can be imprinted with a person's name, an organization or a date commemorating a special event.

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Centerline Road work set to begin this week

The Public Works Department said construction will begin on Centerline Road in St. John as the second phase of a project to repair damage from previous tropical storms.

The "Emergency Relief Repair Project" is funded by the Federal Highway Administration and has been in progress for a while, according to Public Works' federal-aid highway program manager Wystan Benjamin.

However, the contracts were delayed under the new administration, Benjamin said Monday.

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Despite rumors, removal of trash bins not fazing Frenchtown

ST THOMAS - The V.I. Waste Management Authority has not formally received any complaints from Frenchtown residents regarding the removal of trash bins, despite rumors reportedly circulating around the community.

There have not been any calls to Waste Management regarding the removal of solid waste collection carts from the residential area near Twisted Cork restaurant, according to Waste Management Authority spokeswoman Kysha Wallace.

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Former Property and Procurement boss charged

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Attorney General's Office has reopened a criminal case against former Property and Procurement Department Deputy Commissioner Halvor Hart III.

Charges of embezzlement and violation of a felony corruption law were filed Monday against Hart in connection with his use of a government-issued credit card at the Home Depot store beginning in 2009.

The new charges allege that at least $28,965.41 in unauthorized charges were made in 2009 and 2010 on a credit card used solely by Hart, and that he personally made unauthorized charges on that card.

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Alzheimer's patients get a room of their own

The Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged has unveiled a new multi-sensory environment room for its residents, which is designed to promote intellectual activity and encourage relaxation for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.

The completed room, which includes tactile, audio, and visual stimuli, is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, and was introduced during an opening ceremony on Saturday at Christiansted facility.

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Fourth person arrested in property tax auction scheme; more pending

ST. THOMAS - Real estate developer and attorney Paul Sabers was arrested Saturday night at King Airport, accused of conspiracy in a scheme to rig a property tax auction.

"Special agents met Paul Sabers at the St. Thomas airport and took him into custody for processing at the police station," Attorney General designee Claude Walker said Sunday. "He was later remanded to jail where he is currently awaiting to be advised of his rights before a Superior Court magistrate on Monday morning."

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Little change predicted for V.I. in hotels' merger Westin St. John says data breach did not affect its customers

The Westin St. John Resort was not one of the hotels affected by the data breach that allowed hackers to see credit and debit card information for guests of Starwood Hotels and Resorts properties, according to general manager Tina Cranford.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts reported hackers were able to see cardholders' names, as well as card numbers, security codes and expiration dates, for customers who dined or shopped at 54 of its hotels. The malware found in payment systems at hotel restaurants, gift shops and other retail areas has since been removed, according to Starwood.

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Little change predicted for V.I. in hotels' merger

It will likely be "business as usual" for the tourism industry, despite the recent acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts by Marriott International, according to Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association president Lisa Hamilton.

The merger between the chains as the result of a $12.2 billion deal will create the largest hotel chain in the world, combining more than two dozen brands.

Four hotels in the territory fall under Marriott International or Starwood Hotels and Resorts brands, including Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort, The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort and Spa and the Westin St. John Resort.

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Officers responding to gunshots find body inside burning pickup

Police on St. Croix are investigating the death of a person whose body was found Thursday night inside a burning car.

Officers were dispatched to a call of a burning vehicle about 10:30 p.m. in Estate Betty's Hope, near the former Texaco site.

Police received a second call about 10:37 p.m. reporting gunshots in the same area.

Responding officers found a white pickup truck fully ablaze.

The V.I. Fire Service arrived moments later and extinguished fire, and a body was discovered inside the vehicle.

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Day of Caring for St. John's homeless

The second of three annual events by United Way to help the homeless - Project Homeless Connect's "Day of Caring" - took place on St. John on Friday.

The United Way and the V.I. Human Services Department conduct the annual event in conjunction with local nonprofits, volunteers and businesses.

Services ranged from medical care and free health screenings to legal advice, free showers, massages, give-away bags filled with toiletries and other necessities, food, clothing and counseling.

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Rain plus flamboyant trees equals butterflies

The sudden abundance of butterflies flitting throughout the territory over the last few weeks is because of the beginning of the rainy season and the blossoming of flamboyant trees, according to Department of Planning and Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife biologist Julio Santiago.

The increase in water availability and growth of new flowers provides ample resources for the proliferation of the winged insects, Santiago said.

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Highlights from the V.I. Inspector General's audit

These are the major findings from the V.I. Inspector General's 2014 audit of delinquent property tax auctions conducted by the V.I. Lt. Governor's Office.

Bid manipulation scheme

- Changes to the bidding process allowed individuals to fraudulently manipulate the bidding process to prevent potential bidders from making legitimate bids on properties offered at public auctions.

- In 16 instances the highest bidder was not awarded the property purchased.

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Ag fair promises local flavors, arts and more

ST. THOMAS - The 32nd Annual St. Thomas/St. John Agriculture and Food Fair, a two-day event showcasing local produce, live entertainment, and educational displays, starts this morning at the University of the Virgin Islands Reichhold Center for the Arts.

The fair, which is hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service, the V.I. Agriculture Department and Fintrac, is a great opportunity for residents and tourists alike to sample local flavors and come together as a community, said Agriculture Commissioner designee Carlos Robles.

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4 charged in property tax auction scheme

ST. THOMAS - Three St. Thomas men - including a former high-ranking administrator in the Lt. Governor's Office - made their initial appearance in court Friday, charged in connection with an alleged bidding scheme that compromised the territory's property tax auction process in 2012 and 2013.

The trio - Calford Charleswell, Edward McKenzie and Sylvester Warner - were each charged with conspiracy and violation of the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.

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Judge delays HOVENSA sale

ST. CROIX - A hearing Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court during which a judge was to consider the sale of HOVENSA's assets to the best and highest bidder took an unusual twist, after allegations surfaced about the possible corruption of the auction process.

"I think that there are serious concerns about collusion," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath said after hearing the issues raised, as she set a Dec. 17 date for an evidentiary hearing to look into what happened with the auction for HOVENSA's assets, whether there was any collusion - and whether the V.I. government may have had a chilling effect on the bidding.

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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Port Authority has decided to "stick with the contractor" performing airport apron rehabilitation work at St. Croix's Rohlsen Airport, despite delays and the fact that the contractor is being assessed $1,000 a day in damages.

Better Roads Corp. won the $3.3 million bid for the apron rehabilitation project in October 2014, but a report delivered at the Port Authority board of governor's meeting Wednesday said "significant progress is still woefully lacking."

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In wake of poisonings, changes to Pesticide Act

ST. THOMAS - The Department of Planning and Natural Resources has announced plans to promote natural alternatives to toxic pesticides and to draft new applications for commercial and purchase permits related to pesticide application.

The decision came Wednesday during the "Reducing Pesticides in the US Virgin Islands" conference at the Charles W. Turnbull Regional Library, co-hosted by DPNR and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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WICO pitches $2M overhaul for Havensight Mall

ST. THOMAS - At Thursday's meeting of the Government Employees Retirement System board, the West Indian Company pitched a capital improvement project for Havensight Mall that is designed to boost customer traffic by improving accessibility and aesthetics.

However, the proposal will cost GERS $2 million.

Anthony Ottley, director of property management for WICO, presented plans for the project along with architect John Woods during the Government Employees Retirement System board meeting on Thursday.

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In unanimous vote, GERS board suspends personal loan program

ST. THOMAS - The Government Employees' Retirement System board unanimously reaffirmed its previous decision to keep the personal loan program on hiatus for "the good of the trust," and passed a motion to reclassify the suspension as "indefinite" during the regular board meeting on Thursday.

The personal loan program, which was "temporarily" suspended in August, was discontinued for new applicants amid concerns over GERS' financial state and the need to preserve funds to pay out benefits to retirees.

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'Taste of St. John' fundraiser is Saturday

St. John Rotary will host its annual fundraiser, Flavors - A Taste of St. John, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Westin Resort.

The evening begins with a wine-tasting and will feature food and beverages provided by the island's finest restaurants and caterers paired with vintages from St. Thomas' best wine distributors.

Live music will be provided by CMK Plus.

There also will be a silent auction and a vote for the "People's Choice" award.

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Library on route

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources has extended its VITRAN bus service on St. Thomas to include the Charles W. Turnbull Regional Library near Tutu Park Mall.

The fixed bus route in the "country" was implemented Nov. 10, which now extends the current route at the Tutu Park Mall to include service to the Charles W. Turnbull Regional Library during its hours of operation.

Generally, the rural route bus will arrive to the Tutu Park Mall at 9:15 a.m.; 11:15 a.m; 1:15 p.m.; and 3:15 p.m.

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ST. THOMAS - VITRAN will resume Saturday bus service on all three islands this weekend and will offer free rides this Saturday to celebrate the return of weekend service.

The new service was mandated into law when Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed legislation in early October requiring weekend and holiday bus service in the territory.

"This is a great start," said Sen. Almando Liburd, one of the co-sponsors of the bill that required the extended services. The other co-sponsor was Sen. Marvin Blyden.

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ArcLight emerging as preferred HOVENSA bidder

The bankruptcy auction for HOVENSA's assets is set to reconvene this morning, after it adjourned Wednesday night without a winning bid selected.

However, a source close to the negotiations indicated on Wednesday that ArcLight Capital Partners may be emerging as the V.I. government's preferred bidder.

The successful bidder in the auction must secure a tax concession agreement with the V.I. government for the sale to close, which gives the government some influence in the selection of the successful bidder to present to the judge - although a number of factors could come into play.

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Former Fire Service director new St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator

ST. THOMAS - Gov. Kenneth Mapp has named former Fire Service Director Merwin Potter Sr. as the new St. Thomas-Water Island administrator.

Potter replaces Lawrence Boschulte, whose resignation was announced Monday night by Government House.

Potter told The Daily News on Wednesday he sees his new job as one "to solve most of the public issues before they reach the governor" and "to represent the governor in his absence at any function he cannot attend."

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Seaborne told to spiff up waiting areas

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Port Authority board of governors voted Wednesday to send Seaborne Airlines a letter detailing the board's concerns about the appearance of the airline's passenger waiting areas on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Board chairman Roberto Cintron initially voiced concern about telling a leaseholder to clean up its place.

"Unless we have minimum standards" written into the contract, then VIPA "can't tell them how to run their business," he said.

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Facing write-offs, V.I. Port Authority to require delinquent renters to sign consent agreements

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Port Authority board voted Wednesday to make tenants who are in arrears with rent sign a consent agreement before the agency will agree to any payment plan arrangements.

The board made the move as it heard a report about uncollectible debt totaling more than $250,000.

Board member Claude Walker, the acting attorney general, said that Port Authority property management has heard "empty promises, month after month" from some tenants who are behind in their rent payment.

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Aviation division, St. Croix ports bleed Port Authority's finances

ST. THOMAS - Losses in the Aviation Division drove entity-wide operating losses for the Port Authority for the year ending Sept. 30, the VIPA board of governors were told during their monthly meeting Wednesday.

"On an accrual basis, VIPA incurred a $9 million operating loss; $258,000 more than budget and $7.4 million lower than last year's actuals," Chief Financial Director Donna Frett Gregory told board members.

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Luis Hospital's gardens get adopted

The Luis Hospital and the Patient Family Council have created an Adopt-a-Garden program to assist with landscaping and beautification of the hospital's gardens and grounds.

According to project coordinator Linda Garvin, the beautification project started in June, when hospital budgetary constraints led to a cutback on groundskeeping personnel.

Garvin said Francis Clouden, the Emergency Room director of the hospital, proposed the idea out of the desire to provide a more attractive atmosphere for patients who are waiting for emergency room treatment.

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Bill calls for independent inspector general

Whether the V.I. Office of the Inspector General will be an independent agency of government will be the topic of a hearing today before the Senate Government Services, Veterans and Consumer Affairs Committee.

The committee will consider a bill proposed by Senators Clifford Graham, Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly and Sammuel Sanes to re-establish the inspector general's independence after a 2002 attorney general's Letter of Advice that the office is "situated structurally within the executive branch" and is "subject to the usual statutory obligations of all executive branch agencies."

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Senator's request got lost in the mail

ST. THOMAS - The Office of Management and Budget did not receive a letter from Sen. Clifford Graham last month asking for information about government credit cards because it was sent to the wrong person.

"It was human error," Graham said Tuesday night.

Office of Management and Budget Director Nellon Bowry realized his department had not received the request when The Daily News referred to the letter in an article Saturday.

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Government mum about St. Thomas administrator change

ST. THOMAS - Government House is not offering any information about who will replace Lawrence Boschulte as the St. Thomas-Water Island administrator or why he is leaving the position he took less than a year ago.

Government House issued a statement Monday night saying that Gov. Kenneth Mapp accepted the resignation of St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Lawrence Boschulte.

The release contained no other information, and included only a prepared statement from Mapp thanking Boschulte for his service.

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Judge gets update, then delays HOVENSA sale hearing

ST. CROIX - A federal bankruptcy judge on Tuesday pushed back the date for a hearing on the sale of HOVENSA, after an attorney for HOVENSA told her they are trying to find consensus among the parties.

On Tuesday - the date that had been set for the sale hearing - lawyers instead provided a brief update to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath on the auction of HOVENSA's assets.

Attorneys at the hearing in Delaware indicated that the auction had adjourned Monday without a date to continue and that they are engaging in negotiations with the different parties involved in the bankruptcy case to reach consensus.

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Ex-HOVENSA suitor suing ArcLight Capital

ST. CROIX - A former potential buyer of the HOVENSA refinery has filed a lawsuit alleging that current potential buyer ArcLight Capital Partners stole its deal with HOVENSA.

Atlantic Basin Refining filed the lawsuit in federal court in the territory on Monday, alleging that ArcLight Capital Partners and JP Energy Partners wronged ABR by unjustly enriching themselves; by interfering with existing business relationships; by misappropriating Atlantic Basin Refining's business ideas, plans and strategies; and by breaching their fiduciary duty.

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UVI's Etelman Observatory to be open to the public Friday

The University of the Virgin Islands College of Science and Mathematics and the Etelman Observatory will host a free public observing session using the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday.

Guests will be able to view the waxing gibbous Moon among other sights, including deep sky objects.

The evening also will feature a video presentation and lecture discussing the assortment of objects, natural and man-made, that occasionally cross Earth's path.

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V.I. procurement officers to learn federal standards

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Department of Property and Procurement is conducting intensive training this week to certify its contracting officers in using federal standards for negotiating and managing contract work.

"This is a preventive measure that we are putting in place," said Randolph Bennett, the commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement. "This is one of the measures we are doing to protect local funds."

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R. City on 'The Voice' at 9 tonight

The Rock City boys will be back on network television tonight - on one of America's most popular shows.

St. Thomians Theron and Timothy Thomas, also known as R. City, will perform their hit single "Locked Away" with Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine on "The Voice" at 9 p.m. tonight on NBC.

Levine is a coach on the hit show, and helped boost the Virgin Islanders' single to platinum status.

The song is still No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 list and has spent 16 weeks on the chart, recently reaching a peak of No. 6.

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No winner yet in HOVENSA bankruptcy auction

ST. CROIX - An auction of HOVENSA's assets adjourned Monday night without a clear winner emerging, while negotiations with parties to HOVENSA's bankruptcy case were ongoing.

The negotiations will help determine which bid in the auction is the best bid - and whether a proposed order to sell the assets to that bidder can be presented for a decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath without any objections from other parties in the case.

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BMV on St. Croix open today after burglary

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles closed its St. Croix District offices on Monday morning after a break-in during the weekend, in which computer monitors were among the items taken.

However, no personal data has been compromised, according to Bureau of Motor Vehicles Director Lawrence Olive.

"None of the information was compromised," Olive said. "We saw several computer monitors were missing, but the hard drives were still there."

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4 charged in cocaine smuggling bust

ST. CROIX - Federal agents investigating tips about people smuggling drugs onto the island took into custody four men who agents say were found at Smuggler's Cove early Saturday with suitcases containing more than 200 pounds of a substance believed to be cocaine.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lodged a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court on Monday against Jose Hodge, Gamalier Rohlsen-Arizmendi, Alejandro Marva-Romero and Jesus Burgos-Montanez, charging them with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute and possession of cocaine powder with intent to distribute.

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Victims named in fatal boat crash

ST. THOMAS - The two people killed in a boating accident between Water Island and Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas on Sunday night have been identified as Giorgio Bertrand and Lydia Lima, according to the victims' family and friends.

Johanna Lima confirmed her aunt, Lydia, died as a result of the accident.

Heidi Erwing, owner of Heidi's Honeymoon Grill and friend of Bertrand, said she was not a witness to the accident but had heard of his death from mutual friends.

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Hemp legislation held as AG criticizes proposal

ST. THOMAS - Debate escalated in the Senate on Monday over whether the U.S. Virgin Islands should allow the cultivation of industrial hemp as an agricultural product.

The Rules and Judiciary Committee heard testimony regarding a bill forwarded by Senators Terrence Nelson, Clifford Graham, Myron Jackson and Tregenza Roach that would exclude industrial hemp, a plant from the same family as marijuana, from the definition of a controlled substance, so farmers, specifically on St. Croix, could grow the fibrous plant with support from the Agriculture Department and the University of the Virgin Islands.

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Man extradited in Sapphire Village slaying

ST. THOMAS - A man accused of stabbing his 60-year-old roommate to death last year was extradited from Florida and charged with nine counts of murder, assault, unauthorized use of a weapon and destruction of records.

Jason Brian Coulter, 31, made his initial court appearance Monday on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and other counts. He was arrested Friday, after being extradited from the Orange County Sheriff's Department Correctional Facility in accordance with an arrest warrant signed in February by Superior Court Judge James Carroll III.

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ST. THOMAS - Government House and the Legislature have failed to respond to several public record requests submitted by The Daily News a month ago.

The newspaper sent five public record requests - four to Government House and one to the Senate - on Oct. 15 for an accounting of travel expenses and other spending.

The law says any resident of the Virgin Islands has the right to inspect documents and records of the government. Virgin Islands Code defines "public records" to include all records and documents of or belonging to the territory or any branch of government in the territory or any department, board, council or committee of any branch of government. The law notes that "it shall be unlawful for any person to deny or refuse any citizen of this territory any right under this chapter, or to cause any such right to be denied or refused." The 30 day time frame since the requests were filed is important because former acting attorney general, James Carroll III told The Daily News that it was his opinion that a government agency should respond to public records requests within 30 days.

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Senate to discuss hemp production

ST. CROIX - The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee today is set to take up the question of whether or not cultivating industrial hemp should be allowed in the territory.

The industrial hemp bill - sponsored by Senators Terrence Nelson, Tregenza Roach, Myron Jackson and Clifford Graham - in June got a nod from the Senate Committee of Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning.

Today's Rules Committee meeting is the next stop for the bill on the way to possible consideration by the whole Legislature.

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2 dead, 3 hurt in boating crash

Two people were killed and three injured Sunday night in a boating accident near Water Island.

According to V.I. Police Commissioner Delroy Richards, five people went to Honeymoon Beach in a dinghy when they hit a piling. A man and a woman were thrown off the boat and drowned, he said. The other three were injured.

A "good Samaritan" noticed the small vessel in trouble and brought the occupants to Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas, according to Coast Guard Sector San Juan watch officer Melvin Ramos.

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The family poisoned by methyl bromide is "not in good shape," according to EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith Enck.

Enck said the two teenage boys are still in the hospital, and that three of the four family members poisoned will likely never recover from severe neurological damage.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp announced in July that the company that applied the pesticide, Terminix International, would face criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office, although the U.S. Attorney's Office did not offer comment at the time. An investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources determined that Jose Rivera, the Terminix branch manager, applied methyl bromide, which is not approved for use in residential areas or around people.

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Family's poisoning leads to pesticides conference

Wednesday, nine months after a family was poisoned by methyl bromide on St. John, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources will be co-hosting a "Reducing Pesticides in the V.I." conference to educate the hospitality sector on alternative uses for pest management.

The conference, which is the first of its kind in the Virgin Islands, is a direct response to the incident in March, in which four members of the Esmond family suffered severe medical complications after being exposed to fumes during their stay at Sirenusa, according to EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith Enck.

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Marathon HOVENSA bankruptcy auction continues today

ST. CROIX - An auction for HOVENSA's assets that was conducted over two days last week before adjourning on Wednesday is scheduled to resume this morning and could wrap up today.

A hearing, where a variety of motions in HOVENSA's Chapter 11 case will go before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath, is scheduled for Tuesday in Delaware. The winning bid - and a backup bid - could be presented at Tuesday's hearing. The sale cannot occur without the judge's approval.

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The first of three annual events by United Way to help the homeless - Project Homeless Connect's "Day of Caring" - took place on St. Croix on Friday.

The United Way and the V.I. Human Services Department conduct the annual event in conjunction with local nonprofits, volunteers and businesses.

Services ranged from medical care and free health screenings to legal advice, free showers, massages, give-away bags filled with toiletries and other necessities, food, clothing and counseling.

(read more)


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