The U.S. Virgin Islands generated $344.3 million from cruise ship revenue during the May 2014-April 2015 season, surpassing Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and 27 other vacation destinations in total cruise tourism expenditures, a study conducted by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association found.
The territory also ranked fourth in total onshore visits, with 1.837 million passengers from cruise ships coming onshore for shopping, excursions, sightseeing and dining.
ST. CROIX - A judge on Thursday approved revised bidding procedures for the sale of HOVENSA's assets under Chapter 11 bankruptcy and also accepted Limetree Bay Holdings LLC as the stalking horse bidder.
"All interested parties are encouraged to come forward with their offers for HOVENSA's assets and all bids will be evaluated through a fair and efficient process to ensure HOVENSA is able to maximize value for its creditors," HOVENSA's chief restructuring officer Thomas Hill said in a prepared statement the company issued Thursday night. "We remain hopeful that a successful sale can be completed before the end of the year and are working diligently toward that goal."
With their debut album, the Rock City boys are bringing the Virgin Islands to the world.
In the process, Theron and Timothy Thomas also want to bring the world to the Virgin Islands.
The St. Thomas brothers - known officially as "R. City" for their debut album because of a trademark dispute over "Rock City" - have spanned the globe with their hit song "Locked Away," promoting the V.I. at every stop in anticipation of today's release of "What Dreams Are Made Of."
ST. CROIX - About 16 local students whose HOVENSA scholarship checks had not been cashed when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 15 should get the funding anyway, after a judge on Thursday authorized it.
At a hearing in Delaware, there were no objections to allowing HOVENSA to pay the outstanding $38,750 for the scholarships, and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath signed the order.
ST. CROIX - Should there be an independent investigation into whether HOVENSA has any possible claims against its parent companies?
Lawyers at a bankruptcy hearing Thursday in Delaware hashed out their positions on that question - with HOVENSA saying an independent investigation is a needless expense for the company's estate, while a committee representing unsecured creditors said it is a necessary one.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp has signed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget bills, along with a $250 million borrowing bill and a bill creating an autoimmune disease registry in the territory, but he vetoed a bill that would have changed the retirement ages for members of the Government Employees Retirement System.
In his transmittal letter sent to Senate President Neville James on Thursday, Mapp said his signing the budget bills sent to him by the V.I. Legislature will allow the V.I. government to spend about $13.7 million to hire government employees for a number of departments.
A St. Croix man was sentenced Thursday in federal court for having prison contraband while serving a sentence for armed robbery and related charges.
Shevron Percival, 25, pleaded guilty in May to having a cell phone, and Chief District Judge Wilma Lewis sentenced him to four months and one year of supervised release and fined him $500.
On May 7, 2015, Percival pleaded guilty to one count of possession of prison contraband. As part of his plea, Percival admitted that he had a cell phone that was found in his basketball shorts while he was an inmate at the Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility on St. Croix.
The deadline for taxpayers who requested the automatic six-month extension for filing their 2014 tax returns is Oct. 15.
When filing the returns, taxpayers should review the address and ensure that it is the taxpayer's mailing address; verify that they have signed their tax returns; and include a daytime telephone number to allow bureau personnel to make contact if necessary, according to a statement the Internal Revenue Bureau issued Thursday.
The V.I. Water and Power Authority has scheduled a road closure of General Gade, beginning Tuesday and lasting into mid-November.
Work on the road from the USO Building to the traffic light by Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School is estimated to be completed by Nov. 17, according to a statement WAPA issued Wednesday.
Traffic will be rerouted around that portion of General Gade to allow water crews to replace a deteriorated 10-inch water main.
ST. CROIX - The Luis Hospital board is back to a bare-bones quorum after Dr. Anthony Ricketts resigned his seat and new board member Vera Falu took hers during the board's meeting Wednesday night.
Ricketts, who tendered his resignation from the board to Gov. Kenneth Mapp on Friday, was at the hospital board meeting on Wednesday to say a few final words. He thanked many people he'd worked with and said he had "enjoyed and appreciated" the opportunity to lead the hospital.
The V.I. Public Works Department will begin two long-awaited road construction projects to improve driving conditions on St. Croix in the coming weeks.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed two contracts on Monday for projects on Sion Hill Road and on Company Street in downtown Christiansted, according to a statement released by Government House on Monday.
V.I. Asphalt Products Corp. received the contract for both projects.
ST. THOMAS - Police are investigating the shooting death of a man whose body was found Wednesday morning with multiple gunshot wounds at the waste bin site at Black Point Hill on the West End of St. Thomas.
Officers were sent to Black Point Hill at 8:05 a.m. after being notified about a body there, police said.
The officers met with a V.I. Police detective who said she was in the area of Brewers Beach about 7:58 a.m. when she was flagged down by a motorist, who asked her whether she knew about the body of a man laying in the former waste bin site.
The Virgin Islands National Park said Wednesday it is increasing fees at the park on St. John beginning Jan. 1.
The move comes after public meetings to discuss options for the National Park Service to increase revenue to spend on maintenance of the parks.
The new fees will apply to Trunk Bay facilities, as well as to overnight mooring spots.
Starting at the beginning of the year, the daily fee for access to Trunk Bay will increase from $4 per person to $5 each. The fee increase will not apply to visitors age 16 or younger, according to a statement the Park Service released Wednesday.
V.I. Supreme Court to webcast court events
The V.I. Supreme Court is now offering live video streaming of its court events through Livestream.com.
The service, which is free to the public, affords users the ability to play back and pause videos during live events similar to DVR functionality.
Archived events also will be available at the Supreme Court's streaming portal at https://www.livestream.com/visupremecourt.
Two St. Croix bin sites set on fire since Oct. 1
The V.I. Waste Management Authority said someone set waste bins on fire at two sites on St. Croix this month.
The V.I. Fire Service has classified fires at the Mon Bijou and Concordia waste bin sites as arson, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Waste Management.
The first fire took place Oct. 1 at the Concordia site in an area with tires that were disposed of illegally, and the second fire happened Wednesday at the Mon Bijou site, where green waste and white goods had been dumped illegally, according to Waste Management.
Police on St. Croix are asking for the community's help in identifying the man in a video that was posted to Facebook showing him setting a chicken on fire and watching it run around before it died.
The incident, which police said occurred Sept. 26, showing several individuals setting the bird on fire about 6:47 p.m. in Mutual Homes housing community.
The video was posted by a Facebook user who goes by the name of "Blacks Lee" and it was uploaded to the "What's Going on St. Thomas" group, where police said it garnered 5,000 views and many negative comments.
ST. THOMAS - Some of the staff in the Lieutenant Governor's Office are under investigation for involvement in the property tax auction manipulation scheme that led to the annulment of more than 100 property sales, the lieutenant governor said Wednesday.
"The investigations continue, and individuals in my office are the subject to investigations, to my understanding," Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter said during a question-and-answer period after a press conference called to address the status of the investigation into the scheme.
ST. THOMAS - A federal drug case against four individuals in the District Court of the Virgin Islands has taken on more meaning as one of the defense attorneys moved to have a judge disqualified because he has served more than the 10 years the lawyer says is allowed by law.
Attorney Joseph DiRuzzo III represents Tamisha McBeam, one of four defendants indicted on charges of selling and distributing marijuana and money laundering.
ST. THOMAS - In 2012, the 29th Legislature passed the landmark Government Transparency Act and overrode Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s veto to require that government agencies post their financial records and expenditures online for all to see.
The legislation, sponsored by St. Croix Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly, mandates that the government of the Virgin Islands "establish and maintain an official Internet website that is electronically searchable by the public at no cost and that contains a comprehensive database of recipients and expenditures of the territory's funds."
ST. THOMAS - Gov. Kenneth Mapp is working on his response to the slew of budget bills passed by the Senate in the waning days of the 2015 fiscal year.
Government House spokeswoman Kim Jones said Tuesday that the governor is working to complete his responses and actions within the 10 days allowed by law after the budget is passed by the V.I. Legislature.
The governor will communicate with the Senate regarding the bills en masse, rather than in individual responses, Jones said.
ST. THOMAS - A brand-new, bright yellow, state-of-the-art fire truck has arrived at King Airport.
The truck, a Global Striker 4x4 aircraft rescue and fire-fighting apparatus, has a computerized operating system and a penetrating "snozzle" that can pierce the walls of a plane to deliver water and foam suppressant into the interior of an aircraft, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Port Authority.
The government's promise to pay out $16 million in tax refunds by the end of September led many to celebrate the potential of getting their money back, but left others wondering why their checks from 2014 and from previous years had not yet arrived.
The inquiries led Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Marvin Pickering and Government House spokeswoman Kim Jones to clarify on Tuesday conflicting and confusing statements made previously by the government.
A boiler malfunction forced the St. Croix abattoir to close its doors until further notice on Monday, depriving the farming community of the only federally approved facility in which to slaughter animals.
According to V.I. Agriculture Department spokesman Cardinal Richardson, the malfunction is the same mechanical issue that led to the closure of the facility for three weeks in August.
"The boiler is not igniting as it should, and as a result, we are unable to operate at our normal capacity," said Richardson. The boiler must be able to get up to 180 degrees for sterilization and sanitation reasons, he said.
A U.S. bankruptcy trustee agrees with the V.I. government that potential bidders for HOVENSA's assets should be able to contact the V.I. government and talk freely to negotiate a deal, according to a filing made Monday in HOVENSA's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
Guy Gebhardt, the acting United States bankruptcy trustee for the region, filed an objection Monday to HOVENSA's proposed procedures to govern the sale of its assets - procedures the company has asked a bankruptcy court to approve.
ST. THOMAS - The material provided to The Daily News by an attorney representing the West Indian Co., was apparently not minutes of the April 14 board of directors meeting, according to a law professor who teaches business and corporate law in Silicone Valley.
At the same time, WICO board members contacted on Monday would not discuss their reasons for their votes or comment about WICO's failure to provide comprehensive public documents.
ST. THOMAS - The loss of the cargo ship El Faro, which supplies groceries, cars and retail products to Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean - including St. Thomas and St. Croix - is not likely to have a major effect on Virgin Islands consumers.
The 790-foot cargo ship, which is owned by TOTE Maritime, the parent company of Sea Star, disappeared en route from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Joaquin on Thursday.
A single classroom at Lew Muckle Elementary School was broken into and vandalized over the weekend, but the V.I. Education Department does not consider the incident to be serious or targeted at anyone in particular.
Sixth-grade teacher Kim Fludd, who started working at the school this year, said she had been planning to take Monday off, but was called in to work by her principal, who told her that Fludd's classroom had been ransacked and asked Fludd to come in to help assess the damage and make a police report.
The Civil Air Patrol composite squadron of St. Thomas, a nonprofit organization that involves teenagers in aerospace education and community service projects, is in need of assistance to keep up with a growing number of participants.
The Civil Air Patrol is the Air Force's cadet program, and participants learn discipline and follow Air Force standards as they learn to fly planes and participate in outreach projects, says Joel Connors, commander of the Civil Air Patrol squadron on St. Thomas.
What is involved a sales process under Section 363 of the bankruptcy code and what is a stalking horse bid? The Daily News asked Lynn LoPucki, an attorney who is a bankruptcy expert and Security Pacific Bank Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California Los Angeles.
According to LoPucki:
- Section 363 says that a debtor in possession of property can sell the property. Under the bankruptcy filing, debtors have a court order shielding them from the claims of creditors, so the sale can move forward. The proceeds of the sale are then distributed to creditors.
ST. CROIX - Declaring that it has no intention of releasing any claims against Hess Oil Corp., or any of that company's affiliates, the Virgin Islands government has filed an objection to HOVENSA's proposed procedures for selling its assets under bankruptcy.
The objection, entered late last week, is one of several objections filed in the Chapter 11 case that HOVENSA initiated in federal bankruptcy court on Sept. 15.
ST. CROIX - In a twist, a potential bidder for the HOVENSA facility has filed an objection in HOVENSA's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, taking issue with the procedures the company wants to use as it sells off its assets.
Buckeye Partners LP has entered the fray in federal bankruptcy court, filing an objection on Thursday to HOVENSA's proposed bidding procedures.
Buckeye has long been rumored to be one of the parties interested in purchasing the oil storage terminal portion of HOVENSA.
In addition to concerns about the fairness of HOVENSA's proposed bidding procedures in the bankruptcy sale, Buckeye Partners LP is also taking issue with a proposed $5.7 million break-up fee.
In fact, Buckeye says in its objection that it is willing to "step into Limetree Bay's shoes and serve as the stalking horse bidder without any break-up fee," provided it receives the same expense reimbursement that is outlined in HOVENSA's proposal.
ST. CROIX - HOVENSA is asking a bankruptcy court for permission to pay on an expedited basis the outstanding amounts it still owes this year on scholarship obligations.
That amount is about $38,750 - and without it, some students on HOVENSA scholarships may not be able to stay in school, according to HOVENSA's motion.
"The debtor believes that immediate relief is necessary to ensure that the scholarship recipients are permitted to remain in school for the 2015-2016 school year," the motion states.
Two separate shootings - four hours apart - rocked Frederiksted early Saturday morning, leaving one man dead.
Officers responded to a 911 call at 5:51 a.m. of shots fired and a man down in the Mt. Pleasant-West subdivision at Estate Prince's Quarters, police said.
At 9:44 a.m., an off-duty officer called in with a report of a vehicle taking a gunshot victim to the Luis Hospital Emergency Room and escorted the vehicle to the hospital.
ST. THOMAS - Sen. Marvin Blyden wants to give government employees the ability to bid on surplus government vehicles, and to give them first choice when cars come up for sale.
He has proposed a bill that amends the Virgin Islands Code to say that the government may not prohibit employees from participating in and bidding for a motor vehicle at a public auction.
The bill says the commissioner of Property and Procurement will create regulations for the conduct of public auctions and the sale and disposal of motor vehicles.
The Energy and Environmental Protection Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in the Lawaetz Conference Room on St. Croix to discuss the USVI Renewable Energy Feasibility Study/Hydro Pump Storage Concept; to hear an update about the V.I. Water and Power Authority's Water and Power Audit Report; and to consider Bill No. 31-0165, an amendment pertaining to government funds.
The Finance Committee will meet at 9 a.m. in Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas to consider the FY 2016 budget.
ST. THOMAS - Claude Walker will seek the support of the Senate Committee on Rules and Judiciary this week as his nomination to become attorney general moves forward.
Walker will testify Thursday at Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp named Walker the acting attorney general in early August. When his nomination was announced, he said he would focus on reducing crime across the territory.
In addition to issues the V.I. government raised about HOVENSA's proposed bidding procedures for a bankruptcy sale, the V.I. government has filed additional objections in the case, including one that takes issue with provisions in a proposed loan agreement between HOVENSA and its owners.
The V.I. government contends that the "insider deal" could elevate billions of dollars of pre-bankruptcy insider funding by HOVENSA's owners and turn it into a secured obligation under the bankruptcy.
The Office of Veterans Affairs has a new benefits advisor at the VA clinic on St. Thomas.
The advisor will be available from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to assist veterans who need assistance initiating claims and checking on the status of existing claims.
The service was being provided periodically, but now it is available on a daily basis, according to Veterans Affairs Director Patrick Farrell.
ST. THOMAS - The man who police said fatally shot another man 10 times after his girlfriend was killed by a stray bullet during a 2013 concert at Coki Point Beach was arrested by the V.I. Police Department Thursday morning and charged with second-degree murder.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Craig King, 33, shot and killed Jumore Lewis, 20, on Oct. 14, 2013, following the death of King's girlfriend, 35-year-old Akilah Godet.
The Police Athletic League, under the direction of the Crime Prevention Bureau of the V.I. Police Department, is beginning the PAL - After School Program.
The program will start Monday at the Police Athletic League facility in Estate Richmond (in the vicinity of the D. Hamilton Jackson Terrace housing community) from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday.
The fee is $25 per student and each participant's immunization record is required at the time of registration.
ST. THOMAS - The attorney for the West Indian Co. on Friday released a copy of the transcript for the WICO board of directors April 14 meeting, but the document has about 60 pages missing and entire sections removed.
"These gaps represent attorney-client privileged discussions," attorney Adriane Dudley told The Daily News on Friday.
The Daily News had filed a public records request in May for records pertaining to WICO's decision to pay tens of thousands of dollars for housing Gov. Kenneth Mapp, and the transcript was one section in a packet of documents Dudley emailed Friday afternoon.
ST. THOMAS - Three senators who took part in Thursday's Committee of the Whole hearing about the governor's housing and spending decisions said Friday that many of the territory's residents feel despair and hopelessness in the current political and economic climate.
"People want answers. People want to know what's going to happen," said Senate Majority Leader Sammuel Sanes.
"When I go out and I mingle with people, you can see that people are desperate. You can see the despair in their eyes," he said. "They want to know when - when is it going to get better. We can tell them about the bills we are passing, but that's little comfort. I understand. I can feel their frustration."
Classes resumed as planned at Central High School on St. Croix on Friday despite 24 teachers calling out sick or leaving early the day before amid complaints of overheated classrooms and contract grievances.
According to St. Croix Federation of Teachers president Rosa Soto-Thomas, the "call-out" was not union-sanctioned, but the concern about a lack of air conditioning and long-overdue pay raises has been prevalent among members.
The V.I. Police Department's Economic Crime Unit issued an update about counterfeit money circulating in the territory.
The fake currency has been discovered in denominations of $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes, with banking institutions and casino operators reporting an influx of complaints.
The bills look and feel real, and the only visible characteristic that can be used to determine whether it is real is through the color shifting ink on the bill.
A month after Tropical Storm Erika tore through Dominica on Aug. 27, the island is still in desperate need of relief to rebuild shattered communities and find permanent housing for 14,291 people left homeless.
Three out of the island's nine communities have been declared in a state of emergency and require entire relocation of the population, according to Loreen Bannis-Roberts, chairwoman of the Dominica Disaster Relief Fund on St. Thomas. She described her recent visit to Dominica as seeing complete destruction.
ST. THOMAS - Representatives of the West Indian Co. again refused to give senators copies of the minutes from two meetings at which the WICO board discussed paying to lease a villa on St. Thomas for Gov. Kenneth Mapp.
The defiance came Thursday, during the second Committee of the Whole session held to discuss why WICO paid tens of thousands of dollars to house the governor.
WICO CEO and President Joseph Boschulte, WICO attorney Adriane Dudley and WICO board chairman Randy Knight appeared before the committee on Thursday, but declined to provide the minutes, which senators had repeatedly said they wanted.
ST. THOMAS - Acting Attorney General Claude Walker wasn't ready Thursday night to wade into the debate about whether the West Indian Co. is truly a public entity that is required under the law to turn over copies of its board meetings to the Senate.
The issue arose as WICO officials again refused to give the Senate minutes from its board meetings of May 14 and June 9.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that WICO is a public entity for the purposes of a lawsuit filed by two former WICO executives.
ST. THOMAS - Sen. Terrence Nelson stood up on the Senate floor Thursday and spoke a word that's been percolating in the territory in recent weeks regarding Gov. Kenneth Mapp and what senators called his "lavish" spending habits.
The word was "impeach."
The action of removing an elected official is actually referred to as a recall election, according to V.I. Code.
"Ultimately, the people have a recourse as well, and it's whether or not they're serious enough to do something about it," Nelson said. "The Senate can vote to impeach, and the people can do it as well."
ST. THOMAS - What was to be a hearing by the Senate on how and why the West Indian Co. came to pay for Gov. Kenneth Mapp's housing on St. Thomas expanded Thursday as one senator after another weighed in on the governor's use of public funds for what Sen. Terrence Nelson called "his rich tastes" and lavish spending of public funds.
It ended with Nelson saying that the people - and the Senate - have the authority to recall a governor, if they can move the masses to act.