Gov. calls for second special session in 2 weeks


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ST. THOMAS - Despite a request from the Legislature to push the date back, Gov. John deJongh Jr. is sticking with his decision to call the Senate into special session Wednesday.

Friday, he sent notification to Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone that he was calling the senators into special session to consider a Coastal Zone Management permit to allow the V.I. Port Authority to conduct dredging operations in Crown Bay off St. Thomas and to amend Act. No. 5089 to allow the Port Authority to authorize a bond issuance without having to get Legislature approval for reissuance of the bonds.

The specific capital projects tied to deJongh's amendment request are for improvements at Crown Bay on St. Thomas, and Gallows Bay and Ann Abramson Pier on St. Croix.

In responding to the governor, Malone asked him to consider allowing the Senate to take up the matters during a session planned for July 28.

The Senate originally planned to conduct a legislative session today to consider bills, nominations and other matters, but that agenda has now been moved to July 28, according to Malone.

In a letter sent to Malone on Saturday, deJongh said while he appreciates Malone's request, the Port Authority's needs are urgent and cannot wait.

"My call for the special session is solely driven by the urgent need expressed by the Virgin Islands Port Authority, the restricted timeframe to complete a major infrastructure project, and your cancellation of the July 21st session," deJongh said.

He indicated that the CZM permit has been at the Legislature since April, and no action has been taken.

"Failure to approve it to date has reduced the already limited cushion of time that previously existed, and now the ambitious timeline necessitated by the imperative to complete this project at the Austin 'Babe' Monsanto facility at Crown Bay in St. Thomas prior to November 30, 2014, can permit no further delay," deJongh wrote.

He said the V.I. government is at a critical juncture with the cruise industry, and promises were made to cruise lines that the dredging work would be done at a certain date.

The governor said the Port Authority only has 15 weeks to get the CZM permit ratified, submit it to the Army Corps of Engineers for approval, put the project out to bid, select a contractor and have them finish the dredging.

"Even a one-week delay in considering the proposals will substantially diminish our chances of completing this project on time," the governor said.

Not meeting the deadline has serious ramifications, deJongh said.

"Failure to complete the dredging by the deadline will result in the immediate cancellation of 13 cruise visits to Crown Bay, representing the loss of 38,000 passengers, with a resulting loss of almost $400,000 in estimated gross receipts to the territory," he said in the original letter calling the Senate to special session.

Last week, deJongh called a special session that took place Wednesday for senators to consider a $50 million borrowing bill to help the territory's hospitals pay the power bills, for Luis Hospital to meet it payroll and for other matters.

By law, the Senate must meet when the governor requests it and must meet on the date the governor sets. The special session agenda can comprise only what legislation the governor submits for consideration at the session.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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