WOUNDED WARRIOR SOFTBALL TEAM TO PLAY EXHIBITION GAMES ON ST. CROIX WITH GOAL OF INSPIRATION THROUGH ADVERSITY
The Office of Senator Sammuel Sanes would like to announce upcoming events planned on the island of St. Croix in association with the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST). The team and local sponsors will be conducting sports clinics, and hosting exhibition games to include a celebrity game on Friday, December 2nd and two games on Saturday, December 3rd versus the V.I. National Guard and local first responders. St. Croix's native son, Colonel Ben Mitchell will be playing for the Wounded Warrior Amputee team.
The WWAST's mission is to inspire and educate others while enhancing the health and welfare of Wounded Warrior Amputees. Their goal is to support and honor veterans' sacrifices, and to show others that "life without a limb is limitless". The team has traveled to 35 states and over 150 venues playing able-bodied teams in competitive, celebrity and exhibition softball games.
The public is invited to attend these events and support this amazing team so that they will have the opportunity to play a sport they love as well as to serve as an inspiration to all those in our community who face adversity. A detailed list of events, times and locations will follow in the near future.
Bills to create an Emergency Management Scholarship and to renovate the Estate Profit Concession Center and the La Reine Fish Market move to the Full Senate
Senator Sammuel Sanes, sponsor of Bill number 30-0343, is urging the passage of the Bill with the hope that completion of this community rehabilitation will offer hope for future economic development on St. Croix.
Act 7081, passed in 2009, appropriated $650,000 for the rehabilitation of the La Reine Fish Market. This amount was later found to be insufficient, therefore, the project was never undertaken.
Bill number 30-0188, also sponsored by Senator Sammuel Sanes, will offer up to $5,000 worth of scholarships per year to students completing course work in the field of Emergency Management. These students will be required to return to the Virgin Islands upon completion of their studies to work in their individual area of study.
The Bill as amended will be funded by an annual appropriation of 2% from the Peace Officer Training Fund.
SENATOR SAMMUEL SANES SUCCEEDS IN PASSING SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA BILL
On Tuesday, April 16, 2013 the 30th Legislature held their first full session. In this meeting, Senators voted on a multitude of zoning requests, four nominations to territorial boards and eight Bills which were special ordered to the Floor.
Among the list of Bills that were special ordered on Tuesday was Bill No. 30-0038, an Act to criminalize manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing the designer drugs, ‘synthetic marijuana’ and ‘bath salts’. These designer drugs have been available for purchase in local convenience stores despite the fact that they have been federally banned.
Local psychiatrists have cautioned that these designer drugs are totally unsafe and in some cases may have significant negative health effects.
On Tuesday Senators voted to pass the Bill on to the Governor for his approval. The passage of this Bill will allow for both ‘synthetic marijuana’ and ‘bath salts’ to be added to the list of controlled substances in the territory and will allow for persons attempting to purchase, persons in possession of or persons manufacturing these drugs to be prosecuted.
BOARD NOMINEES SAIL THROUGH RULES COMMITTEE
St. Croix--The Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Sammuel Sanes held a confirmation hearing on Thursday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, Frederiksted where it took up the Governor's nominations to serve on the Parole Board, Universityy of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board and the Virgin islands Port Authority Board of Governors. Also on the Committee's agenda was a Bill proposed by Senator Craig W. Barshinger requiring a written response from the Senate President's Office or Division Heads of the Legislature when a request is made in writing.
In her testimony, Gwendolyn Adams Norton, nominee to the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees said with her background, she brings experience and knowledge to the Board of Trustees and will enhance an already capable and committed board of trustees.
Norton, who was Commissioner of Finance of the Government of the Virgin Islands in 1996, said she considered UVI to be a jewel and a significant asset in the Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean. Having spent 20 years in banking and currently serve on three not for profit boards such as New York Organ Donors Network, Spellman College in Atlanta where she is on the Executive, Student Affairs, Human Resources and Development committees, she sees opportunities to broaden connections with the community.
According to Norton, it's her hope that UVI can play a larger role in having all students, but especially young men aspire to college. She also hopes that the university would be involved with students in elementary schools so they can start envisioning college as a destination early on.
Elizabeth Armstrong, nominated to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board said that she believes affordable power is the most important issue facing the Virgin islands today. Affordable power, she added, is the foundation we need to build our future success. Furthermore, the rising cost of energy is putting a tremendous burden on every Virgin Islander, the private sector, and even government.
Armstrong stated that as one of St. Croix's largest employers, she has seen the impact on her employees. More and more of their paychecks are going to pay the utility bills. According to her, if the Virgin Islands is to retain its human capital, its people, and attract new businesses and talented employees, utility costs will need to significantly improve. According to Armstrong, as a board member she would request and receive current information about WAPA's operations, and based upon the facts, move in the direction to (1) identify more cost effective energy sources to reduce WAPA's reliance on expensive diesel fuel; (2) develop an energy plan that is in the best long-term interests of the Virgin Islands, its people, businesses and government; (3) achieve real reductions in electric and water rates; and (4) evaluate options with the objective of reducing costs.
Dr. Yvonne Thraen, re-nominated by the Governor to serve on the Virgin Islands Port Authority Board of Governors said, in one of her many statements that the airport and seaports are integral to our tourism industry as airplanes, cruise ships and other commercial vessels bring tourists and locals to or from the Virgin Islands. Also, she said, integral to transshipment of goods between the neighboring Caribbean islands.
Dr. Thraen pointed out that these facts recognized, the Port Authority invest appropriate time and money in repairing its airport and seaport facilities to maintain as well as expand services, being mindful of the importance of the social and physical needs of consumers and the public at large.
According to Dr. Thraen, as a board member said she is particularly interested in issues that relate to consumer satisfaction, operational efficiencies and long term planning. She said relative to consumer oriented issues, she is concerned with the internal and external appearance of the facilities on all islands, greeting of visitors, handicap accessibility, availability of taxi services with minimum delay, courtesy of taxi drivers and similar issues.
In concluding her testimony, Dr. Thraen said her 34 years in the government and 20 plus years in top executive level positions that involved planning, administration and budgeting; her lifelong assimilated experiences and knowledge gained from her years as a Port Authority board member, all facilitate her ability to contribute meaningfully to the authority.
Curtis E. Williams said in his testimony, that his 36 years of government service, 14 years in a supervisory position within the police department, along with being Commander of the American Legion Post No. 133, and the United Selective System as an Appeals Board member, he feels that these experiences and training qualifies him to serve on the Parole Board from the district of St. Croix.
He said this seat on the Parole Board calls for having an analytical mind, because it involves reading reports, taking testimony from prison officials, and from the intended parolee whose sentence is not completed. This must be done, he added carefully to make an honest and objective decision as to whether the person appearing before the Parole Board is rehabilitated sufficiently enough to be released into the general population.
In regards to Bill No. 30-0015 - A resolution amending the Rules of the 30th Legislature to require a written response from the President's Office or Division Heads of the Legislature when a request is made in writing, both chairman Sen. Sanes and all members decided to withdraw it due to the fact that there are several more pieces of legislation similar to the previous that the committee wanted to add on.
According to the committee chair, Bill No. 30-0015 was presented to ensure accountability and transparency. He said it was necessary to have documentation to dispel charges of inappropriate behavior. All four nominees were given overwhelming favorable recommendations and their nominations were moved to the Full Body for further consideration.
Members of the Rules and Judiciary Committee at Thursday's confirmation hearing were Senators: Sammuel Sanes, Diane Capehart, Shawn-Michael Malone, Janette Millin Young, Myron D. Jackson, Kenneth L. Gittens and Donald G. Cole. Non-Committee members were Senators Clarence Payne III, Craig Barshinger, Judi Buckley, and Tregenza Roach.
VIRGIN ISLANDS 5TH GRADE STUDENTS GET A CHANCE TO PARTICIPATE IN NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER PREPAREDNESS WEBINARS
Senator Sammuel Sanes has been in contact with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida in reference to the hurricane preparedness webinars that they offer to 5th grade students in hurricane prone areas.
In looking into the program, Senator Sanes found that the webinars did not include students from the Virgin Islands. Upon discovery of this fact, Senator Sanes contacted the NHC to inquire about the possibility of our local 5th grade students being able to gain knowledge concerning this important subject.
After discussion, it was decided that for the duration of the 2013 hurricane season, Virgin Islands 5th grade students would be able to participate in the Southeast Coast webinars. The National Hurricane Center has expressed that they will be exploring a Virgin Islands based webinar for the 2014 hurricane season.
Virgin Islands 5th grade teachers can register for the 2013 Southeast Coast webinar at http://www.hurricanescience.org/resources/nhc5grade/. Students will learn hurricane science and preparedness and will be able to ask questions and get answers from NHC scientists and forecasters, as well as NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) officers that fly into hurricanes.
Automated External Defibrillator Press Release
The Office of Senator Sammuel Sanes along with Ms. Cher Will is happy to inform the public as to the ease of accessibility of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).
Act 7302, of which Senator Sanes was the primary sponsor, augments Title 19 VIC Chapter 13 as it relates to AEDs by ensuring compliance for training, notification and maintenance. Additionally, Act 7302 provides for mandatory AED locations within the territory.
Senator Sanes’ office has GPS pinpointed AED units on the island of St. Croix and has input them into a database that can be accessed by the general public in multiple ways. This database can be accessed by going to https://www.crowdsav.com/aeds and inputting “St. Croix” into the search field. The information can also be accessed by downloading the “Crowdsav” application for either an Android device or an Apple device including the iPhone or the iPad.
Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Press Release
Senator Sammuel Sanes’ office has been in contact with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Ambassador Liliana Ayalde. The Ambassador informed the office of Senator Sanes of the pressing concerns of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that were expressed at the Third Caribbean-United States Security Cooperation Dialogue in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on December 4-5, 2012. The Dialogue was held at the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) headquarters. IMPACS is an institution of CARICOM created to support member states’ national security initiatives by combating illicit firearms trafficking in the Caribbean region.
Some of the major concerns that were raised pertaining to the security of the Caribbean Community were an increase in financial crimes, a need for support in youth activities such as life skills training, employment training and employment opportunities. Other issues discussed were the growing need for sharing information throughout the Caribbean and the advances in Customs and Border Patrol’s APIS program which enhances border security. Currently there are three CARICOM nations that are part of the FBI’s IAFIS program which provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent search capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses.
The office of Senator Sanes was shocked to find that Ambassador Ayalde was unaware that the territory is in dire straits concerning our homicide rate. With a desire to further analyze this lack of information, the office of Senator Sanes asked about the sharing of information that Ambassador Ayalde spoke of. The Ambassador feels that a contribution from the US Virgin Islands would assist the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) to implement a mechanism for dissemination of information. The CBSI intends to create a virtual site for official use as well as a website for public use, which will be used to share information on CBSI and regional efforts to enhance security in the Caribbean.
Additionally, information was solicited pertaining to the status of a recent partnership between the State Department and the ATF to provide Firearms Advisors in the Caribbean, establish forensic training programs, provide expert legal assistance and the development of an exchange program between law enforcement and the ATF. Ambassador Ayalde stated that the newly formed partnership is still being shaped and that they will start the programs by assessing the overall needs in the Caribbean. The Ambassador will continue to stay in contact with Senator Sanes in reference to the formation of these programs.
President's Volunteer Service Award Press Release
The Office of Senator Sanes Joins With President Bush’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to Deliver President’s Volunteer Service Award
Prestigious Award Honors Outstanding Commitment to Volunteer Service
The Office of Senator Sammuel Sanes today announced it has teamed with the White House to become a Certifying Organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national program recognizing Americans who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to volunteer service. Established in 2003, the Award was created by President George W. Bush to give Presidential recognition to individuals, families and groups who meet requirements for volunteer service, measured by the number of service hours performed over 12-months. The Office of Senator Sanes is currently the only Certifying Organization on St. Croix.
The Office of Senator Sanes is one of thousands of organizations that have joined forces to deliver the President’s Volunteer Service Award and honor the volunteers who strengthen our Nation. As a Certifying Organization for the Award, the Office of Senator Sanes is responsible for verifying service hours, nominating potential recipients and delivering the Award.
“We are extremely proud to recognize our island’s most outstanding volunteers with the President’s Volunteer Service Award,” said Senator Sanes. “Volunteers are role models in our community, donating their time, energy and talent to bring us closer together as an island and a Nation. The Award is our way of thanking these volunteers and inspiring everyone in our community to make volunteering a central part of their lives.”
“Even if you’ve never volunteered before, the President’s Volunteer Service Award is within your reach,” Senator Sanes said. “There are so many ways to contribute, and every volunteer hour makes a difference in improving the quality of life for others. We encourage everyone to get involved and to bring along your family, friends and neighbors. Together, we can strengthen St. Croix – one hour at a time.”
The Award is issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, a group convened by President George W. Bush to help foster and encourage a culture of volunteer service and civic participation among Americans. Chaired by two-time Super Bowl Champion Darrell Green, with former U.S. Senators Bob Dole and John Glenn as honorary co-chairs, the Council is composed of leaders in government, media, entertainment, business, education, nonprofit and volunteer service organizations and community volunteering. The award, when received will include a signed certificate from President Barak Obama as well as a lapel pin displaying the President’s Volunteer Service Award Seal.
For more information about volunteering with the Office of Senator Sanes, please contact Melissa Mitchell at 712-2243. For more information on the President’s Volunteer Service Award and to find out how to identify additional volunteer opportunities in this area, visit www.presidentialserviceawards.gov or call 1-866-545-5307.
Drug Trafficking Press Release
Senator Sanes wishes to express his condolences on the passing of Virgin Islands Police Officer Colvin Georges. His death rings a certain reality in our ears as we have just succeeded in passing Bill No. 29-0347 also known as the “Federal Peace Officer Status Bill”.
Senator Sanes’ office has been in contact with California Senator, Dianne Feinstein’s office in reference to a report by the United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, of which she is the Chairwoman, entitled “Preventing a Security Crisis in the Caribbean”. He is working diligently in concert with the Senator’s office to ensure a prominent place for the US Virgin Islands in their report as well as any future endeavors aimed at preventing our already horrendous homicide rate from climbing any higher. This work would bring about greater opportunities for Federal funding that may be made available to the US Virgin Islands and help to further increase the number of Federal Peace Officers that will be made available to the US Virgin Islands Police Department. These Federal Peace Officers would come in the form of Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard (USCG). In addition, we will be securing the inclusion of our islands in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
The report prepared by the United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control lists the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as islands where, “it is no surprise that drug traffickers seek to exploit”. To that end, Senator Sanes is currently drafting a resolution that seeks to reassign the Coast Guard Cutter “Reef Shark” to a new homeport in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Currently, the “Reef Shark” is assigned to patrol the waters around the US Virgin Islands, despite its homeport being San Juan, Puerto Rico. He believes this move will greatly improve the security of St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island, as well as the borders of the United States.
"Necessity is the mother of ALL invention": Virgin Islands Energy Crisis
It is said that "Necessity is the mother of all inventions.". This is certainly the case for the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and its current economic dilemma, specifically for the USVI government. The VI government now finds itself in an unfortunate predicament of trying to mitigate the economic impact, grappling with trying to face the reality of life without HOVENSA refinery operations, and the future cost of producing energy for the territory. Consequently, we can not grow our economy without addressing the critical infrastructure issues.
WAPA has been attempting to explore alternative sources of energy, technology upgrades and plant maintenance with very little progress or no results. I believe it was last reported the price of electricity was .54 cents (residential) and .57 cents (commercial) per KW/hr. It has been stated by WAPA and other high level government officials that there are no immediate or short term solutions on the horizon. The type of long term solutions that have been explored and proposed range from dismantling the existing plants, plant relocation, energy technology conservation and renewable energy. These long term solutions come with a very high price tag of capital funding, extensive planning to design, construct and operate. So has conventional wisdom been exhausted? Not quite. WAPA has started the process of looking outside of its conventional business model as a utility, to more innovative and creative ways to generate income, to mitigate operational cost and passing on the savings to its customers. This is evident in WAPA's involvement with the VI Next Generation Broadband Project.
Hence, the obvious question of the moment or day is, what can be done? Now this brings me back to my opening statement, "Necessity is the mother of ALL invention". Do we have to look at ways of improving the utility's abilities to diversify its revenue stream? What can we do, legislatively, to position WAPA so that the cost of energy is affordable, thus creating a healthy economy?
I have met recently with the Governor to address these issues of paramount importance and will be meeting with the director of the Energy Office.
Currently I am in discussions with industry experts of oil/natural gas power generation operations discussing immediate, short and midterm solutions that will achieve the following:
- Reduce WAPA's future fuel consumption expenditures
- Improve WAPA Management of oil/fuel short and long-term risk
- Establish a diversified revenue stream for WAPA to mitigate operating cost
- Reduce rate-payers utility bill
1. Two Gas Turbine Electric Power Generation euipment w/ warranty; retrofitted for multiple energy source (fuel, steam and natural gas capability).
2. No upfront cost to the government of the VI. A wide variety of financing and operating options are available to consider including a traditional "tolling" arrangement whereby WAPA pays for the electricity generated and supplies the fuel. The equipment can be shipped expeditiously and made fully operational in a short timeframe. If desired, arrangements can be made for a turnkey shipment and installation service including start-up and operation/maintenance supervision.
3. Land & Marine Base - St. Thomas & St. Croix (32.5 mw per unit)
4. Immediate short-mid-term solutions for 5 years. 20%-40% fuel efficiency is available.
5. SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON LEAC.
6. Potential second grid on the South Shore, in close proximity to HOVENSA oil/fuel storage connection. Balance distribution power grid electricity system. Secondary grid load distribution to equalize or balance the power system, mitigating power outage.
Most recently, my office has been in contact with WAPA discussing Natural Gas as a long term energy solution, but is now prepared to engage WAPA -- with a proposal that can elevate WAPA from a high cost consumer of fuel and expensive energy producing entity to a more efficient utility system and a new operational model.
This proposal will add a new component to help WAPA be more proficient in delivering services to its customers.
Excerpts from Senator Sanes' letter to Senate President, Honorable Ronald E. Russell, Esq. & media concerning Legislature audit
"Dear Senate President Russell:"
..."I am officially authorizing you to inform the public on whether I owe any money to the Legislature and/or I'm guilty of any illegal wrongdoing. As an elected representative, we are entrusted with the responsibility of utilizing public funds for the benefit of our people. I take great pride in ensuring that I use my allotted budget frugally to the point that I return approximately $109,000.00 to the Treasury of the Virgin Islands last year, 2011."
The Senator went on to state..."I have attended five conferences on the mainland, in which four of them were completely funded by the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. Additional expenses incurred during the time of travel came out of my pocket. From the moment I assumed office in 2009, I've always purchased gasoline for my government vehicle and for the past year I have been utilizing my personal vehicle. Although this may not amount to a significant saving, it is my way of ensuring that I do my part in saving public funds."
..."Our community is under tremendous stress due to our financial situation and uncertain future. As leaders, we must assure our people that we are capable of leading through turbulent times. One way of doing this is to show the public that we are not above the law. I end with this quote, "The best example of leadership is leadership by example."
I hope that my request is granted and I thank you in advance."
cc: All Senators of the 29th Legislature of the Virgin Islands
On July 21, 2011, I attended an Energy Summit sponsored by the National Hispanic Caucus of State legislators. NHCSL is the premier National Association of Hispanic State Legislators working to design and implement policies and procedures that will inprove the quality of life for Hispanics throughout the country. Part of the summit included a tour of the Millstone Nuclear Plant, which is owned by The Dominion Company, one the largest producers and transporter of energy in the nation. Although I realized that nuclear energy is presently not an alternative for us in the Virgin Islands, this tour was educational and it gave me an opportunity to learn more about natural gas.
The United States is the largest producer of natural gas, more than the oil Saudi Arabia produces, and enough to fuel the United States for generations. The benefits of using natural gas are many. Besides being cheaper than oil, natural gas burns cleaner than other fuel sources with less pollutants and no mercury.
The important issue right now is to distance ourselves from oil dependency. We must also strive to implement alternative energy such as solar and wind. Even though solar and wind power will have difficulties maintaining a base load demand, they should be included in our energy portfolio. I've advocated for the use of natural gas for many years and I believe that now is the right time for us to move in that direction.
I invited a representative of a company called Wärtsilä to do a presentation to the Senate and Executive branch. The first presentation will take place on St. Thomas on January 10th during Committee of the Whole and on St. Croix, January 11th, also during Committee of the Whole. Wärtsilä is a Finnish company based in Helsinki, Finland but with a large global presence (they have offices in some 70 countries and the North American Headquarters is in Houston, Texas). Wärtsilä is the leading supplier of flexible power plants for the distributed power generation market on a global basis. Annual sales include well over 5 billion dollars (including ship power and service divisions). They serve the Caribbean from offices in Puerto Rico where they have a full service facility staffed with engineers and technicians to service their regional customers. They currently are working on supplying LNG (liquid natural gas) to the Caribbean French territories of Guadalupe and Martinique. There will also be a representative of a company that is active in liquid natural gas supply and development infrastructure.
I am hoping that PFA administrators and WAPA officials will meet to discuss the possibility of either buying a new energy plant or retrofitting the existing plant so that a cheaper form of fuel can be used. Although we are facing hard economic times, the price of electricity has become too much of a burden for our people. Let us meet and seriously discuss this issue.