US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

The United States Virgin Islands is preparing to access a loan of more than $400 million from the Community Disaster Loan of the Federal Emergency Management Authority.

Speaking to reporters at Government House on St. Croix on Nov. 10, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp said the government was in the process of executing the loan documents, the first drawdowns of which would provide $24 million for Schneider Regional Medical Center; $22 million to the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center; up to $75 million for the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, with $31 million of that amount being released immediately; and up to $300 million for central government operations.

On Nov. 10, Mapp met with representatives of Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas to continue the discussion about the future of the resort, which experienced extensive damage as a result of the hurricanes. After a full assessment of the facility, the owners have determined that the reconstruction costs for the property will be in excess of $400 million. There are currently 140 people working on the reconstruction at present.

Mapp reported that Marriott Corporation is committed to maintaining the hotel’s brand and presence at the current location, and added that “the Government of the Virgin Islands will be a full partner to ensure their success in the reconstruction and the rebuild of the hotel.”

The governor has issued a call for a special session of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, to be held on Nov. 21, to address several proposed bills and two Coastal Zone Management permits for which immediate action is necessary.

Mapp hopes to have the source separation and recycling legislation in effect by July 1, 2018. The governor has been advised that by adopting the legislation, 80 percent of the trash that currently ends up in the Virgin Islands landfill could be exported out of the territory. He noted that time is needed to educate the public and for the Waste Management Authority to put in place the necessary infrastructure for source separation and to get contracts in place for the exportation of recyclable items.

Responding to calls for the construction of a waste energy facility in the territory, Mapp said: “I restate my full opposition to waste energy facilities in the Virgin Islands. I have challenged everyone that has come before me … to identify … a plant that exists anywhere on U.S. soil that has been permitted by the (Environmental Protection Agency) EPA for waste energy.” He stressed such a facility would require significantly more tonnage of waste than what is produced in the Virgin Islands.

One of the items to be reviewed during the Legislature’s special session is a proposed bill to authorize and appropriate $9 million to fund the completion of phase two of the Frederiksted Economic Revitalization Project. The governor has proposed $6 million from the proceeds of the Limetree Bay Terminals bitumen project, $2 million from the Community Facilities Trust Account and $1 million from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund.

Mapp announced that the Norwegian Dawn did not dock on St. Croix on Nov. 11, as originally planned. He reported that Robin Lindsay, executive vice president, vessel operations at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, extended apologies to the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands for the late notice of the cancellation. Lindsay told the governor the decision was made by the onboard revenue side of the company, which claimed the cancellation was related to issues with onground excursions.

Mapp said the island of St. Croix had been preparing for the ship’s arrival, Frederiksted had been energized, the streets and the Port pier were cleaned, vendors and business people had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to be ready to welcome and serve cruise ship passengers. He assured the community: “We are going to get to the bottom of it and (will) try to turn that decision completely around.”

As power restoration continues across the territory, 150 solar-powered lighting devices donated by the Virgin Islands Relief Fund will be distributed to assist with lighting homes. The device, which can also be used to charge mobile phones, will be distributed first to senior citizens living in communities that are yet to be energized.

On Nov. 13, FEMA hosted an informational session at the St. George Village Botanical Garden in Frederiksted to outline the federal assistance that may be available to the territory’s museums, archives, libraries, archaeological sites and historical districts.

The governor announced that the annual Crucian Christmas Festival is planned for Dec. 22 through Jan. 6, 2018. For the first time, the festivities will include Crucian Christmas Festival nights in St. Thomas as well as St. John, and will feature a diverse selection of music each night.