Rutnik Gives Suggestions for a Better St. John

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Tradewinds,

Re: St. John Priorities               

 

• A single authority for all cabinet level decisions on St. John. This authority should flow through the St. John administrator. Administrator must sign off on all decisions, and can only be overruled by the governor.

• Budgetary oversight and input on government agencies with allotments specific to St. John. St. John administrator will offer an annual budget recommendation to all agencies and departments specific to St. John’s needs. St. John will have a line item budget amount in each agency’s budget.

• St. John’s budgetary funding will be based on a ratio of St. John’s revenues to V.I. government’s general fund and its costs of services to residents. Expenditures divided by revenues equals percentage of budgetary allotment. Spending priorities will be determined by St. John administrator and a committee of St. John government agency heads.

• St. John capital improvements budget will be administered by the St. John administrator. This annual allotment can only be expended on projects contained in a governor’s approved budget submitted by the St. John administrator.

• A maintenance budget for government facilities, roads, parks and buildings will be established and funded through an impact fee collected from every residential dwelling or business structure. Fee shall be calculated as a percentage of assessed value of the most current property tax year. Fee will be collected by department of finance and put into a St. John maintenance revolving fund. The fund shall be administered by St. John administrator and allotted to various government agencies charged with responsibility of said maintenance.

• A St. John parking authority will be established to regulate and administer public parking on St. John. Paid and free parking facilities will be funded by the authority through a V.I. public finance authority bond issue and supported through parking revenues and a fee collected by the motor vehicle bureau on every car registered for use on St. John. Fee shall be set by St. John parking authority and based on the cost of operation and debt service for all public parking facilities. Revenues from fees shall be deposited in the St. John parking authority revolving fund for debt payment and operational expenses.

• Recreational facilities are a top priority. Existing facilities need maintenance and improvements. New facilities must be built and staffed. A location for a sports center, youth center facility, and secure playground facilities must be identified. An annual St. John line item amount in the Department of Housing Parks and Recreation annual budget must be sufficiently funded to carry the costs of staffing, operation, and maintenance of said facilities.

• Fire services should become voluntary except for a skeleton crew that will provide a minimum response action team. There are plenty of communities our size that have successfully implemented volunteer fire and emergency services. Emergency medical technician training and search and rescue capabilities should be part of fire services job scope. Maintenance of equipment and vehicles shall be performed by a full time specialized crew to keep an emergency ready capability. A fully equipped sub station shall be maintained in Coral Bay at all times. Manpower conversion to a volunteer emergency services capability can be phased in through attrition of personnel or voluntary assignment.  

• Sprauve school should be relocated to a more suitable location. Many proposals have been pursued over the last twenty years, but the school remains in an environment not conducive to learning and child development. Working with the National Park in the pursuit of a large enough tract of land has been frustrating.

The government should identify a large enough private parcel and purchase it at fair market value. Once land has been purchased, a phased in building cycle to allow the grades one thru nine to be built first, and then after a study of the islands future needs for a high school, tenth grade through twelve could be added.
Recreational facilities can be added as funding is identified. This initiative could happen in a three year period with a strong effort by the St. John community, government support, and adequate funding.
An alternative option is to combine the private Gifft Hill School with the public school and create a charter school. This new concept is gathering more support nationally and would work well with St. John’s small school age population.

• Public safety is paramount to a successful community’s ability to grow and prosper. The seeds of crime are planted early on in life and can only guarantee a bitter harvest. The social fabric must be repaired and strengthened, we are letting our problems get the best of us, and often not, missing the message by killing the messenger. We don’t need more policemen, we need better policemen. We need crimes solved and crimes punished, not ignored and forgotten. We have to stop being judges in determining our own justice; a crime is a crime no matter who commits the act.

Raising the standards and pay for our policemen and women would do more for public safety than adding more inadequately educated and trained officers.

The University of the Virgin Islands should provide associates degrees in criminology. This degree should be the minimum requirement for a police recruit. Those on the force already, can be given free tuition to attend classes and earn the degree. A new pay scale should be implemented to reward those that achieve higher education. A civilian review board is necessary to promote transparency in police complaints, and to rebuild public confidence in those sworn to protect our community.

– Andrew Rutnik