Line in the Sand on U.S. Virgin Islands Broadband Initiative

The following release came to my inbox.  There are a number of items addressed there, but I have highlighted info pertinent to the Broadband Initiative and the risk we have of losing out on this nationwide infrastructure-enhancing project.  From what I can see, our government is “on it” – but we have until Oct. 3, 2011 to get compliant or get out…

Senators support Sen. Malone’s plan to freeze local broadband funds

Bill to assist citizens involved in accidents with Government vehicles also approved

Shape5 Political logoCHARLOTTE AMALIE, Virgin Islands –  Senator Shawn-Michael Malone introduced a measure today that will suspend the Public Finance Authority’s ability to spend the $38 million in local funds pledged to the Virgin Islands broadband initiative.

Senator Malone’s legislation, which was supported by 12 of his 14 colleagues, called for a total freeze on spending of these monies except as specifically required to implement the remedial actions mandated by the federal government. Broadband grant spending was suspended by the federal government on August 31, 2011 after a visit by federal program inspectors in June of this year found that the PFA and its subsidiary, the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, had not properly spent or controlled federal grant monies. The PFA has until October 3, 2011 to respond to a series of concerns and produce a corrective action plan to address the issues expressed in the suspension letter by officials of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“We must be prudent and protect our money in the same way as the federal government has already done,” Senator Malone said. “They are investing $68 million in our infrastructure and we all lose out if the federal government pulls the plug on this project, but we can not put local funds in jeopardy.”

As the Chairman of the 29th Legislature’s Committee on Economic Development, Technology & Agriculture, Senator Malone has led the Legislature’s effort to oversee the broadband grant project. He has called the PFA and viNGN to a hearing on October 6, 2011 to report on efforts to institute the controls recommended by federal auditors.

“We have all had some major concerns about this project, but the legislation passed today ensures that we can protect local monies until such time as we receive official notification that the federal government is satisfied with the actions of the PFA,” Senator Malone said. “I am now calling on the Governor to do the right thing and allow this legislation to stand.”

Senator Malone also announced the successful passage of his legislation to reform what he called an “archaic system” of compensating victims of accidents with Government owned vehicles. His bill updates the 31 year old law and allows for quick settlement in cases where the damage to another car is estimated at less than $5,000.

“People have been known to wait years for their relatively minor claims to be dealt with and it was simply unfair,” the senator said. “Now the Attorney General’s Office will have the authority to rapidly deal with these matters in the best interest of all concerned.”

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