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OSHA MUM ON PLANS FOR V.I.

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With accusations of "colonialism" flying in Thursday's special legislative session, officials at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration have remained silent on their intentions or concerns about the V.I. Labor Department's OSHA program.
Early this week Gov. Charles W. Turnbull called for a special session of the Senate to find funding for the local program, which is in dire straits and, according to the governor, threatened with a federal OSHA takeover.
During that session Labor Commissioner Sonia Dow said that for at least the last eight quarters, the department has not received an allotment to match the grant from OSHA. As a result, she said, the program has been without necessary compliance officers, a hygienist and an assistant director for enforcement.
Dow also said OSHA's regional director, Patricia Clark, was "strongly advocating" the removal of the local program from the V.I. government.
Dow said that Clark had conducted, during the terms of the last three local program administrators, a "campaign to colonize the Virgin Islands." Dow contended it is Clark's "personal and professional belief that the Virgin Islands isn't capable of effectively running any program."
When reached by phone, Clark told the Source she was not aware of Dow's remarks and had "no idea what's going on down there."
Clark referred the Source to a media spokesperson who refused to comment except to say there was ongoing dialogue between the federal agency and the V.I. government.
"It would be inappropriate to comment on something that is ongoing," said the spokesperson, who asked not to be named.
Neither Clark nor the media representative could cite examples of Virgin Islands OSHA violations or say whether the federal OSHA program had personnel in the Virgin Islands.
The Legislature voted Thursday to appropriate $748,428 from the Caribbean Basin Initiative Fund to the local OSHA program for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2000, to avert a potential takeover.

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