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Governor Discusses 911 System Plans at St. Croix Chamber Meeting

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March 19, 2008 — Over the next two years, his administration plans to implement a full 911 emergency-response system, Gov. John deJongh Jr. told the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
The governor spoke off the cuff for more than half an hour to the packed luncheon at Divi Carina Bay Casino. He touched on property taxes, government hiring practices, education, crime, air flights to St. Croix, Internet commerce and a panoply of other issues of importance to St. Croix businesses.
The governor mentioned the need for a fully working and effective 911 system during his recent State of the Territory Address, and Wednesday he elaborated further.
(See "'Determination and Hope' Theme of State of the Territory Address.")
"Not this year, but over the next two years, we are putting in a 911 plan, finally," deJongh said. "We are going to approach it not as a solely police function, but emergency services: Health, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) fire and all first responders. … We need to do it in a way so that calls are never dropped."
Perhaps the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency should oversee it, he said. Once the system gets up and running, he would like to see a separate 311 line for reporting potholes and other non-emergency calls.
"We had a five-hour meeting with IBM on how to get there," deJongh said. "The next process is working out how to implement it."
The governor noted that the national economy may be entering a recession, and a recent property-tax bill doesn't bring in as much revenue as planned. (See "Governor Uses Line-Item Vetoes to Modify Property Tax Bill.")
"We did not get the property tax we planned for, and I am completely mindful of the impact of that," he said. "Having said that, all is not doom and gloom. We ended the year with revenues the highest they have ever been. On St. Croix, the latest figures show employment of 21,500 — the highest for the past 15 years. Individual income tax, gross receipts tax and property-tax revenues are higher than they have ever been."
While taking questions after the talk, someone asked deJongh when he expects 2006 property-tax bills to go out.
"It all depends," he said. "I anticipate sometime in May. But it still has to go through an approval process. It has to go through the special master. I expect it will, but it has to go through the process."
David Nissman, a former U.S. Attorney for the Virgin Islands, asked deJongh about making the Water and Power Authority liable for damages caused by fluctuating power.
"It is not just the direct cost of electricity that affects small businesses," Nissman said. "One of the hidden costs is the way it destroys your equipment."
DeJongh was sympathetic, but not on board.
"As a consumer, I will say to you in a heartbeat, 'Yes, that ought to change,'" he said. "Putting on my other hat, I know the minute that happens they will come to me for an appropriation to pay for it."
Because WAPA is a public utility owned by the government, making WAPA to pay for something is just shifting money around without actually saving any, he said.
"If WAPA takes on a new expense, someone will have to pay for that," deJongh said.
Meanwhile, he said WAPA's current request for proposals for non-petroleum power generation was a step in the right direction.
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