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U.S. Interior Department Gives $1.2 Million in Grants For WAPA, viNGN, DPNR

WASHINGTON — Douglas Domenech, U.S. Department of the Interior assistant secretary for Insular and International Affairs, this week announced $1,202,370 in fiscal year 2018 grant funding for the U.S. Virgin Islands, which supports a wide variety of needs.

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and I continue to support the leadership and people of the U.S. Virgin Islands through a wide variety of projects,” said Domenech. “These funds supplement $827,812 in grants released earlier this month. Through Congress’s continued support for the U.S. Insular Areas, these funds continue to be important in many ways for the territory,” said Domenech.

Additional programs funded in the USVI for FY 2018 follow:

• $497,000 for the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) to purchase specialized equipment, machinery and vehicles to remove and replace hurricane-destroyed fiber optic cables and enhance broadband network resiliency going forward. Roughly half of viNGN terrestrial network of fiber-optic cabling, or roughly 70 miles of cable. is above-ground or hung aerially on utility poles, 90 percent of which was destroyed after the hurricanes in 2017. Government-owned, the viNGN network has been the middle-mile wholesale provider of Internet (broadband) bandwidth to the territory’s government agencies as well as to businesses and residents via 14 Internet service providers since 2014.

• $500,000 for a Master Training and Safety Program at the USVI Water and Power Authority (WAPA) for engineers, electricians, linemen, clerks, dispatchers, technicians and meter readers in the Transmission and Distribution Division.

• $170,000 to assist the Schneider Regional Medical Center (SRMC) that was heavily impacted by the hurricanes of 2017 and needs to address concerns about audit readiness in relation to capital assets impacted. Audit readiness would also include revamping the fixed asset register and the corresponding record-keeping process.

• $35,370 to maintain, renovate, repair and provide technological upgrades for three bookmobiles on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, allowing the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums to improve the availability of digital literacy library programs, computer trainings and educational library activities to the public at large. Funds would also upgrade the bookmobiles to be ADA-compliant, repair heating and cooling systems, and generally help the territory continue to maintain the standards of the American Library Association.

Earlier this month, the assistant secretary announced $827,812 in FY 2018 funding for the U.S. Virgin Islands, bringing the total of FY 2018 funding for the territory to $2,030,182.

• Gustav A. Quetel Fish House – $60,322
• East End Medical Center Corporation – $200,000
• Water and Power Authority – $367,490
• Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums – $200,000

Funds are made available through the Technical Assistance and Maintenance Assistance Programs at the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. Applications are submitted from October through May 1, each year. Funds are awarded once OIA receives appropriations from the U.S. Congress until they are exhausted.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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