Taxi prices rise

A 20 percent increase in taxi fares is now in effect.  The Commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Andy Rutnik, pointed out this is the first rate increase for the island’s drivers in almost six years.  The $9 trip from Red Hook to the Airport will now cost $11.

Visitors will note that the one-way cost of the Red Hook ferry increased $1 in August, and that luggage carried on the ferry now costs $2 a bag.  This makes the island more expensive for everyone, especially families.

Rutnik said there is now a provision for hotels to negotiate group discounts for their guests.  It will be interesting to see if the island’s villa rental companies can take advantage of this option.

Forecaster explains calm hurricane season

The island has been pelted, deluged, soaked and waterlogged for the past week by fast moving thunder storms and torrential rains.  The National Weather Service issued flood watches almost daily. 

The good news, however, is … (well, i dare not say it.)  But, with just a few weeks to go until the end of the h******** season, storm guru William Gray is not issuing an "all clear."  The Colorado State University forecaster expects there to be three named storms and three hurricanes this month, nearly double the long-term average,. according to a report by the St. John Source

Why has it been so quiet on the VI side of the Atlantic?  He said African dust blew across the ocean in August and September and that helped prevent storms because it dried out the mid-level atmosphere.  He told the Source, he the United States is in a new, multi-decadal era for increased storm activity. "We expect this active tropical cyclone era to likely span the next two or three decades," one of his team members added.

Cruz Bay parking lot in doubt?

A $2 million appropriation for a parking facility for Cruz Bay was dropped from a spending bill before the VI Senate.  The legislation was initiated by Gov. Charles Turnbull after he discovered $60 million in unexpected revenues. 

Published reports hinted that Senators would have the option to identify $2 million in spending.  However, when the bill came up for a vote, Sen. Craig Barshinger’s project, and at least that of other Senator, was not in the bill.  It is not clear whether Barshinger’s appropriation request was meant to help fund the plan to build a parking garage and vendor’s plaza across from the barge dock, or whether it was another facility.

Sen. Lorraine Berry said she regretted giving up "her" $2 million but said pay raises for government employees and buying gasoline for government vehicles "are important things."  The plan passed easily, as all Senators present – except for Barshinger – voted in favor.

Residential reassessments begin next year

Representatives of the Tax Assessor will be walking through houses on St. John early next year as part of the territory’s tax reassessment project.  Data collectors will measure properties, and count the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, Sally Powers told a town meeting on the "Perils of Rapid Development," organized by VI Sen. Craig Barshinger at the Westin Resort.  Powers is project manager for the property revaluation. 

She said commercial properties have already been reviewed, and owners have received statements telling them the results, but not the actual tax bills, according to the St. John Source.

Concern about the development of St. John were also heard, as the former Commissioner for Planning and Natural Resources said the department "got it wrong" while he was there, failing to plan for the future.  Alan Smith pointed out the island’s explosive growth began after 1995 and hurricane Marilyn.  He was commissioner from 1987-1991.  Smith suggested taxes paid on real estate transfers be increased to discourage speculation and "flipping."

Quelbe music exhibit on island

VI traditional music known as Quelbe will be shown on island this month.  The "Quelbe Traveling Exhibit and Colloquium 2005" included historic photographs, wire sculptures and a panel discussion about the "very percussive" music style which has become the official music of the VIs, thanks in large part to efforts by Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone.  The Exhibit has been on display at the St. John School of the Arts. It will move from island to island as an educational tool to increase local interest in the music, according to the St. John Source.  Here’s an example of quelbe.

Spirit cuts air fares to Virgin Islands

Logo_spiritOn the heels of adding service to St. Thomas, Spirit Airlines has kicked off a wintertime sale which includes the Caribbean.

Advertised prices include Washington National to STT for $159 each way. (I tried but couldn’t find it … probably you have to fly Tuesday night and come back the following Thursday Monday at midnight or something).  Similar deals from Atlanta, Chicago, Providence, and others. I’m sure if you hunt and are flexible, you can save a bunch.

Sale fares must be booked on by 11:59PM ET on October 9, 2005!  Travel dates for this sale are Monday through Thursday between October 11, 2005 and March 31, 2006.