Contractors accused of cheating

A VI Senator alleged St. John’s major contractors are not paying taxes.

During a hearing this week on proposals to strengthen the building code, Sen. Louis P. Hill challenged Brent E. Blyden, permits director at the Planning and Natural Resources Department, to have his inspectors check pay stubs at construction sites. Blyden responded, “That’s out of our jurisdiction,” the St. John Source reported.

The charge came during a meeting of the Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee. On the agenda was a proposal for the VIs to adopt the International Building Code, already used by 44 states and the U.S. Defense Department. The update would be the first since Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Island engineers said that they did not think the new code would “substantially” increase construction costs.

The growth in construction is, of course, noticeable to any resident. But during the hearing, director Blyden revealed the value of building permits issued in 2000 was $120 million. This year, he said, it will be $250 million.

Master development plan shown

A town meeting Oct. 5 will give residents the opportunity to comment on a proposed Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan proposed by the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources. At a preliminary session, senators discussed the plan in a meeting at the St. John Legislature. It would designate land-use and water-use guidelines for areas, ranging from industrial to agriculture, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News. A master plan for the VIs is considered critical for St. John which has only 19.4 square miles of livable space. Sen. Roosevelt David, at the meeting, hinted opposition, saying the plan appeared driven by environmental concerns rather than economic development. “That’s what puts food on the table,” he said, according to the St. John Source. St. John resident and architect Rob Crane said he opposes the plan. The current zoning methods are fine, but they are not enforced, he told the Daily News. The Source has posted online a PDF file of the 284-page plan. You can get it here.

US Airways slashes (some) prices

Sept. 19 — US Airways announced at about Noon Tuesday it is offering special sale fares throughout its system for two days only. Roundtrip prices start as low as $179 for Caribbean travel – but it may not include OUR Caribbean. An initial search of fares found no discount to St. Thomas midweek from LaGuardia or Washington National – tickets about $450. (I did find a deal for about $200 from Nashville!) Special fare offerings are for Monday-Thursday, and travel must be completed by Dec. 16. Purchase tickets no later than Wednesday.

Assaults prompt neighborhood training

The Coral Bay Community Council has scheduled Neighborhood Watch training to be included in its monthly meeting, Sept. 13. following a number of robberies in the area in August. The V.I. Police Department’s crime prevention director, Kenneth Blake, will attend. The Council’s president, Sharon Coldren, said the session will alert residents how to notice “suspicious activity” and gather information on which the police act, according to a report by the St. John Source . The meeting, and training, is open to all island residents.

ATA, US Air add direct flights

vi0000n0During the fall season, there will be almost 50 direct flights to St. Thomas from the mainland. The newest scheduled routes are a second nonstop Saturday flight from Charlotte, N.C. by US Air and the first nonstop Saturday service from Indianapolis by ATA. “We look forward to one of the best fall/winter seasons in recent history,” said Pamela Richards, USVI Tourism Commissioner. “With increased airlift to St. Thomas and the Territory’s new ‘Fall Into America’s Caribbean’ seasonal promotion, the outlook for the fall and winter travel seasons is good,” she added.”

Caneel, Westin partner for promotion

The island’s two largest resorts have joined with seven hotels on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix to contribute as much as $75,000 each to drum up more business. The cooperative marketing effort has been organized by the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association along with CoGo Worldwide Vacations, a travel wholesaler responsible for selling as many as 60 percent of all travel packages to the territory, according to the St. John Source. For the money, the hotels will be included in newspaper advertisements appearing in four U.S. east coast markets, and spotlighted by Liberty Travel Agency offices nationally. Beverly Nicholson, president of the hotel group, called the agreement really important, pointing out it’s been more than a year since the group has worked with CoGo.