Gas prices going up

Gasoline prices have jumped as much as 40 cents a gallon this week on St. Thomas, after the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs lifted its lid on how much profit stations could make  Regular gas at O’Connor’s in Cruz Bay was going for $2.40 a gallon, with premium at $2.44.  At E&C in Estate Enighed, prices were $2.209 for regular and $2.25 for premium, the St. John Source reported.  The cap on profits was canceled last week after a District Court judge considered a challenge by Texaco and Esso Virgin Islands Inc. to the order which said profits at the pump could go no higher than 30 cents a gallon at wholesale and 35 cents at retail, the report added.

Reefs good, fish gone

EarleSylvia Earle, an oceanographer and "explorer in residence" at the National Geographic Society, dove off Lameshur Bay recently and surfaced with a good news/bad news report. 

The reefs look OK, but, "Nobody’s home.  I didn’t even seen a barracuda," she said, according to a report in the St. John Source

Earle was on island on  behalf of the Ocean Conservancy’s publication of "The State of the Coral Reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands."  When she dove off St. John nearly 35 years ago, Earle said she saw seven species of grouper.  "Today, I saw none of those big guys."  The staghorn and elkhorn coral are also gone, but she said the brain coral is alright.  This time she saw three lobsters; in 1970 she would expect to see 20.

The problems are not only St. John’s,  she explained.  Around the world, 90 percent of the "big fish" have disappeared.  She urged protection for spawning areas and a reduction in the number of fish allowed to be caught.  Now that people are paying attention, she said, "Weve got a chance."

Car rental rates going higher

April will bring a new tax on car and truck rentals.  The $2 a day levy will be collected by rental agencies and is supposed to be sent to the Internal Revenue Bureau within 30 days of the end of the month, according to a report in the St. John Source. One business owner said, "Of course it will be passed on to the consumer."

A visitor from Connecticut was unconcerned, however.  "What’s $2 a day for paradise," said Laura Lerman. Her husband, Kenneth, said everything else is so expensive that $2 more a day wouldn’t make a difference.

Of greater concern to all St. John residents and visitors is a new tax which will increase  cost of items businesses bring to the island by container from St. Thomas.  A container less than 40 feet long will be subject to a $50 tax, over 40 feet means a tax of $100.  The owner of St. John Hardware, Tommy Bertolino, said the new tax is just another straw.  He estimated that the cost of bringing a container across Pillsbury Sound in the past year has increased $225, due to expenses related to Homeland Security procedures at ports and on the containers.  St. John Hardware beings in a container a week, he told the Source.

Funny money on island

The owner of Ronnie’s Pizzeria at Boulon Center says he got taken in by some bad dough. 

Ronnie Klingsberg said a counterfeit $20 bill, in his business’s deposit bag, was spotted by FirstBank.  A spokesman for the Police Department, Thomas Hannah, told the St. John Source, "It (phony bills) happens periodically." The bank caught the bill, but Klingsberg didn’t. On second look, he said, "When you looked close, it looks like graph paper."

Stuck in the 90s on St. John

ST. JOHN, US Virgin Islands (MarketWatch) – Remember life in the slow lane? I’m reliving it on St. John in the Caribbean.

I know. You’ll give me no sympathy. But think how the Internet has changed your life  and your job and maybe you’ll appreciate the challenges of the 5,000 people who live on this remote island.  More (registration required)

(This is a column I wrote for MarketWatch.com while working remote on St. John.)

45 minutes at downtown parking lot

Cruzbaylot45mins_1Everybody likes to talk about it, but the island administrator, Julien Harley, has done something about downtown parking. 

Several weeks ago he said there would be changes at the  lot across from the Post Office, and there have been this week.

Some parking space lines have been repainted and several signs posted announcing the new policy.  The rule is now 45 minutes for everyone, and one Fish Bay resident said it’s working. "Two thirds of the lot seems to be used most of the day, so I can pop in and out and get my errands done," he said.  Previously, all day parkers occupied most of the spaces.