Tortola fire warning

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources cautioned the elderly and those on the northeast end of St. John with allergies and respiratory problems to stay indoors several days while a fire on Tortola was brought under control. Smoke from the blaze, whose flames soared as high as 40 feet, could be seen and smelled, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News. The fire has lasted about two weeks, Dean Plaskett, the DPNR commissioner said. Firefighters said they believed the fire was burning was construction debris and yard waste and did not contain hazardous material.

Animal Care Center closes

Sunday was the last day for the St. John Animal Care Center. The group’s president Betty Gerhardt explained, “The more animals wee take in, the higher the vet bills go. We ran out of money.” Despite the fact last summer’s benefit for the Center, the island-wide dog show, Wagapalooza, was a success. “We need a ‘sugar daddy,’ Gerhardt said.

She said the Center now has 35 animals for adoption, and is taking no more. Word of the closing was reported by the St. John Source.

Funding the volunteer operation has always been touch and go, she said. “It’s the same people helping over and over,” she told the Source, and there’s a limit to how much they can do. She also faulted some of St. John’s off-island home owners saying many are not involved in the community and do not contribute to local organizations. “We only hear from them if they have a stray animal in their yard,” she told the Source.

Real estate report

Median house priced at $1.4 million

It may be the off season, but there’s lots of real estate activity on St. John. Since our last issue, 5 properties came off the Multiple Listing Service while 9 were added. The bulk of the new listings have asking prices between $1 million and $1.6 million. The median listed house is asking $1.399 million. There are 41 properties available, a relatively high number.
Among the new listings are a 1-bedroom, 1-bath property in Carolina for $575,000 (pictured); a 22-year-old 3-bedroom, 3-bath residence in Fish Bay for $1.1 million, and a new 2-bedroom/2-bath/pool house in Carolina at $1.5 million.

On the commercial side, Dr. Cool apparently decided he’s got a hot business. Originally listed for sale at $250,000, this island air conditioning service is now asking $350,000, according to the MLS. Mongoose Junction’s Wicker, Wood & Shells gift shop is being offered at $295,000.

A pair of new shows

Janet Cook-Rutnik and Cheryl Geller have launched new exhibitions of their work. Cook-Rutnik’s show is at her gallery, Solo Arte, in the Lumberyard. Rutnik

Among the pieces are Eve by Sea (pictured) and a new original print series called Agnes. Rutnik is also showing two painting/installations that were shown at a Caribbean festival in Santo Domingo last year, whose theme was Perception. “The most important challenge to shaping the future is to perceive ourselves not as victims but as victors,” she said.

Geller’s jewelry is on display at Coral Bay’s Syzygy Gallery in the Skinny Legs restaurant and bar complex. It features vintage and hand-made beads.

Goats gotta go

It’s official. Goats are unwelcome in the Virgin Islands National Park, and the Agriculture Department is on track to capture them by using corrals or traps.

The wildest goats will be shot and slaughtered for meat which will be distributed to the local community, according to a report in the St. John Source. The goats are among a number of “introduced species” to the Park which, by nibbling and eating, are threatening rare plants such as the prickly ash, the report continued. The goats are also munching ground cover which has a role in preventing erosion and sediment washing onto the coral reefs.

The only mammals native to St. John are bats, the Park Service said.

Candidates night at the Westin

Candidates for the V.I. Senate have been invited to a forum Wednesday night at the ballroom of the Westin Resort. The event is sponsored by the St. John Community Foundation, the same group which has been meeting for months to propose a charter for some sort of local government on the island. Candidates are invited to make an opening statement, answer 7 to 10 pre-selected questions, and offer a closing. Two St. Johnians are on the ballot, including the incumbent At Large senator Almando Liburd and his challenger Craig Barshinger.