Car barge prices rise

CarbargeBlaming higher fuel costs, one of the three companies which operates car barge service from St. John to Red Hook will boost its round trip fare from $35 to $50 beginning Friday, April 15.  One-way fares will be boosted from $22 to $30.

Cheri Jackson, manager at Boyson Inc., said, "We have no choice," the Virgin Islands Daily News reported.  Boyson runs two barges, the General and General II.  "It’s nothing that anybody wants to do. But we’re operating a business and we have no choice.  It’s simple economics," she added.

The two other barge operators, Global Marine and Republic Barge Service have not boosted rates, but it may be only a matter of time.  Global’s Stanley Hedrington said he may raise rates and if he does, he will also increase service.  He’s considering expanding his hours to include runs until midnight.  Anecia Sewer, whose Republic company operates the Captain Vic, told the newspaper her company is not boosting prices at the moment.  "We realize that car ferries are the umbilical cord that connects the islands, and our customers depend on it," she said.

Passenger ferries to charge for baggage

If you checked it on the airplane, chances are you’re going to pay $2 a bag when you take it on the ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay. 

The Public Service Commission approved requests to collect handling fees from Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services. "Baggage equals extra weight, which equals fuel," said Claudette Ferron, counsel for Transportation Services. 

A manager for the company pointed out that on a recent weekend, 380 pieces of luggage and cargo were on board one ferry.  The companies had previously been authorized to charge baggage fees, but had not done so.  "It is the law, and it is in the rules and regulations," said Yvette Canegata-Jones, a PSC member..  "They are asking us to take advantage of the law.

Ferry fares likely to go up, too

FerrytouristsPassenger ferries between Red Hook and Cruz Bay have charged $3 a ride for almost 15 years.  That’s likely to change.  In February, ferry operators alerted the Public Service Commission higher fuel costs were making a price hike necessary.  Formal requests for new fares are now to be expected next month, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.

In another report, the Water and Power Authority said higher fuel prices are likely to generate as much as a 10 percent rise in electric bills next month.  "The territory is solely dependent on fossil fuels," said Alberto Bruno-Vega, WAPA’s executive director.  A year ago, the utility was paying $41 a barrel for oil.  Oil is now selling in the open market at about $54.

Fish Bay owners pay it forward

FishbayroadAlmost three dozen property owners in Fish Bay have put their money where they want their paved roads to be.  They have signed up for an offer by the homeowners group to pay their association dues 10 years in advance with the understanding all the money will go to improving the roads. "This means we have over half (56 percent) of the needed funds to pave a considerable portion of Marina Drive between the entrance (and) the second bridge," according to the group’s newsletter on the Web at "We are (also) close to paving from the entrance of Fish  Bay  for a distance of over 500 feet," it added.

Ruby Rutnik tourney played

Under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80s, the ninth annual Ruby Rutnik Softball Tournament for girls’ high school teams was played this weekend on St. John.  Friends and players’ parents were on hand in the bleachers at the Winston Wells Ballfield in Cruz Bay.  The games began Friday night with the Antilles School, which Rutnik attended, beating Eudora Kean High SchoolAndy Rutnik, father of the daughter who died in an automobile accident almost a decade ago, credited the owner of Starfish Market for the tournament.  "David Mugar said that it would be a good way to remember her," Rutnik said.  Proceeds from sponsorships and donations help finance the Ruby Rutnik Scholarship Fund.

St. Thomas Postmaster vows improvement

Robert Allen, the new Postmaster on St. Thomas, says things have gotten better since he arrived from New Jersey a month ago.  "I have already had phone calls remarking on the improved service (on St. John)," he told the St. John Source.  His claim was challenged by Cidney Hamling, owner of Connections.  "In the past six months it has steadily gotten worse," she said.  Priority mail is delivered after two or three weeks, and one Saturday two weeks ago, she said 10 mail bags and boxes arrived, containing December and January magazines. 

Postmaster Allen, a 20 year veteran of the Postal Service, said he observed operations during his first three weeks.  Now, he has developed recommendations and forwarded to his supervisor, on Puerto Rico.  "The problem  here is logistics," he said. St. Thomas district mail is routed through Jacksonville, Fla., then to Puerto Rico, and then to St. Thomas.  However, it is not sorted on the big island, something Allen  thinks should be done. "One sorting machine can do the work of 100 individuals," he told the Source.