Is a cheaper car rental a bargain?

You can rent a car for a week for as little as $31, if you book it online. I didn’t know this until I read it on the Cruz Bay Forum at TripAdvisor.com.  The going rental rate for a car on St. John is $60/day.

The discount is from Priceline.com. Thrifty is offering deals ranging from Carrental$254/week for an economy car, including taxes and fees, up to $270/week for a full size vehicle.  Of course, you also have to add
the cost of a car barge round trip from Red Hook to Cruz Bay.  But then, you’re not paying for a taxi and luggage to and from the airport, and that just about makes up the barge fee.  It may even be cheaper if you’ve got four people.  (Click on the photo at right for a bigger picture of the rates.)

Read moreIs a cheaper car rental a bargain?

Where’s the money?

Rick Bates, a reader who operates an educational consulting firm, posted a comment on the post about finding land for a new school.  He inquired about its expected cost and source of funding.

I smiled and replied:

"Dear Rick:

"The cost of a school has not even been mentioned. Unless there are federal funds, I can’t imagine where the money going to come from.

"But here’s something that will spur THAT discussion.

Read moreWhere’s the money?

Where could a new school be built?

More than 100 people attended a Congressional subcommittee hearing on St. John on where a new kindergarten-12th grade school might be built. 

V.I. Delegate Donna Christensen, who sits on the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, convened the hearing to discuss her proposal to authorize the Dept. of the Interior to lease V.I. National Park land for the project.  (H.R. 53)

A representative of the V.I. Education Department said it would like to have 10 acres to build a campus including classrooms, cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium, according to a report of the meeting in the Virgin Islands Daily News.  A member of a group called One Campus testified saying it preferred 55 acres.

Read moreWhere could a new school be built?

Pond Bay Club ready to go

After years of preparation, permitting, arguments and public hearings, developers of the swanky Pond Bay Club project at Chocolate Hole have gotten some heavy lifting done. 

Land clearing has been underway, silt fences have been installed, and construction could begin by fall.

FOLIO has launched a Web site for Pond Bay.  It includes a site plan and artist renderings of units.

There will be several dozen units, including three- and four-bedroom villas and cottages. The Club will be part of the Folio Collection, a of "destination club" real estate venture. The New York Times published a story Sunday about destination clubs.  Read it here.

The Helium Report says one-ninth interests in Pod Bay will start at $325,000 and guarantee buyers’ access for 35 days a year.  Annual maintenance fees will begin at $10,000.

"Pond Bay Club is planned to be a private enclave of spacious villas and cottages with the amenities of a spa, swimming pools, restaurant, beach club and clubhouse. Located in Chocolate Hole, on perhaps the last great beachfront development parcel in St. John," explains an information page on the Web site of Holiday Homes.

St. Thomas airport air conditioning broken

It’s been so hot inside the Cyril E. King airport’s waiting room that the candy bars are melting. 

The federal baggage scanners are talking about walking out because it’s so hot.

At least one airline is asking the VI Port Authority for a rent rebate because the facility is so uncomfortable. 

The airport’s a. c. has been out of order for several days, with the Virgin Islands Daily News quoting a Port Authority spokesperson saying he is unsure when it will be repaired.  "The staff and management … apologized for the inconvenience," the Authority said in a statement, the News added.  Read the Daily News story here.

Now, try and find that news release on the Authority’s Web site, http://www.viport.com/.  Not there.  In fact, no news announcements have been posted this year!  And when you click on a link to the Authority’s "Newsletter," it takes you to a September, 2005 document – apparently the first and only newsletter.  (Wanna guess whether the Port Authority’s budget has an allocation for ‘Newsletter’?  Wanna guess what’s happened to the money?) 

Are these people on the ball?  Think they’ll be in a rush to fix the air conditioning in a public building dedicated to the island’s only industry, tourism?

Meanwhile, back at the airport, it’s still hot, hot, hot.  On the first floor, with its open air ticket counters, inside in the Customs clearance area, and even more so back in the holding pens (where travelers wait – and where it’s usually so cold you wish you’d put your long pants on). 

The airport staffers are blaming the Water and Power Authority for power surges which caused the a.c. chillers to shut down; WAPA says, "Uh, uh, it wasn’t us."

The Daily News
says the Authority estimates it could be eight weeks before the air conditioning is working again.

Charlotte Amalie ferry back in service

The island’s two ferry companies say they are resuming trips to Charlotte Amalie from Cruz Bay. Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services told the Virgin Islands Daily News its boats stopped making the run recently because they had to be inspected and needed "unforeseen repairs." (Read the story.)

Meanwhile the ferry companies have told the Public Services Commission they need a subsidy from the government to purchase new boats.  The ferry companies plead that they are losing money. 

Exactly how much, nobody knows for sure.  Because the ferry companies have failed to produce financial reports for the PSC to review.  Keeping records and accounting for fares collected is not the ferries’ strong suit.  Sometimes you get a receipt, sometimes you don’t.  Who knows what gets reported?

Jet Blue eyes the islands

More than two years ago, Jet Blue was asking customers where they thought the airline should add service.  News of St. John quickly began campaigning for the Virgin Islands and so did readers.  The issue is back on the front burner.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the airline’s new CEO says adding dozens of new smaller jets (100 passengers) gives Jet Blue a reason to consider new markets. 

Dave Barger says he sees lots of expansion possibilities with the new plans.  ""Let’s look at Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean," he said.

If you’re a Jet Blue fan, click here to send an e-mail to tell them what you’d like.

On little old St. John, Internet phone calls

Some businesses on island are using Vonage for their phone service.  Visitors to the Virgin Islands are bringing their laptops and using  Skype to make calls back to the mainland and around the world.  So says Will Culver, founder and owner of Surf da Web.  "In the Virgin Islands, we now have (Internet) access," Culver said. "The truth is that most of the villa renters can’t leave home without it, so as many as 40% of the rental homes have Wi-Fi networks.  Culver estimates he’s done 250 wireless installations in the past three years.

In an interview, however, Culver raised the prospect of more trouble for buyers of condominiums at the two new Cruz Bay projects, Grande Bay and Sirenusa.  While each property is advertising broadband Internet service will be available. Culver said he’s found "a  lack of facilities" from the telephone company, Innovative Communications.  "There’s plenty of bandwidth on the north and south shores.  But in Cruz Bay, with tons of development, no facilities.  Pretty poor planning."

For more about how the Internet is changing St. John, listen to an interview with Will Culver. Click the play button below.

You can also download or hear the file by clicking here.

Subscribe to News of St. John’s weekly podcast at the Apple iTunes Store and search for "news of st. john,"
or copy "http://fbarnako.libsyn.com/rss" and paste it into the "Subscribe" field under the iTunes software’s "Advanced" tab.  You can also use
that link to subscribe with other podcatching software.  If you’re having
a problem, e-mail: [email protected].

Where to get wired on St. John

InternetBack in April, we ran a survey asking people whether they bring their laptops. Hundreds of people said they did. Villa agencies are also reporting renters are often asking where can find Internet connectivity. One source estimates as many as 40% of villa have Wi-Fi, and both the Westin and Caneel also offer connectivity).

Here’s a guide to Internet access spots if you’re out and about.  If you know of other spots, please add them as a comment.

Washington DC PBS station airs VI Park documentary

The documentary produced to celebrate the Park’s 50th anniversary was broadcast by Washington, DC’s PBS station last Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. "Establishment of Virgin Islands National Park, was commissioned by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, and created by Bill Stelzer, Bruce Schoonover and Steve Simonsen. The film tells the story of three very different men who came together to preserve and protect the incredible beauty of St. John.

Now, early afternoon on a Sunday isn’t the best time slot, but it’s better than no slot.  And, of you’re outside DC, and know someone at the PBS station in your community, this is at least an excuse to say, "Hey, how about you guys running the show, too?"

Or  you could buy the DVD and watch it yourself, anytime 🙂