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.
The Department of Public Works said St. John will see some major road repair work in the next several months, due partially to damage from the heavy rains of Hurricane Jeanne which passed the island last month.
Money for the work will come from a government bond issue being sold now, with the funds to be made available by the end of November. Proceeds are also earmarked for repair of roads, landfills, and wastewater systems on St. Thomas and St. Croix, the Virgin Islands Daily News reported. “We have left out St. John before but that is not going to happen this time,” said Wayne Callwood, the Public Works commissioner.
Gov. Charles Turnbull expects a bill to be signed by President Bush this week will be a near disaster for the islands’ economy.
The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 contains provisions relative to the Economic Development Commission, clarifying the nearly 20-year-old plan. It requires EDC company principals to reside in the islands at least 183 days a year. And the government said that it appears income eligible for exemption from federal taxation will be limited to revenues generated on the islands, according to a report by the St. John Source. Peter Hiebert, Washington counsel for the V.I. government, told the Source, the EDC program was valuable because it “brought increased intellectual capital and increased creativity, as well as financial resources.” Government officials fear changes in the EDC will cause some VI-based companies to close up shop.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue estimated EDC companies contribute $115 million a year to the territory’s coffers.
St. John has three gas stations and Andrew Rutnik, the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner, suggests perhaps there should be more. He told a news conference more gas stations in the St. Thomas/St. John District might bring down the cost of fuel. He was reporting on his office’s $60,000 study that found Virgin Islanders pay the world’s highest price for a gallon of gas, excluding taxes. “With the presence of Hovensa on the island of St. Croix, and the close proximity of St. Thomas/St. John to this refinery, Virgin Islanders should be benefiting handsomely in lower fuel costs,” he said, according to a report by the St. John Source.
Part of a U.S. Transportation Department grant to the Virgin Islands will go for construction of a new maintenance facility for the Virgin Islands Public Transit System on St. John. VITRAN operates a bus route between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. The Governor’s office announced the federal government allocated a total of $2.4 million, “to assist the (VI) government in the administration, planning and operation of the bus service,” according to the St. John Source.
Gym in Paradise, on the third floor of the Marketplace is being offered at $300,000 by Holiday Homes, added to the Multiple Listing service in the past week. Meanwhile, the Wicker, Wood & Shells, gift shop at Mongoose Junction I came off the listing.
On the residential side, one home came back on the market, while another property’s price was cut. The returning property is a 3-bedroom, 3-bath property which, from its offering photos, looks to be under construction. Asking price is $895,000. Meanwhile, a newly-completed 3-bedroom, 3.5 bath house with waterfall (!) overlooking Rendezvous Bay was repriced on the MLS at $2,250,000, down almost $350,000.
The overall market’s statistics: 37 residential listings, one more than last week; 123 land lots, unchanged; 9 condos, also unchanged, and 94 timeshares, also steady.
The water quality at half a dozen St. John beaches has been approved safe for swimming in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Jeanne. They are Cruz Bay, Oppenheimer, Francis Bay, Klein Bay, Chocolate Hole and Frank Bay, according to a report by the Virgin Islands Daily News. Four beaches on St. Thomas, however, failed tests by the government: Limetree, Hull Bay, Morningstar and Hart Bay. Tests were conducted due to the heavy rains and wind which., in some cases, stirred up sediment and debris and caused some manholes to overflow.
Gov. Turnbull and other territorial government officials were scheduled to be in Los Angeles late this week to participate in a federally-sponsored conference on business opportunities in the islands. An estimated 700 attendees were expected to participate in the 2nd annual Interior Department conference to interest businesses in locating in U.S. territories. The conference came in the wake of a New York Times article, raising concerns about the future of incentives for economic development in the Virgin Islands.
Despite angry opposition from Gov. Charles Turnbull, the U.S. House of Representatives this week endorsed a proposal from the V.I. Delegate to appoint a chief financial officer to oversee the territory’s spending. Del. Donna Christensen introduced the bill as a way to address the islands’ $1 billion debt. The Gov. and other government officials testified in Washington at a hearing on the bill this summer, arguing they were capable of managing the island’s finances. The bill was passed by the House on a voice vote, and still needs approval by the Senate and the President. It provides for the Governor to appoint the CFO, with approval from the legislature.
The gymnasium structure which will house classrooms for the upper grades at the St. John School is underway. The $1 million steel building is expected to be complete by March, according to Scott Crawford, co-administrator of the school which resulted from a merger of Pine Peace and the Coral Bay schools. The St. John Source reported the contractor on the project cut the road for the new building last week. The school is beginning fund raising now to pay for the construction, the paper reported. Eventually classrooms will also be built and the gym used for athletics. This school year, lower grades will continue to use the Pine Peace building, and high schoolers will attend classes at the Coral Bay School’s location at the Lumberyard in Cruz Bay.