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Cruz Bay-Charlotte Amalie ferry service cut

Only two round trips between St. John and Charlotte Amalie are now being made daily, compared to six previously, according to the St. John SourceTransportation Services and Varlack Ventures blamed equipment problems for the cutback. 

The remaining trips are scheduled for the convenience of commuters.  “Most of the trips in the middle of the day have no one on them,” said Kenrick C. Augustus, general manager for Transportation Services.  He said two of his company’s three ferries have been out of commission.  With fare hikes expected to be approved for all ferry rides, by the Public Service Commission, Augustus said “The expected cash flow increase is going to put both us and Varlack Ventures in a much better position for asset increase (new boats) and preventive vessel maintenance.”

Park Friends warn of Maho threat

A wealthy New York Maho_bay_vistacouple is trying to create a "think tank" on 441 acres of land at Estate Maho Bay.  The president of the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park is angrily fighting.

The land stretches from Maho Bay Beach to Centerline Road, Mamey peak and Ajax peak, the Friends’ president, Joe Kessler, wrote in his organization’s Fall 2005 newsletter.  Kessler said the potential buyers are in "secret negotiations" with heirs of the land’s original owners and are, at the same time, trying to force the National Park Service to sell its share of the property in return for the designation of 80 acres as a conservation area.  Kessler said the developer is also planning to divert North Shore Road in such a way as to make Maho Bay beach access more difficult and to build a private dock at Maho.

The developers were identified as James and Marilyn Simons.  A Google search  identified a Dr. James Simons, a successful hedge fund investor, who with his wife, Marilyn, has donated more than $15 million (corrected 10/1/05) for research into autism.  They are also sponsors of the Simons Foundation which has many charitable interests including a network of hospital and community projects in Nepal named in memory of their son.

Kessler said the development plans include 44 acres for the think tank (now called Maho Bay Institute) in the lowlands near the beach, 42 acres for the heirs’ residential sites and 89 acres for the family compound and (presumably) other residential sites. "Any prospect of developing this spectacular area within the Park is extremely distressing as it will destroy the integrity of the Park," Kessler warned. "These demands … by the developer will have extreme, long-term detrimental impact on the Park."  The Friends have more information on the web.

Read morePark Friends warn of Maho threat

Chesney-Zellwegger flop after four months

The marriage of the year on St. John has collapsed after four months. 

Rumors abound online about the cause of the breakup between Kenny Chesney, one of the island’s part-time bartenders and Renee Zellwegger, the Oscar-winning actress.  The UK’s Daily Mail reported Sunday, "Zellweger split from her husband of just four months because she wanted to start a family and he did not. A source close to Renee said last night: "Her biological clock is ticking loudly. She is desperate to have children. Renee’s understanding was that Kenny wanted a family too. It was Kenny who got cold feet." 

Local government meeting draws many

"Municipal government is the panacea for  the Virgin Islands," said Juanita Canton at a meeting on St. John called by the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee.  The hearing was to consider proposals asking Congress to let the territory develop its own local government plans, according to the St. John Source.  The crowd was estimated at about 60 people, prompting Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone to point out similar meetings on St. Thomas and St. Croix were attended by only seven people.

Canton asked how much money St. John business and property owners contribute to operate the government and, in return, what is the cost of the VI’s agencies having offices on St. John.  Another comment was made by Lorelei Monsanto who has no interest in local government proposals.  She reminded the Senators that voters previously approved a reduction in the number of Senators, but that wish has been ignored.

September a quiet month on island

This is a quiet time on the island, although it’s relative.  This summer has been busier, and drawn more visitors, than previous, as year-over-year St. John gains in popularity.  Nonetheless, full-time residents need to take vacations, too – and hurricane seasons as good a time as any.  Hence a number of restaurants and businesses shut down for a while.  Here’s a list prepared by Ruth of St. John Spice. http://www.stjohnspice.com/stjohnrestaurants.htm

Katrina effects to be felt

Rising gasoline prices could be the least of the impact felt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  "You will see escalating prices at the gas pump, said Alberto Bruno-Vega, V.I. Water Power and Authority director, told a meeting on St. John.  About three dozen people attended the session called by V.I. Delegate Donna M. Christensen.  The price of gas, before the storm, was $3.15 a gallon.  Bruno-Vega also referred to the high price of oil, implying higher electricity costs could be ahead.  He urged conservation efforts such as cutting back the use of hot water heaters.

Mail service meeting hears same old stuff

Priority Mail takes three weeks, Christmas catalogs arrive in the spring and credit cards show up after their due dates were listed as common occurrences for the island’s mail service during a public hearing with Postal Service officials, at the St. John School on Gifft Hill.  The Service’s acting district manager, Pablo Claudio, explained the steps involved in delivering the mail, according to a report by the St. John Source.  The island’s postmaster, Tiffany Gumbs, said she knows there are problems with priority mail and she is studying it.

As for the possibility of a new post office on the island, the Service’s manager of design and construction said there is motion.  Dane Weir reported a property has been located and a feasibility study will be conducted,  The lease on the current 3,000-square foot building has another 50 years to go.  Weir said the post office needs 5,000 feet.

Property taxes finally mailed

The V.I. Tax Assessor’s Office has mailed property tax bills, about two moths later than normal. Taxpayers were supposed to make payments by August 31, but it is expected the Governor will issue an executive order to set a new, later, date.  The V.I. Finance Department said it delayed authorizing mailing of the bills to be sure all details were accurate, such as exemption codes.  New computer software has been installed and the government wanted to make sure the Finance and Assessor’s systems were compatible.

St. John School building ready for students

Classes will resume at the St. John School at Gifft Hill next Monday in a new steel building at the school’s new campus, according to the St. John Source.  Teachers are reported setting up classrooms defined by prefabricated panels.  Fred Trayser, a school parent and island contractor, directed assembly of the building for a $1 honorarium.  It took nine months. The building cost $65 a square foot to build, the Source reported — an unheard of number for St. John construction projects.

New air service to VIs

United Airlines has added mid-week direct flights from Washington and Chicago to St. Thomas, while Spirit Airlines plans new service from Fort Lauderdale.  United’s flights include new Tuesday and Thursday service direct from Dulles International airport in the nation’s capitol.  Spirit Airlines will fly a daily Fort Lauderdale non-stop to St. Thomas.  Spirit operates flights from 11 cities, including Atlanta, Chicago and Providence.