Taxes, schools topic at forum

It’s campaign time on St. John, too. A Candidates’ Night at the Westin Resort was sponsored by the St. John Community Foundation and was attended by six incumbent Senators and four challengers. They included St. Johnians Sen. Almando Liburd, the incumbent At Large senator, and his opponent, Craig Barshinger.

Interest in St. John’s contribution to funding government operations was evident in a question. Sen. Lorraine Berry remembered several years ago the budget director said that information would be made available, according to a report of the forum by the St. John Source. However, she has recently been told that St. Thomas and St. John are seen as one district, and therefore no breakout of tax revenues and spending will be reported.

Questions were also heard about whether St. John will get a new school to replace Sprauve. Barshinger suggested negotiations should occur between the government and the V.I. National Park for a 100-year lease outside of town, “But we have not negotiated properly with the park,” he said, according to the Source.

Inaugural Marketplace Saturday

Merchants at the Marketplace co-sponsored Saturday of events and activities at the shopping area, Oct. 16. “Added value demonstrations and educational presentations for the entire family,” according to Jennifer Dale, the general manager of the complex. Activities included a domino tournament, face painting for kids, music by the Iguanas and the Love City Pan Dragons, and story time outside the First Floor Bookstore (pictured), led by volunteer Bill Morris. The next event will be December 3rd from 5-9pm, keyed to holiday shopping.

Real estate update

It’s been quiet for the last week, with only one property coming off the Multiple Listing Service and no new residences being added. A 4-bedroom/3-bath property in Carolina, priced at $2.9 million, came off the market, leaving the MLS with 42 residences being offered. In other categories, the number of land parcels listed rose by 3 to 136, condominiums were unchanged at 7, timeshares increased by 4 to 81, and commercial properties were unchanged at 8.

Enighed transfer halted

Environmental concerns have stopped the V.I. Port Authority from shuttling material dredged from the Enighed Pond project to the Susannaberg Landfill, the St. John Source reported. “They’re trying to do something so the runoff doesn’t” flow downhill,” said Julien Harley, the island administrator. Within hours of the Public Works Department giving its approval to the transfer, heavy rains Thursday and Friday send a wash of gray water down the Guinea Gut. Charlie Deyalsignh, who lives near the guy, said the flow was not its usual clear color, the Source said. He worried that the water life and plants in the guy will be killed by the flow.

Study: Park business worth $92 million

A study commissioned by the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park calculated the Park generates $92 million dollars in direct sales annually. The project was conducted Jane Israel, an independent consultant, during the recent winter tourism season. Another survey done earlier this year found that 80 percent of the people who visit St. John come because of the Park, according to the St. John Source.

Israel calculated the average person spends $335 on island. Hotel guests spend $630, villa and condo people paid out $533, day visitors spend $139. Island restaurants received $18 million of that spending, hotels, condos, and other lodging providers were paid $35 million for lodging, and $12 million went to for local transportation (car rentals, taxis, etc.), the Daily News reported. She also estimated that the Park is responsible for 20 percent of the VI’s total employment.

Joe Kessler, president of the Friends, told the Virgin Islands Daily News , “It’s good to know and be able to quantify it,” Kessler said. “That’s a very significant economic and financial impact into the local community.”

Reaction from Julien Harley, the St. John Administrator, was surprise. “I knew it was a lot, but I didn’t think it would be so high,” he told the Source.

Kessler said the Friends intends to post Israel’s report on the Net at http://www.friendsvinp.org.

Enighed not soon come

enighed2To no one’s surprise, the V.I. Port Authority said the $16 million Enighed Pond Freight Terminal Project “may” open next spring; not within 30 days as was confidently predicted several weeks ago. Delays caused by the stench produced from dredging and failure to find a place to dump that sediment are among the factors being blamed, according the Virgin Islands Daily News. The update on Enighed was announced at this week’s Authority governing board meeting.

Port Authority executive director Darlan Brin said the Public Works department has given permission for the dredged material, stacked up along the shores of the Pond, to be taken to the Susannaberg landfill. The transfers have begun. Meanwhile, back at the pond, dredging has resumed and could take two more months, the newspaper report said.

Help wanted at the Post Office

The owner of the Canvas Factory is adding his voice to those critical of the St. John Post Office. “It takes two to three weeks. I don’t know what black hole it falls into,” Tom Lee said of priority and first class mail,” according to the St. John Source. Lynda Lohr, a Source reporter, also has had problems with the office. A thick envelope mailed to her from St. Thomas was lost at the Post Office for almost two weeks.

One reason for the problems could be that there is no longer a Postmaster on island. Glenn Jackson left her job last month, transferring to a new slot with the Service on St Croix. Husband, Louis Jackson, who was Postmaster on St. Thomas went with her. Neither island has an official in charge, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.

Candidates for the job should be knowledgeable about postal operations, mail processing and delivery, administration, management of the office, and budgets, according to Mildred Diaz, a spokeswoman for the Service in San Juan. She said new Postmasters should be named by the end of the year.

Disclaimer: The publisher of the News of St. John is a co-owner of the Mail Center, a retail packaging and postal business located at the Marketplace.

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.