Gov. could talk about property taxes tonight

Dejongh The annual State of the Territory address is schedule for Monday night at 7 p.m.  You can listen to it on the Governor's Web site, http://www.governordejongh.com/

A statement from the Governor's office said, "(John) deJongh will highlight the work of his administration over the past three years and express his confidence and conviction that the territory is on the right path to overcome our current challenges and move toward a brighter future for all Virgin Islanders."

Of great interest to St. John business, villa, condo, and land owners will be any comment about the impasse between the federal government and the territory which has blocked property tax collections for at least three years. 

How you can run a government, or even a household, without a main source of revenue, is beyond most people. Unless, of course, you're piling up debt – which means interest payments … which means more debt.

Bill’s back from Haiti and CNN

Known as a teacher, film maker and journalist. St. John's Bill Stelzer is now being called by some a hero.  With a few days of the earthquake disaster in Haiti, he was on a plane to help rescue children at an orphange operated by Mercy and Sharing.

The only way to keep tabs was to monitor his Facebook page. "Went into Port au Prince today to rescue the kids trapped at the old orphanage as to reunite them with their friends at Mercy and Sharing Foundation's new orphanage north of the city," he wrote. "The house mothers sang gospel songs of thanks in the back of the pickup trucks on the journey back and there was much rejoicing when we finally arrived."

Read moreBill’s back from Haiti and CNN

Dan Carlsen’s sharp idea

Best known for his knife and tool sharpening business, Dan Carlsen's branched out to cyberspace. 

The long time St. John resident started selling some of his unneeded stuff on eBay. Now he's doing it for other people, according to a profile of Carlsen published by the St. John Source.

InkOperating as the Coral Bay Market, he takes in items people want to sell, takes photographs, writes descriptions and posts them on the online auction service.  He charges a 15% commission.

Most of his current inventory of almost 300 items are books, CDs, and sports memorabilia.  The most expensive is a package of eight high-end color cartridges for a professional Epson printer (pictured at left).

Friends say no to Trunk Bay parking

Joe Kessler, who heads up the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, says the Park is not likely to adopt the idea to charge for parking at Trunk Bay.  In a comment at NewsofStJohn.com, he said, "Parks throughout the national park system are currently prohibited from introducing any new fees." 

(The Inquiring Iguana would direct your focus on the word 'currently,' though.)

The Friends leader agrees a shuttle service from Cruz Bay to Annenberg would be a good idea. "So that visitors to the park would be able to get on and off as they wish at park venues along the north shore for a set fee per trip — similar to the "dollar taxis" on St. Thomas (although it would likely be more than a dollar)," he said.

Later this week, Kessler is hosting the annual meeting of the Friends group.  The Iguana encourages you to attend the get together at the T'ree Lizards restaurant at Cinnamon Bay, Sunday, at 2 p.m.  

Listening to Kessler,  the Park Superintendent and the many hard-working volunteers and staff describe what they've accomplished each year, doing more with less each year it seems, is more than enough reason you should join the Friends group and make a donation.  Join here: http://www.friendsvinp.org/support_us.htm

Pay to park at Trunk?


What if you had to pay to park at Hawksnest or Trunk Bay

The money raised could go to fund a shuttle system of taxis and vans and ease the crowding and illegal parking along the North Shore roads.

Charging for parking is one of the ideas offered for consideration during a six-month study of transportation issues on the island.  Beth Isler was funded by the National Park Foundation to study the island's transportation issues and develop a plan to "alleviate parking demand and improve mobility and access."

Isler is a member of the Vermont Institute of Transportation Engineers. Her study ended at the end of the year, leaving her to prepare a report for the Park Service.

Other ideas heard at advisory committee meetings which included taxi drivers and representatives of the VI Taxi Cab Association were widening curves on the North Shore roads, preventing people from picnicking at the Park overlooks (to allow more people to use them), and eliminating taxi parking at Trunk Bay.

"A successful plan will benefit the economy of St. John by improving visitor experience," a National Park statement said, "preserving Park resources, reducing transportation impacts on the island, and creating business opportunities for the local community."

Super-soft souvenir of St. John

Tshirt Almost three years ago, Shannon Thompson made her first visit to the island.  Little did she realize that the vacation would lead her to start a business,  Wearable Souvenirs, the newest advertiser on NewsofStJohn.com.

Returning to her Ohio home, Thompson's mind kept taking her back to St. John. "I decided that if I couldn't get myself to the island, I could at least has a wearable souvenir, a piece of the island keeping me warm." 

"There were shirts I wanted … shirts I wasn't seeing for sale on the island," she said.  So, she did it the old fashion way.  Her way! 

Working with island designer Chelsea O'Brien, she developed six designs, each of which reflects the island's humor, quirkiness, and relaxed approach to life. "I hope they put a smile on your face and that the super-soft organic cotton reminds you of the super-soft sand of Cinnamon Bay," she said.

St. John’s Stelzer to Haiti

Bill Stelzer of St John is in Haiti. He is doing good works and trying to help people survive the disastrous earthquake. 

St. John Spice's co-owner Ruth Ernst reported in a post on Virgin Islands-On-Line, "(He) is (there) with the Mercy & Sharing Foundation, a group he has worked with for several years." This group pays their own operating expenses, so 100% of cash donations go to their programs in Haiti.

Stelzer made a name for himself in TV News in Texas before moving to St. John.  Since then he has made documentary films, volunteered and taught graphics and video in the St. John schools, and done graphic and layout work with the St. John Sun Times.

Odds are that Stelzer took a few cameras with him and you shouldn't be surprised if he comes back with some stark, moving, and important images.

Highest gas price in the VIs

The new year begins with a years-old tradition. Gasoline prices on St. John are still the highest among the three islands.

According to the most recent VI Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs survey of service station prices, St. John motorists in early January paid seven percent more for a gallon of self-service regular, $3.16, at E&C in Cruz Bay than St. Thomas drivers who gassed up at the cheapest station there, One Stop Race and Track.  On St. Croix, home of the Hovensa oil refinery, a gallon of regular at Royal Service Station went for $2.53.

8 Tuff Miles trials begin

Gear-for-saleThe biggest foot race in the Virgin Islands, 8 Tuff Miles, is scheduled for February 27th. The course begins in Cruz Bay and spans the length of the island and ends in Coral Bay.

Peter Alter, the race's founder and organizer, said the West Indies Corp. is again sponsoring the race.  It distributes Gatorade and Aqua Fina water in the Virgin Islands.

As part of the preparations training runs have been scheduled.  These trials are called Geiger Tuff Tune Ups, in memory of a long-time island resident, David Geiger. The first is Saturday morning.  The three-mile jog/run/walk up Centerline Road steps off at Mongoose Junction at 7 a.m.

Last year's race saw 780 runners and walkers cross the finish line.  This year Alter said he is capping race registrations at 1,000.

Asolare lives!

After a summer in which several of the island's upscale restaurants wrestled with ownership and management chaos, things are settling down.

At the Westin Resort the pretentiously-named Chloe & Bernard's closed late in the summer.  Now, in the second floor location in the main building, Cruz Bay Prime is touting itself as "St. John’s newest Caribbean steak and seafood restaurant featuring prime, grass fed and Wagyu steaks, and domestic lamb."  The restaurant is open for dinner 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. with entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.

Asolare Asolare, called by Fodor's "The most beautiful and elegant restaurant" on the island is operating under an experienced hand. Winston Bennett, who launched the operation located above Cruz Bay harbor, is again calling the shots. Initial reviews are positive. 

In a post on TripAdvisor, Cind11 from Ohio wrote, "We were just there on New Year's Eve. The girls both had Filet mignon and my DH and I had a fish called Cobia. It was a wonderful dinner, the best we had on St. John during this trip."  So, the quality and experience is consistent with Asolare's history.  But, Cindll added, so was the bill. "Quite pricey though I must say!!!"  Another positive comment came from Vickie from Toronto who said, "We were just there over New Years and had dinner at Asolare on January 1. It was our best meal as well."