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ROUNDUP BRINGS IN 30 ABANDONED CARS, SO FAR

May 21, 2002 – Police and Public Works Department crews have rounded up 30 vagrant vehicular eyesores on St. John in the last three weeks, and they're not done yet, Ira Wade, deputy Public Works commissioner, said Tuesday.
Crews were on the eastern end of the island on Tuesday tagging abandoned cars with removal notices. Their targets, Wade said, are "unregistered, unsightly" cars with bodies heavily rusted and in some cases literally falling apart. The tow-truck operator working on the effort said that May, June and July are the best months for such an operation because many of the derelicts are left behind by seasonal workers from off island who go home when the tourists leave.
As he made his way through the Chocolate Hole and Pond Mouth area a few days ago, Rascio Oquendo said he'd heard from those who said "don't touch" the abandoned cars, but move 'em he does, because by the time the wrecker arrives, the police have already been there.
"It's the initiative of this one supervisor, and he's working with some of the patrol units," Police Lt. Rene Garcia, Cruz Bay zone commander, said. When the supervisor spots an eyesore, he calls for a tag team to post a 48-hour warning on the car to its owner: Move it or lose it.
A few years ago, Public Works authorities on St. John found themselves in hot water when an owner showed up to claim a car swept up in a removal operation. Now Wade says there are steps in place to cut down on confusion.
"If the cars are 13 years old or older and in poor condition, we take them to the salvage area," he explained. "If the cars are eight years old or less and in decent condition, we take them to a holding area for security purposes. We keep them for 30 days, and during that period of time we notify Property and Procurement's transportation division."
Cars in relatively good condition that remain unclaimed after 30 days can be sold at public auction. There are bargains to be had "sometimes," Wade said.
A big challenge of keeping the roadsides free of rolling debris is finding someplace to put it. St. Thomas is waging its own war against abandoned cars, Wade said, so shipping St. John's collection of clunkers to the Bovoni landfill is not a done deal. "St. John is kind of hindered because of the excessive number of vehicles being held at Bovoni," he said.
Public waste managers are awaiting delivery of an automated compressor that will crush abandoned cars so they take up less space at the landfill and are easier to ship. Workers are already draining the derelict vehicles of gas, oil and coolant and removing the tires, to ready them for crushing.

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