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TURNBULL CALLS FOR GREATER ST. JOHN AUTONOMY

Dec. 17, 2003 – At a forum hosted by the St. John Community Foundation on Wednesday, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull pledged to help St. John get more autonomy.
Most of the nearly 75 people attending the event at the Westin Resort applauded when he said that all of the islands should have some degree of local government. "But I need to know how to craft it," he said.
He called on the Community Foundation to provide him advice.
"You bet you're going to get it," muttered one Community Foundation member in response to his request.
The governor also said he would like St. John to elect its own senator. Currently, residents of all islands vote for an at-large senator, who must reside on St. John.
Turnbull was accompanied by a number of cabinet members including Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Louis Willis, director of the Internal Revenue Bureau, along with the executive directors of the Water and Power Authority and the Port Authority. The governor answered questions on many topics that had been submitted to the foundation in advance by members of the community.
At a candidates night function held before the 2002 general election, Turnbull had promised to attend such forums on St. John. He also promised that night to provide answers concerning how much St. John contributes to the government coffers.
Willis said he estimates that of the $403 million in total taxes collected across the territory, St. John is responsible for $53 million to $60 million. That would include gross receipts taxes paid on goods that St. John residents purchase on St. Thomas, he said.
St. John is responsible for at least $15 million of the $75 million a year paid in estimated business income taxes, Willis said. "You are not employed by employers," he said, referring to St. John's high number of self-employed people who file estimated taxes.
St. John's two large hotel properties, the Westin Resort and Villas and Caneel Bay Resort, each pay about $1.5 million a year through the 8 percent hotel occupancy tax, Willis said.
A pressing question posed by residents concerned plans to negotiate with V.I. National Park for land to build a school. St. John Administrator Julien Harley said the deal is closer now than it has ever been before. "But every time the park said 'Do A, B and C,' and we did it, there's D and E," he said, expressing frustration from years of trying to forge an agreement.
While Harley didn't provide specifics at Wednesday's meeting, U.S. Attorney David Nissman is pushing for the V.I. government to give up land at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve on St. Croix in exchange for parkland on St. John for the school.
While the word "swap" has long been kicked around, Nissman has said a swap may not be possible. Instead, the local government might have to lease land for a school from the park. Land at Catherineberg is the most likely site. Harley said 20 acres would do the job.
Darlan Brin, Port Authority executive director, said the Enighed Pond commercial port project is on schedule and should be done by the end of next July. "I don't believe it will go beyond a month or month and a half" beyond that, he said.
Asked about putting in a dinghy dock at Enighed Pond, Brin said the port is being developed for freight and commercial vessels. "I don't believe dinghies are a compatible use with freight vessels," he said. Also, he said, port security concerns would prevent recreational vessels from using the area.
Brin also said the Port Authority plans to extend the existing Cruz Bay ferry dock and to improve the Creek to create space for recreational vessels and give ferries more space to berth overnight. The ferries do not all fit comfortably overnight at the ferry dock. He also said VIPA is looking at building a new federal inspection facility on St. John.
WAPA's executive director, Alberto Bruno-Vega, said the utility needs an interim rate increase for potable water service in order to complete work on the submarine cable intended to alleviate St. John's water shortages by connecting the island to St. Thomas's system. Without the needed funding, "it will become the pipeline to nowhere," he said, taking a pot shot at St. Thomas's infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Nadir that was built years ago but has yet to be connected to the roadways it was intended to serve.
Bruno-Vega said the interim water rate increase would cost customers no more than the price of a bottle of beer per month.
If the Public Services Commission approves the rate increase, he said, WAPA will lay the cable in January, and the work to extend a water pipeline across St. Thomas to its East End should be completed within a year. He said the Community Foundation could help because one of its members, Alecia M. Wells, also sits on the PSC.

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Dec. 17, 2003 - At a forum hosted by the St. John Community Foundation on Wednesday, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull pledged to help St. John get more autonomy.
Most of the nearly 75 people attending the event at the Westin Resort applauded when he said that all of the islands should have some degree of local government. "But I need to know how to craft it," he said.
He called on the Community Foundation to provide him advice.
"You bet you're going to get it," muttered one Community Foundation member in response to his request.
The governor also said he would like St. John to elect its own senator. Currently, residents of all islands vote for an at-large senator, who must reside on St. John.
Turnbull was accompanied by a number of cabinet members including Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Louis Willis, director of the Internal Revenue Bureau, along with the executive directors of the Water and Power Authority and the Port Authority. The governor answered questions on many topics that had been submitted to the foundation in advance by members of the community.
At a candidates night function held before the 2002 general election, Turnbull had promised to attend such forums on St. John. He also promised that night to provide answers concerning how much St. John contributes to the government coffers.
Willis said he estimates that of the $403 million in total taxes collected across the territory, St. John is responsible for $53 million to $60 million. That would include gross receipts taxes paid on goods that St. John residents purchase on St. Thomas, he said.
St. John is responsible for at least $15 million of the $75 million a year paid in estimated business income taxes, Willis said. "You are not employed by employers," he said, referring to St. John's high number of self-employed people who file estimated taxes.
St. John's two large hotel properties, the Westin Resort and Villas and Caneel Bay Resort, each pay about $1.5 million a year through the 8 percent hotel occupancy tax, Willis said.
A pressing question posed by residents concerned plans to negotiate with V.I. National Park for land to build a school. St. John Administrator Julien Harley said the deal is closer now than it has ever been before. "But every time the park said 'Do A, B and C,' and we did it, there's D and E," he said, expressing frustration from years of trying to forge an agreement.
While Harley didn't provide specifics at Wednesday's meeting, U.S. Attorney David Nissman is pushing for the V.I. government to give up land at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve on St. Croix in exchange for parkland on St. John for the school.
While the word "swap" has long been kicked around, Nissman has said a swap may not be possible. Instead, the local government might have to lease land for a school from the park. Land at Catherineberg is the most likely site. Harley said 20 acres would do the job.
Darlan Brin, Port Authority executive director, said the Enighed Pond commercial port project is on schedule and should be done by the end of next July. "I don't believe it will go beyond a month or month and a half" beyond that, he said.
Asked about putting in a dinghy dock at Enighed Pond, Brin said the port is being developed for freight and commercial vessels. "I don't believe dinghies are a compatible use with freight vessels," he said. Also, he said, port security concerns would prevent recreational vessels from using the area.
Brin also said the Port Authority plans to extend the existing Cruz Bay ferry dock and to improve the Creek to create space for recreational vessels and give ferries more space to berth overnight. The ferries do not all fit comfortably overnight at the ferry dock. He also said VIPA is looking at building a new federal inspection facility on St. John.
WAPA's executive director, Alberto Bruno-Vega, said the utility needs an interim rate increase for potable water service in order to complete work on the submarine cable intended to alleviate St. John's water shortages by connecting the island to St. Thomas's system. Without the needed funding, "it will become the pipeline to nowhere," he said, taking a pot shot at St. Thomas's infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Nadir that was built years ago but has yet to be connected to the roadways it was intended to serve.
Bruno-Vega said the interim water rate increase would cost customers no more than the price of a bottle of beer per month.
If the Public Services Commission approves the rate increase, he said, WAPA will lay the cable in January, and the work to extend a water pipeline across St. Thomas to its East End should be completed within a year. He said the Community Foundation could help because one of its members, Alecia M. Wells, also sits on the PSC.

Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.

Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.