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SOMETHING'S ROTTEN, AND IT'S NOT IN DENMARK

April 1, 2004 – Garbage has been accumulating on Water Island for three weeks — and so have excuses from the V.I. government about why it hasn't been picked up.
Finally, as of Thursday afternoon, residents were looking forward to the mounds of refuse being hauled away on Saturday.
Garbage hauler Steve Rampino is upset; the Water Island residents are upset; and the government, until Thursday, was uncommunicative. The residents want the garbage picked up before the island is contaminated. The refuse is overflowing into the sea, and Rampino says he cannot afford to haul it away for free.
Residents have been doing what little they can to deal with the situation. "My husband went down again in his backhoe this morning to try to smash down the garbage," Colette Monroe said on Thursday. "I have three garbage cans, and I have trash all over. The cans are all full and covered. I don't have any more."
Rampino, owner of Sunbow Ocean Services, says the Public Works Department is almost a year behind in paying him for the services he has been contracted to perform — pick up the garbage and haul it to St. Thomas on his barge once a week. He said he's owed $15,000.
Rampino says he was at the end of his rope until he finally heard from St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator James O'Bryan Jr. on Thursday afternoon that a check had been cut and would be delivered to him. He said O'Bryan told him to arrange with Public Works for a Saturday pickup of the garbage.
Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull told the Source on Thursday afternoon that the check had been issued.
According to Rampino, O 'Bryan told him the payment would be partial, covering what he's owed through the end of fiscal year 2003.
O'Bryan said the check "technically closes out the 2003 billing for them," Rampino said. "It's for $5,600. Previously I was told it was for $6,400. O'Bryan said the balance of the money was being 'moved around' now to make it 'available.' That's wonderful. All I want to know is if they can establish regular methods."
The $6,400 referred to an earlier check Rampino had been told exists but has yet to see. "I don't know where the check is," he said. "Public Works blames it on the Finance Department. They say 'It's not our fault; the check is cut, but it's Finance's fault.' And I am getting more and more frustrated." The missing check might be sitting at Public Works, he said, "but nobody would tell me."
Rampino said he has "a good personal relationship" with the Public Works people who take the trash from him. "I'm not making this personal," he said.
He said that after waiting for months to be paid, he reluctantly stopped the garbage pickups about three weeks ago. "I didn't want to do it," he said, "but I cannot afford to keep doing it without being paid. We are a very, very small business. They owe us $15,000. That's one little contract to the government, but it's 15 percent of my business."
Rampino lives on Water Island. "That's why I agreed to do this in the first place," he said, "and why I let it go on so long. I'm one of the old-time residents — this is my home, and these are my neighbors. There's only 125 of us."
He also had provided trash pickup service back in 2001, but quit then, too, because of not being paid. "I was assured by a Water Island resident, a Public Works employee, that there was a funding source this time," he said.
But he says the most recent check he got "was last October, and that was for one month, June. I am owed back as far as last May, and they pay me for one month in the middle of everything."
Rampino also said he has been told by the Public Works administrative director, Vita Rouse, that his paperwork isn't in place, and "that I would have to resubmit it." But, he added, "I have gone to their office myself, handed in the paperwork and received a signed receipt."
Rouse said on Thursday morning that she could not comment on the matter. She referred calls to Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood, who had not responded by late Thursday afternoon.
Trash removal is one of the few public services Water Island residents get for their tax dollars. The island has an abandoned firehouse that was built by the U.S. Department of the Interior before the federal government handed the island over to the V.I. government in 1996. But it has no firefighting personnel or equipment. There is no police presence and no public school.
"That's fine with us," Joanne Bohr, president of the Water Island Civic Association, said on Thursday. "We are pretty self-reliant. We aren't asking the government for services they can't afford. We know they are there for emergencies.
"In fact, we had one just yesterday when an elderly resident had to be taken to the hospital. And we have formed our own search-and-rescue unit. It's a response team under the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with VITEMA" — the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
Bohr said island residents looked into forming a volunteer fire team, but "we were told that the unions wouldn't allow it."
But trash is a different matter. "I hope this is the end of it — that it will be picked up Saturday," she said.
Rampino said he is tired of riding the "blame train." And he said he would like to have been able to make the pickup on Friday, but that's not possible because he has another job scheduled for the day.

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April 1, 2004 - Garbage has been accumulating on Water Island for three weeks -- and so have excuses from the V.I. government about why it hasn't been picked up.
Finally, as of Thursday afternoon, residents were looking forward to the mounds of refuse being hauled away on Saturday.
Garbage hauler Steve Rampino is upset; the Water Island residents are upset; and the government, until Thursday, was uncommunicative. The residents want the garbage picked up before the island is contaminated. The refuse is overflowing into the sea, and Rampino says he cannot afford to haul it away for free.
Residents have been doing what little they can to deal with the situation. "My husband went down again in his backhoe this morning to try to smash down the garbage," Colette Monroe said on Thursday. "I have three garbage cans, and I have trash all over. The cans are all full and covered. I don't have any more."
Rampino, owner of Sunbow Ocean Services, says the Public Works Department is almost a year behind in paying him for the services he has been contracted to perform -- pick up the garbage and haul it to St. Thomas on his barge once a week. He said he's owed $15,000.
Rampino says he was at the end of his rope until he finally heard from St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator James O'Bryan Jr. on Thursday afternoon that a check had been cut and would be delivered to him. He said O'Bryan told him to arrange with Public Works for a Saturday pickup of the garbage.
Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull told the Source on Thursday afternoon that the check had been issued.
According to Rampino, O 'Bryan told him the payment would be partial, covering what he's owed through the end of fiscal year 2003.
O'Bryan said the check "technically closes out the 2003 billing for them," Rampino said. "It's for $5,600. Previously I was told it was for $6,400. O'Bryan said the balance of the money was being 'moved around' now to make it 'available.' That's wonderful. All I want to know is if they can establish regular methods."
The $6,400 referred to an earlier check Rampino had been told exists but has yet to see. "I don't know where the check is," he said. "Public Works blames it on the Finance Department. They say 'It's not our fault; the check is cut, but it's Finance's fault.' And I am getting more and more frustrated." The missing check might be sitting at Public Works, he said, "but nobody would tell me."
Rampino said he has "a good personal relationship" with the Public Works people who take the trash from him. "I'm not making this personal," he said.
He said that after waiting for months to be paid, he reluctantly stopped the garbage pickups about three weeks ago. "I didn't want to do it," he said, "but I cannot afford to keep doing it without being paid. We are a very, very small business. They owe us $15,000. That's one little contract to the government, but it's 15 percent of my business."
Rampino lives on Water Island. "That's why I agreed to do this in the first place," he said, "and why I let it go on so long. I'm one of the old-time residents -- this is my home, and these are my neighbors. There's only 125 of us."
He also had provided trash pickup service back in 2001, but quit then, too, because of not being paid. "I was assured by a Water Island resident, a Public Works employee, that there was a funding source this time," he said.
But he says the most recent check he got "was last October, and that was for one month, June. I am owed back as far as last May, and they pay me for one month in the middle of everything."
Rampino also said he has been told by the Public Works administrative director, Vita Rouse, that his paperwork isn't in place, and "that I would have to resubmit it." But, he added, "I have gone to their office myself, handed in the paperwork and received a signed receipt."
Rouse said on Thursday morning that she could not comment on the matter. She referred calls to Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood, who had not responded by late Thursday afternoon.
Trash removal is one of the few public services Water Island residents get for their tax dollars. The island has an abandoned firehouse that was built by the U.S. Department of the Interior before the federal government handed the island over to the V.I. government in 1996. But it has no firefighting personnel or equipment. There is no police presence and no public school.
"That's fine with us," Joanne Bohr, president of the Water Island Civic Association, said on Thursday. "We are pretty self-reliant. We aren't asking the government for services they can't afford. We know they are there for emergencies.
"In fact, we had one just yesterday when an elderly resident had to be taken to the hospital. And we have formed our own search-and-rescue unit. It's a response team under the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with VITEMA" -- the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
Bohr said island residents looked into forming a volunteer fire team, but "we were told that the unions wouldn't allow it."
But trash is a different matter. "I hope this is the end of it -- that it will be picked up Saturday," she said.
Rampino said he is tired of riding the "blame train." And he said he would like to have been able to make the pickup on Friday, but that's not possible because he has another job scheduled for the day.

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. Thomas 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.