Gov. Kenneth Mapp said he’s hoping to see electricity restored in Cruz Bay by next week. The territory’s chief executive made that prediction while on a round island tour of St. John Oct. 18.
Mapp also said it’s time to build a new fire station to serve Coral Bay and to bring in a modular health clinic and classrooms for the Julius E. Sprauve School. These were among the restoration tasks slated for St. John after two major hurricanes ravaged the Virgin Islands in September.
Coral Bay was on the itinerary for the governor’s round island tour. The school and the clinic were places he and Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter visited before.
Mapp came to St. John on his latest trip along with his chief of staff, Erroll Farrell, and half a dozen cabinet members. Officials rolled past the closed Myrah Keating Smith Clinic, stopped at the expanded Susannaberg Landfill and viewed federally contracted clean up crews removing debris on Centerline road.
Mapp declared the firehouse a total loss and said a new one would have to be built elsewhere. Fire Service Corporal Robert Hyde led the walk through past the blown out windows in what once was the firehouse kitchen; through the empty bunk area which suffered flooding and the office where masked firefighters battled mold with rags and mops.
Farrel said he wanted to do something about Coral Bay Fire House several months ago when he was the designated fire service director. Similar conditions made life rough for firefighters at Hotel Company on St. Thomas, he said. But when Irma struck in early September, construction was just wrapping up on a newly built facility at Estate Ross Taarnberg and was ready to receive them.
That was not the case in East St. John.
“They’re going to need a new station. That can’t be a build back,” Mapp said. But there was no immediate answer about what to do to relieve first responders now in hardship.
More immediate plans were shifting into place Wednesday to hasten solid waste management. Waste Management Authority Director Roger Merritt III and Public Works Commissioner Designee Nelson Petty discussed the expansion of the transfer station.
Merritt also presented the governor with an update on the islands’ wastewater treatment plants, which he said all fared well during the passage of Irma and Maria.
Since the storm, hundreds of cubic tons of earth was cleared away with the help of Navy personnel and federal emergency managers, making way for fallen trees and other vegetative debris.
“This is an opportunity to organize the transfer station to improve operations,” Petty said.
Mapp told his team he wanted to see more done, faster.
“We have to put more assets, more manpower into household trash removal,” he said. That would be done with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency with manpower already on island.
But at the top of the priority list for things to get done now was power. Mapp said he was surprised to find no off island utility crews working beside the Water and Power Authority. He wanted to see 40 visiting linemen on St. John this week, and 40 more after Oct. 27 when a new contingent is scheduled to arrive.
The governor said he was not sure but was confident Cruz Bay would be energized sometime during the week of Oct. 23. He also told Coral Bay resident Lorelei Monsanto her complaint about lost phone service should be answered soon.
“I know Sprint gave us a complete plan yesterday about how they are going to get cell service back to the territory,” Mapp said.
VITEMA director Mona Barnes echoed her boss’ optimism when asked about how flagging phone service affected access to the 911 emergency call system.
“They are creating more hot spots every day,” Barnes said. And she declared 911 fully functional in areas where a signal can be found.
Those who find themselves faced with an emergency, outside of the calling area, will have to travel to the nearest first responder station and report in person, she said.