Despite Questions, Roundabout Forces Texaco To Close June 30

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The Clarice Thomas Annex, at right, will be affected by the planned roundabout which will also displace the Cruz Bay Texaco Station.

 

After serving the island of St. John for more than 40 years, Chevron Caribbean Inc. will close its Cruz Bay Texaco gas station on June 30 at the request of the V.I. Department of Public Works.

The V.I. government, which leases parcel Q-NH-10 in the heart of Cruz Bay to Texaco, will acquire the property under eminent domain to construct a roundabout in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion at the four-road intersection.

This is not the first time the Texaco has closed at the request of the government, explained a Chevron Caribbean press release.

“Last year, the Public Works Depart-ment requested that Chevron close the station as a step in the eminent domain acquisition of Chevron’s service station asset,” states the release. “However, due to hardship created in the community, the government requested Chevron to reopen the station under a temporary extension of its eminent domain acquisition until June 30.”

June Advertisement for Bids
The Texaco closed on September 3, 2006, while the E&C Gas Station was scheduled to close for renovations. The closure of both stations would have left the island with just one gas station in Coral Bay.

Faced with the closure of both gas stations in the middle of hurricane season, DPW officials asked Chevron to continue operating the Texaco station until June.

DPW is set to advertise for bids for the roundabout project in June, and this time, the closure of the Texaco will be permanent.

“I’ve been here since 1976,” said Texaco gas station owner Robert O’Connor Jr. “It’s difficult, but I guess that’s the way it is.”

O’Connor has not been successful in his quest to relocate the gas station.

No Immediate Plans To Relocate
“Chevron will proceed to remove its assets from the location so that the property can be turned over to the government as requested,” according to the company’s press release. “Chevron said it is committed to complying with the government’s request and acknowledges that the Cruz Bay station closure may cause some additional hardship on the community. Chevron also announced that it will regrettably be leaving the St. John market on the closure of the service station, and that there are no immediate plans to relocate the service station.”

O’Connor Car Rental, which is operated out of the Texaco gas station, will stay in business, explained O’Connor.

Car Rental Will Relocate
“The car rental is going to be okay,” he said. “I’m not sure where it will relocate yet. I’ve got a couple of options.”

Chevron will not abandon hope of returning to the St. John market, explained Chevron Caribbean USVI Retail District Manager Algernon Cargill.

“We thank the St. John community for its support of the Texaco brand during the 42 years we have served the community, and will explore additional opportunities to return to the market in the future,” he said.

O’Connor raised several questions regarding the timing of the Texaco closure, and the feasibility of the roundabout.

“I don’t think they’re ready,” said O’Connor. “I still believe that what they’re doing isn’t necessary. I don’t think you need to take a small area and put a half-acre roundabout in it — it’s not proportional.”

Questions regarding how the roundabout will affect the nearby Julius E. Sprauve School have also been raised recently.

Education Officials Concerned
“I listened to the testimony at the V.I. Legislature with the education officials,” said O’Connor. “The people at the school here are concerned about the roundabout also. They didn’t even see the plan until it appeared in the St. John Tradewinds.”

Education officials believe the construction of the Texaco will require the removal of part of JESS’ two annexes, and are reportedly working out a plan to send kindergarten through third graders to the Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay, and ninth graders to the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas, according to O’Connor.

Annex Minimally Affected
JESS Principal Mario Francis last week denied having any knowledge about such a plan, and DPW officials have previously stated only the Clarice Thomas annex would be minimally affected.

“We are going to move the primary entrance from the west side of the building to the east side,” DPW Territorial Highway Program Manager Wystan Benjamin told St. John Tradewinds in February. “The curb is going to cut close to the west side, so there will still be access, but we’re not going to have them use the west side as a primary entrance.”