Leona Smith got an earful on Monday evening, February 12, at the John’s Folly Learning Institute.
There was a packed house as about 75 residents shared their concerns with the newly-appointed St. John Administrator at the Coral Bay Community Council’s monthly forum.
Speaking briefly before opening the floor to the audience, Smith explained the need for collaboration between the private and public sectors.
“As you know government funds are very limited,” Smith told the crowd. “I will try to work in hand with the private sector to get things done. I will not just talk, talk, talk — I’ll get things done.”
Listening to problems is a main part of her job, explained Smith.
Here to Listen
“So far, I’ve heard about 100 complaints, from child support to paving the road to domestic violence,” said the administrator. “That is what I want — I am here to listen to you.”
Smith has already been working on removing derelict boats and cars from the Moravian Church-owned Coral Bay waterfront, and is moving forward with long-delayed plans to renovate the Frank Powell Park, which will be closed from July through November for the beautification project.
Relocating the Julius E. Sprauve School from its current downtown Cruz Bay location is another goal, the administrator explained.
“You will see that completed in this administration,” Smith said about moving the school.
Residents weighed in on a wide range of issues, from the need for an Emergency Medical Service substation in the rapidly growing Coral Bay community to the desire to use the Agriculture Station for exercise classes, and the administrator listened to all.
Hotels Should Shoulder Waste Costs
The garbage situation is out of control and it is unfair that taxpayer’s get stuck paying for hauling trash from hotels, most of which are EDC beneficiaries, according to long-time island resident Norman Gledhill.
“Ninety percent of our garbage is from hotels,” said Gledhill. “Why should we have to pay to move the trash to St. Thomas when the hotels don’t even pay taxes?”
Bonny Corbeil was concerned about communication and was assured that the administrator will be setting up an email account in the near future.
Historical Time on Love City
Having a woman as administrator and in the Senator at Large position is historic, according to St. Johnian Ronnie Jones.
“I’m proud to have two females with Leona Smith and Carmen (Wesselhoft) in power,” said Jones. “We should use these two ladies, and other professional women on island, to give our young girls the belief they can be whatever they want to be.”
“Don’t take this lightly — this is history,” Jones added.
With the growing community in Coral Bay, a medical response presence is necessary, according to St. John-based EMT Kat Taylor.
EMS Needed in Coral Bay
“EMS is based in Cruz Bay and it can take us up to 40 minutes or an hour to get out here,” said Taylor. “We need a sub-base here and we need to increase our staff. We have police and fire in Coral Bay, but no medical presence.”
There is nothing on the books to give concrete companies an incentive to stop dumping along the roadways, resident Carol Beckowitz told Smith.
“Part of the problem with all of the concrete on the roads, especially out at East End, is that nothing is on the books to have recourse except the littering laws,” said Beckowitz. “There is no incentive to not pour concrete on the roads.”
St. John needs its own 911 emergency dispatch system, according to Sue Fredrickson.
911 System Lacking
An incident occurred last week in which a home-owner called 911 and got through to St. Thomas, was put on hold for five minutes and then told they would be called back, Fredrickson explained.
“Nothing happened and he finally called the Fire Department,” said Fredrickson. “Aren’t we paying $1 a month for an emergency dispatch system on every phone? Is there any way we can have our own 911 here?”
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources is woefully understaffed, another resident told Smith.
“DPNR has limited oversight and is stretched very thin,” said the resident. “There are so many projects, they can’t keep up. They will need more funding.”
The St. John American Legion Viggo E. Sewer Post 131 is still looking for a home, William Henderson pointed out.
“Congratulations and my condolences,” Hender-son said to Smith on her appointment.
Ag. Station Confusion
Due to jurisdiction confusion, a group of women in Coral Bay have been locked out of the Agriculture Station where they used to participate in exercise classes, another resident reported.
Smith pledged to look into the matter.
St. John should be its own district, according to George Hollander.
“I would like to see the government deal with St. John as a separate entity,” Hollander said. “St. John should be St. John, and not St. John/St. Thomas.”
Illegal aliens land on St. John on a regular basis, reported a resident who lives on the East End.
VIPD Should Patrol for Illegal Aliens
“I have a problem with illegal aliens coming in through Coral Bay,” said the resident. “I can tell you what time they come in, where they come in and who is picking them up. The police department doesn’t patrol — they need to be doing their job.”
Police officers should not drive around with their vehicle’s air conditioning on, St. Johnian Douglas Matthias told Smith.
“They can’t hear what is going on with their windows up and the air conditioning on,” said Matthias.
In other CBCC news, members have “just about” gotten the go-ahead to refurbish the Coral Bay basketball court with funds left over from last year’s Coral Bay Yacht Club-sponsored Flotilla, according to CBCC president Sharon Coldren.
GBS Playground Project Almost Finished
The Guy Benjamin School playground project is nearing completion and Coldren thanked Stephan Scholtz for volunteering to make benches to complete the renovations.
St. John Kids And The Sea program is starting a new rowing and seamanship class in April. For more information on the upcoming KATS class call Connections East at 779-4994, explained Robin Clair Pitts.
A new refrigerator is needed for the kitchen at the John’s Folly Learning Institute, Call JFLI at 714-7134 for more information or to make a donation.
The St. John Administrator can be reached at 776-6484.