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SENATORS FIND FACTS ON LANDFILL HARD TO FIND

May 15, 2002 – Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole didn't make much headway Tuesday when, once again, his Planning and Environmental Protection Committee tried to get information on where things stand with regard to the federal government's Dec. 31 deadline for the V.I. government to close the Anguilla landfill on St. Croix.
Tuesday's hearing followed one on March 4, when Public Works Department officials said they were working on meeting the deadline. At that hearing, senators said they were under the impression that the Federal Aviation Administration would close the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport if the deadline were not met.
Since then, the Port Authority's executive director Gordon Finch, and FAA officials have denied the FAA ever made any such threat. Finch was adamant Tuesday in explaining that what is threatened are possible sanctions by the FAA on VIPA's $9.3 million in grants for the airport if the government doesn't stop using the landfill.
Finch, who announced on April 23 that he would retire at the end of this year, said, "That landfill will be closed by Dec. 31, if it's the last thing I do. The only entity that could stop me is my board." He warned the senators of the possible dire consequences of not meeting the deadline — possible cancellation of the grants.
"The FAA bureaucrats have said they can't close anything they don't own," he said, adding, "If you buy that, then while you're in a buying mood, let me sell you a bridge over the Nadir Gut that leads to nowhere, very inexpensively."
Finch said it is "unlikely, though possible" that the FAA would actually close the airport.
None of the three commissioners Cole had invited to the meeting appeared. Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood, Property and Procurement Commissioner Marc Biggs and Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett all wrote Cole that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull had prohibited them from attending the meeting because Cole had not written Turnbull first asking permission.
It was the latest round in the ongoing power struggle between the governor and the Legislature about "invitations" to administration officials to appear before Senate bodies, which the governor has claimed to be excessive.
Cole was furious. "With the immediate problems with the landfill, why can't he send them?" he asked.
Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. commented, "What kind of craziness is this that the heads of the organizations can't come?"
Cole refused to take testimony from representatives the commissioners had sent to the meeting, stressing the matter was "critical," and needed attention from the department heads.
Sonya Nelthropp, Public Works special assistant for solid waste, said she couldn't give an update on exactly where the department stands on the landfill closure because Property and Procurement is in negotiations with the bidders.
Sen. Roosevelt David said he didn't feel "any sense of urgency" in Nelthropp's statements. Nelthropp said she couldn't elaborate further because the matter is in Property and Procurement, but she thought the field had been narrowed to two bidders. The winning bid was supposed to have been selected by April 23.
As Cole concluded the meeting, shaking his head, he said, "We still don't know when the Anguilla landfill will be closed."
Also at the hearing, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen announced she wants the V.I. government to sue Carnival Cruise Lines for reimbursement to the territory for the reported $40 million St. Croix will lose with Carnival's decision to halt calls to the port of Frederiksted. Tuesday marked Carnival's final call on St. Croix, a chartered cruise.
"Carnival is all over the world with their message that St. Croix has a high crime rate," Hansen said.
Sens. David Jones and Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg agreed with Hansen's position.
Committee members Cole, David, Donastorg, Carlton Dowe, Hansen and White attended the meeting. Committee member Adelbert Bryan was absent. Sen. David Jones, who is not a member of the committee, also attended.

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