The purpose of this letter [directed to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and copied to St. John Source] is to provide an alternative to the proposed vendors plaza, which is in hot debate. Although your island administrator, [Julien] Harley, says that any consideration of change is not going to be heard, I assure you that St. John citizens will not stand for such an authoritarian posture and will demand that voices be heard.
First, please consider the proposal of erecting a nearly $3 million building for only five to eight vendors. Please consider the lack of a master plan for the whole Creek area, which is soon to be changed when the cargo port is built. Please consider that there will be very little parking improvement for our town. Please consider that the congestion will only increase in this area. Therefore, please consider an alternative plan:
Instead of building a $3 million building for a few vendors, take the $3 million and use it as a loan, with interest, to the Education Department to build a new school on St. John outside of town. This is a long-discussed project, and it is time to consider this prior to building a vendor plaza. For nearly a decade there has been a discussion with the V.I. National Park to exchange land for a school, but nothing has happened. It is time to settle this matter. The reason for the loan is to force the Education Department to get moving on this project.
Then take the old [Julius E. Sprauve] School building and ballfield and move all government agencies into it. Then move car rentals into a section to free up the downtown, or move the car rentals to the government building at the tennis courts. Then use the school ballfield for parking, for carnivals, for special events, for vendors, and other such purposes. Imagine if the carnival village was to be moved there — it would mean a bigger space, more vendors and better stage area, and it would leave the downtown free for normal activities. This would enhance the St. John carnival while improving its impacts for the month that carnival is in celebration.
Then, as already planned, move the vendors currently occupying space where the vendors plaza is to be built over to the old inspection lane, a location already readied for them. Then, simply and inexpensively, level and pave the lot, put in parking meters, and use this area as a parking lot until the entire Creek area is master planned. This will benefit our town and commerce, if only until the school can be moved outside of town and the rest of the plan can be developed. Simply paving the lot, instead of building a multi-storied structure at this time, allows for changes later when we consider our entire waterfront.
"Our Youth Are Our Future," "Education Is the Key," "An Education Governor," etc. are some of the slogans aired recently. Yet, our youth have one crowded basketball court, maintained only by private donations. Our schools are in the center of town where noise and congestion affect study. Also, there are no grades 9 through 12, so our [high school] students have to travel to St. Thomas every day. Surely, our youth are more important than building a $3 million building for a handful of established businesses on our waterfront.
A school outside of town could be designed for the benefit of all our youth. It could have excellent classrooms, an athletic park, a swimming pool and a campus atmosphere. It would be a symbol that our youth come first!
As for moving all government agencies to the old school complex, that would also include the Office of the Administrative. Then the entire Battery area could be redesigned as a visitor center and historical museum. This would enhance the quality of the St. John experience for visitors and locals while providing a showroom for art and historical displays.
Please consider this plan, which will enhance and benefit our youth, our education system, our town, our vendors, our carnival, our parking, the Battery area and the quality of our town. Harley's plan only benefits a few business persons who wish to be called vendors.
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