April 5, 2006 – Cruise ship passengers on St. John tours need comfort stations, resident Lorelei Monsanto told the seven members of the Cruise Ship Task Force gathered for a meeting Wednesday at the Legislature.
Monsanto, one of the half dozen people who came out for the meeting, said that the Legislature appropriated money and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association pledged to contribute to the project, but to date nothing has happened.
The problem is particularly acute at Bordeaux Overlook, where Monsanto has a gift shop.
In 2000, the V.I. National Park stopped use of some rudimentary bathrooms near the Bordeaux Overlook because park officials said sewage was flowing down into Reef Valley. The bathrooms were built by Monsanto's mother, Wilma Marsh Monsanto, on park property.
Marsh Monsanto owns the small restaurant and shopping complex at the Bordeaux Overlook where her daughter has her shop.
Since then, tourists on tours have had to wait till they reached the facilities at a North Shore beach or in Cruz Bay.
Monsanto also said that the canopy that sheltered tourists from the sun at the Creek in Cruz Bay was taken off and not reinstalled.
"It's extremely hot, and there are no bathrooms at the Creek," she said.
Robert O'Connor Jr., a member of the task force and chairman of the V.I. Port Authority board, said that the entire Creek area will undergo beautification once the commercial vessel traffic moves to the Enighed Pond commercial port, which will open Monday.
Cruise ship tenders and ferry boats that take cruise ship passengers back to St. Thomas will still use the Creek.
O'Connor said the canopy structure will be removed and a more permanent facility built.
In response to a question from task force member James O'Bryan Jr. about the island's cleanliness, Monsanto said it wasn't much of an issue because residents volunteer to keep certain areas picked up.
St. Thomas resident Hiram Abiff, the only other person to testify, suggested that when the task force members negotiate the agreement with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, they include an 85 cents per passenger charge to fund a fire boat.
"It's a large harbor and there's no fire boat," Abiff said, referring to the popular cruise ship port of Charlotte Amalie.
Abiff said the fire boat should have tug boat capabilities so it could pull a burning vessel away from the cruise ship dock if needed.
O'Connor suggested that St. Thomas-based shipping companies that also use the harbor contribute to the cost of buying a fireboat.
The task force is holding meetings to gather input from the public on what it wants to see in an upcoming five-year agreement with the FCCA. The current agreement ends April 30.
George Goodwin, task force chairman, said the provision to bring more ships to the territory included in the current agreement foundered on the St. Thomas end because the channel to Crown Bay is not wide enough for cruise ships to turn.
Sen. Lorraine Berry blamed it on the failure of the Tourism Department to come up with a marketing agreement that satisfied the cruise association. She also said that agreement had a clause that gave the FCCA an out because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards blamed it on security concerns on St. Croix. She said it was not possible to force ships to call when safety was an issue.
Richards said the agreement called for 15 percent more passengers to St. Croix, but that there was no percentage specified for St. Thomas. However, the agreement actually stated every effort would be made to increase St. Croix's ship calls by 25 percent over the life of the agreement.
The initial task force was created in response to a legislative proposal in early 1999 to raise the per passenger fee by $2.50 from the existing $7.50 to $10.
The final meeting in a series of three will be held Thursday on St. Thomas. However, Goodwin said the previously posted location has been changed from the West Indian Co. to the Legislature, still at 6:30 p.m.
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