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Town Meeting Highlights Poor Mail Service, Border Security Issues

Feb. 21, 2007 — Border security was a hot topic at Wednesday's town meeting called by Delegate Donna M. Christensen at the St. John Legislature building. At issue is the fence strung across the Cruz Bay ferry dock.
In 2004, the federal government ordered the V.I. Port Authority to install it. While its presence forces departing passengers to queue up to get to the ferry boat, it does nothing to protect the dock or the boats from attack from the water.
"It's very offensive to guests. Welcome to Alcatraz," St. John resident Kristin Cox said.
Cox said she works for a vacation villa rental company, where she hears complaints about the fence from guests.
Christensen said security cameras would be more effective and less offensive.
Several people observed that residents and visitors must put up with the fence while illegal aliens are entering St. John in great numbers through the back door. They arrive mainly at night on north shore and East End beaches.
Christensen said she's taken up the issue many times with her congressional colleagues.
"They're so tired of me saying Border Patrol," she said, noting that she continues to push for that agency to set up shop in the Virgin Islands.
She said she plans in April to bring a delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee to the territory to showcase the territory's border issues.
Several St. John residents asked about the status of a plan to relocate the island's elementary schools and develop a high school on V.I. National Park land. Christensen said that the matter is still under negotiation, with a plan floated to lease the land to the territory for a nominal fee. Various scenarios have been discussed over the years, including an exchange of park land for local government-owned land. Christensen did not name the park land in question, but the parcel most often discussed is 10 acres at Catherineberg.
St. John resident Alvis Christian asked if a study was done to determine if 10 acres was the actual amount of land needed for the school. Christensen said the land was chosen because it's relatively flat, has a good location and was not part of the park's original acreage but was later donated to the park.
In discussing her move to get legislation through Congress that essentially gives the territory the right to set its own property tax code by repealing a provision of the 1936 Organic Act, Christensen said it only had to clear the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Bush.
"As of today, there's no objection to it," she said.
She said that it appears that the territory already has the right to form municipal governments, but she's introduced legislation to clarify some issues surrounding it. Many residents, particularly on St. John and St. Croix, have long pushed for municipal government to give them more control.
Christensen said she continues to work on U.S. Postal Service issues that result in delays in incoming and outgoing mail, as well as many merchants' refusal to ship goods to the territory. She said there's a provision in the postal code that indicates the Virgin Islands is an international destination, which leads merchants to believe it will be difficult to ship to the territory.
The delegate said she's also working on issues with the nearby British Virgin Islands, including the recent case of St. John fisherman Adin Kauffman. St. John resident Wally Leopold said Kauffman was fishing in BVI waters when BVI authorities arrested him, confiscated his homebuilt boat and refused to release him from jail until he paid a $30,000 fine.
She said that it's not likely she'll have any luck working on the problem of smoke blowing across the water to St. John from the Tortola dump. "That's an even tougher one," she said.
Christensen will continue her series of town meetings Thursday at Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas and Friday at the St. Croix Curriculum Center at Kingshill. Both meetings run from 6 to 8 p.m.
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