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Officials listen to Concerns from St. John – On St. John

March 26, 2009 – Rather than trekking over to St. Thomas to meet with government officials, St. Johnians now can confer with officials on their home turf.
In the third such event Thursday, Commissioner Lynn Millin-Maduro and Bureau of Motor Vehicles Director Jerris T. Browne met one on one with the St. Johnians or with small groups of people with similar concerns. No prior appointment was necessary.
Organized by St. John Administrator Leona Smith, the events are proving fruitful for both the officials and the community. The meetings are held at the Battery in Cruz Bay and guests can sit and wait comfortably with refreshments while they wait to speak with an official.
The first such meeting brought out more than 100 guests to meet with Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls and
"It has been very successful," Smith said. "Some things got resolved."
People brought concerns about road paving and striping as well as complaints about garbage dumping and abandoned vehicles in Coral Bay. The vehicles were subject to removal under a judge's order.
"Once they come here and raise their issues and concerns we will follow though," Smith said. "We are going to make sure we see results."
Thursday's event brought in people with suggestions, concerns and personal inquiries.
"There are a lot of issues on St. John to address," said Pat Walters, a St. Johnian.
Walters came to talk to Property and Procurement officials about establishing a vendors' market where local people could show and sell local crafts and foods.
"We don’t' get an opportunity to show local crafts," Walters said. "I am a good cook and bake every day. This (a vendor's market) would allow us to interact with the tourists."
Taught by her grandmother, Walters bakes rum cakes and johnny cakes, and says that tourists need to taste local traditional foods.
"St. John is a tourist attraction," Walters said. "And you have the ones who like to see and interact with the local people."
Laura Rabsatt, who makes local soaps of natural ingredients, as well as noni oil and butter and latta crème also came to speak with property and procurement.
"Give us some place where we can vend, and not out of town – in town," Walters hopes that the government will provide a space where at least ten vendors can market their wares to tourists and other customers.
Rabsatt and Walters joined two other women who were interested in vendor issues.
"They will get back to us and they are going to work with us," Walters said after meeting with the officials. "Things are looking bright, "Walters said.
On the other side of the room, Jerris Browne, director of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and assistant director Myrna George heard from several St. Johnians whose concerns ranged from a moratorium on car rental agencies to proponents for carnival to be moved to an area in the proximity of the car ferry dock.
Safari taxi drivers Kenneth Louis and Hayden Smith came to the open house to get clarification on the taxicab commission's new regulations regarding safari taxis, as well as how the bureau interacts with other government agencies.
"We are hearing rumors about a ban on taxis," Lewis told BMV officials. "Is it a law or just rumors?"
While the bureau did not make the rules, the representatives provided information on the issue and referred the drivers to the taxicab commission for further clarification. Myrna George read the letter from the taxicab commission that outlined the change (See "Cab Commission Won't Approve New Safari Taxis.")
The taxicab commission should have called a meeting, Hayden Smith said.
"We work very closely with them (the commission), we are aware of" the policy," George said. "Agencies have to work together."
The officials explained the BMV's role in the taxicab registration process and how it works with the Taxicab Commission.
"Any modification to a taxi must go through the BMV first," Browne explained.
The next open house on St. John will be March 30 at the Battery and will provide residents with an opportunity to speak with Internal Revenue Director Gizette Canagada-Thomas.
Further information about upcoming open houses can be obtained by calling the St. John Administrator's Office at 340-776-6484 or sending the office an e-mail

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