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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Residents Bring Up Myriad Issues at Town Meeting

St. John resident Lonnie Willis expressed concern that residents' votes don't count for much during territorial elections.Home rule, road striping, the island’s horrendous parking problem, and many more issues were on the front burner Wednesday when Sen. Louis P. Hill held a town meeting for St. John residents to air their concerns. About 100 people attended the meeting held at the Westin Resort and Villas conference room.
Paul Devine got the ball rolling when he called for Gov. John deJongh to appoint a group of people to serve as volunteer advisors in guiding St. John matters. He said this would serve as an interim step to an elected island council that had legal powers and fiscal control over revenues.
"This is not a new revelation. It’s called a town," he said.
Hill pointed out that it was beyond the ability of the Legislature to create island councils, but the idea of an advisory committee might be possible.
"I’ll work with you to make it happen," Hill said.
Devine also pushed for St. John to get 5 percent of government revenues since it had 5 percent of the population.
"I see no reason not to require the executive branch to break down the budget by island," he said.
Several people brought up the issue of St. John’s small electorate.
"Our small amount of votes don’t count for much," Lonnie Willis said.
Later, Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said that in the 2006 gubernatorial election, 1,160 St. John residents voted out of the 1,800 people on the voting rolls. She urged those at the meeting to push their neighbors to vote so St. John’s voice can be heard.
Hill suggested that St. John residents call his Senate colleagues to ask for their support when Sen. Craig Barshinger’s calls for an override of deJongh’s veto of a bill that would have prevented the St. John Capital Improvement Fund from going to pay solid waste haulers.
"We suck it dry with hauling waste," Barshinger said.
Barshinger expects to bring the override up at an early March session.
Edmond Roberts had many in the audience shaking their heads in agreement when he said that his aging eyes can’t discern the sides of the road at night. He called on the Public Works Department to stripe them.
Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ira Wade said the striping machine should arrive from St. Thomas in March.
Planning Commissioner Robert Mathes announced the name of the planner hired for St. John. He said T. Stuart Smith would work out of the St. John office. Mathes had previously discussed the planner’s arrival within the next two weeks, but had declined to give his name.
One man asked why taxis were allowed to park in public parking lots when they had taxi-only parking along the waterfront. Deputy Police Commissioner Darren Foy promised to look into the issue.
And Carol Beckowitz complained that she often sees taxis blocking empty parking spaces. Foy told her to call the police station for help when that situation occurs.

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