82 F
Cruz Bay
Tuesday, September 27, 2022


Elizabeth M. Goggins, director of environmental affairs for Emerging Communications and a board member of the St. Croix Environmental Association, has filed an appeal with the Board of Land Use Appeals to stop work on AT&T's St. Thomas cross-island fiber-optic cable project.
Goggins said she took the action because AT&T was not in compliance with previous permits, had an outstanding Notice of Violation and Assessment against it, and the work site was "a mess."
Emerging Communications, owned by St. Croix businessman Jeffrey Prosser, is the parent company of the V.I. Telephone Corp., which views AT&T as a competitor in the local telecommunications industry.
Helen Gjessing, environmentalist and board member of the League of Women Voters, said the league, as usual, reviewed the Environmental Assessment Report at the time of the Coastal Zone Management Committee hearing on the AT&T permits.
"We didn't see any potential adverse impact in laying a cable along a road," Gjessing said. "It wasn't even off the road where there might have been some erosion."
The cease-and-desist order was presented Friday to workers at the Magens Bay Road construction site by Vitelco employee Emiel Michiels "because he lives out there," according to Goggins.
Shelly de Chabert, public affairs director for AT&T, said the delay being caused by Goggins' action is costly and "could affect the company's ability to get the cable in before hurricane season."
The 1999 hurricane season opens June 1.
"We want to make sure the outages that occurred after Hurricane Georges don't happen again," she said.
After Hurricane Georges the island was without long-distance service because AT&T's satellite dishes were damaged. Vitelco offered AT&T use of its cable but AT&T refused, causing some strong public criticism.
Sources close to AT&T said Vitelco wanted a non-compete agreement in exchange for the use of the Vitelco cable — a condition unacceptable to AT&T officials.
Goggins confirmed that Vitelco did not get a CZM permit to lay its cable, which is in exactly the same place that AT&T is now working.
"It was after Hurricane Marilyn and therefore an emergency," she said.
De Chabert said Goggins' appeal has no merit.
"All of the issues in her appeal were addressed in the permit application and public hearing," she said.
AT&T workers "were confused Friday when the Vitelco employee tried to serve the cease-and-desist order," de Chabert noted. "It was before I had received any notice about the order."
Goggins said she also delivered the cease-and-desist order to the AT&T contractors on Saturday and was verbally abused by one of the workers.
When asked if it was appropriate for private citizens to deliver a cease-and-desist order, Goggins said she confirmed with the police officer whom she called Saturday when she was "assaulted" by the AT&T worker that it was "perfectly legal."
AT&T's project involves laying fiber-optic cable in a narrow mid-road trench from the top of Bunker Hill to the company's cable station in Peterborg. When it is hooked up, it will eliminate the need for microwave dishes to transmit long-distance calls.

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