July 1, 2002 – The newly reopened Dorothea Fire Station, the long-planned renovation of the Dorothea Tot Lot, and health concerns about Hull Bay's water topped the list of issues raised at Sunday afternoon's meeting of the Northside Civic Organization with public officials.
The meeting at Hull Bay Hideaway was attended by about 10 members of the organization along with Ira Mills, Office of Management and Budget director; Ian E. Williams Sr., Fire Service director; Louis Hill, St. Thomas-Water Island administrator; and Steve Aubin, a mechanical engineer with the Public Works Department.
The Dorothea Tot Lot, a longtime focus of the organization, was the first topic of discussion. Cay Chandler, who has headed the group's efforts to secure funding to renovate the small play park, brought with her a budget, schematic plans and proposed equipment to be installed.
"We are upset that nothing has been done from January until now," group member Jason Budsan said. The Legislature appropriated $40,000 for the park's renovation and maintenance on July 19, 2001, and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull approved the expenditure on Aug. 7. But as of last week, Budsan said, Housing, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ira Hobson had not requested the release of the money.
The appropriation was one of dozens, most of them larger, in the bill. Mills said the project is to be funded out of the General Fund, which is overdrawn. The release of the park funds is contingent on the assessment of commercial property tax bills, he said; if they are sent out in time so that they become due before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, the funds can be released yet in this fiscal year.
"It would be one of the items we would place on our top priority list," he said. He added, "I suspect that by the end of next week the tax assessor should know" when the bills will go out.
Asked about the readiness of the Dorothea Fire Station, which officially reopened on June 23, Williams responded guardedly, "We are doing the best we can with what we have."
Confronted with rumors that the station's fire truck has a serious oil leak as the result of an accident, he said, "Almost all of our trucks have been in an accident …We have fixed it."
Ann Durante-Arnold, organization president, asked about the size of the truck, reminding Williams of his earlier statement that the area requires a truck with a capacity of 600 to 700 gallons of water. The truck at the station has a 250-gallon capacity, but "we have equipment on order," Williams responded, adding that the facility is under ongoing renovation.
"Please feel free to stop by anytime and see for yourself," he told the group.
Another topic of discussion was the monthly dollar surcharge on telephone bills for emergency services. "We would like to see an accounting since this fund was created," Budsan said. Mills said money collected first goes to run the 911 emergency telephone system, with the remainder split among the Police Department, Fire Service and Emergency Medical Services. Such an accounting exists and it would be possible to make it public, Mills said.
Aubin, who represented Public Works at the meeting, fielded questions concerning water quality at Hull Bay. "We have not seen the commitment on the part of the government" toward remedying the sewage effluent problem in the bay, Budsan said.
Aubin said that in order to bring the sewage system serving the area into compliance with federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates, the Brass Reef treatment facility would have to be upgraded from secondary (irrigation quality discharge) to tertiary (drinking-water quality discharge) treatment. Then, he said, repairs would need to be made to the Hull Bay outfall, which in its broken state discharges onto the beach, or the water could be diverted for agricultural uses.
Arnold asked, "Is this water safe for my children to swim in?" Aubin answered, "I'm not sure." He added that he works at a pump station and has no expert knowledge of the piping system.
Mills said $100,000 to fix the effluent problem was appropriated by the Legislature in the same bill which funded the Dorothea Tot Lot.
Aubin said the EPA's deadline for compliance at Hull Bay is December, but more time might be granted if technical difficulties were encountered.
Questions put to Hill concerned the recently rebuilt Hull Bay boat ramp, abandoned cars on the North Side and the planned widening of the road at Drake's Seat.
Hill promised to look into the matter of the ramp, which group members said is now too low to the water, causing problems for vehicles which are launching boats. The Drake's Seat road work is "under engineering," he said, but cannot proceed until a land deal involving the Nature Conservancy, the Magens Bay Authority and the private owners is concluded.
Members also raised the issue of alleged pilfering from the Road Fund, and Budsan expressed concern over an Estate Lovenlund development near Magens Bay, saying the site has no posted permits, no runoff controls and no silt fence.
The group's next meeting is scheduled for July 21
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.