Jan. 15, 2004 – Disappointment and anger at the cancellation of an expected call by a cruise ship at St. Croix on Saturday reached the Senate floor on Thursday morning.
The small but luxurious 350-passenger Radisson Diamond had been expected to call at Frederiksted on Saturday. The news spurred the Frederiksted Economic Development Association to put together a second Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted concert for Saturday in addition to the regular monthly on scheduled for Friday. (See the St. Croix Source report "Ship's visit on, then off, with sewage cited".)
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards on Thursday dismissed press reports citing Frederiksted's sewage problems as the reason for the ship's cancellation. She said she had information indicating that it was a "technical problem" that had turned the ship away.
At least two senators weren't buying that.
Sen. Ronald Russell, who had been engaged to play guitar at the Saturday night jazz event, was incensed. "That's criminal," he said at a Rules Committee meeting Thursday on St. Thomas. "It's a travesty that we could have sewage still going into the sea. January 5th the government announced that the public shouldn't use the Frederiksted beach and to avoid the pier."
He continued: "The government just borrowed $268 million, and they can't fix the sewage? People should rebel against the government when they're preventing a little cruise ship from visiting St. Croix. It's preventing people from doing their business, and then you veto the budget. The people should rebel"
He wasn't speaking figuratively. "What needs to be done is civil disobedience," he said. "That's what I say, and I hope the public is listening. I wish the government workers wouldn't work until the sewage [system] is fixed."
Sen. Louis Hill was equally incensed, if not equally dramatic. "It's absolutely unacceptable for us to be unable to deal with sewage in the streets when we proposed a solution," he said. "Public Works hasn't fixed the problem in 20 years. And some St. Croix senators refused to vote for the Waste Management Authority."
Hill pointed out that Russell did vote for it. "He supported it because he knows it needs to be done," Hill said. "I am calling on the governor now to sign it into law so we can address this problem in a comprehensive way."
Hill sponsored the legislation creating a Waste Management Authority which the Senate passed on Dec. 17. The measure is now on the desk of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who has until Jan. 20 to act on it.
Alphonso Franklin, Our Town Frederiksted board president, expressed his disappointment at the turn of events to WVWI Radio listeners on Thursday evening. "It's really a blow to the St. Croix economy," he said. "Unfortunately, merchants will suffer. There's a loss; there's no question about it. There was so much enthusiasm, particularly with Frederiksted. We haven't had a cruise ship in a year."
According to Franklin, when he heard on Wednesday that the Radisson Diamond wasn't coming to St. Croix after all, "I'll admit I wasn't surprised. I don't know where the cruise ship visit originated, but I have a great feeling of disappointment."
Stella Saunders, Public Works Department waste management information coordinator, said on Thursday that she had only the information that Richards had forwarded her. She said: "The problems occurring in Frederiksted were due to a grease trap problem which was resolved between a private plumber and DPW. The clog was removed yesterday at 10 a.m."
According to Saunders, "the current bypass at the Lagoon Street pump station is being resolved with installation of a T-connector which will allow for connection of a diesel bypass pump to send the flow directly to the treatment plant and stop the current bypass situation temporarily until the station is back on line."
She added that Public Works on St. Croix is "in the process of replacing the pumps at the three major pump stations — Figtree, LBJ and Lagoon." Those for the Lagoon Street station, she said, "will be the last to be installed."
The Radisson Diamond is scheduled to visit St. John on Sunday and St. Thomas on Monday.
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