Sept. 7, 2006 – If the local government and Texaco Caribbean can't come to a meeting of the minds regarding the company's gas station on St. John, the Public Works Department will operate a retail gas station, Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ira Wade said Thursday at a meeting in Cruz Bay Park.
"We're not forgetting about St. John," Wade said to the approximately 50 people gathered for the meeting.
The Texaco station closed Tuesday after selling the last of its gas. With the Cruz Bay's only other station, E&C, preparing to shut down for a couple of months to install new tanks, motorists are facing a drive to Coral Bay to fill up at the island's only other station, Domino.
The meeting was called by a group of concerned citizens to let the government know how worried they were about the potential loss of a gas station.
"There are a lot of people who do not desire to drive to Coral Bay for gas," Ronnie Jones, one of the organizers, said.
He jokingly said that they would use it all up on the drive back to Cruz Bay.
Wade said that Public Works proposed Wednesday to Texaco Caribbean that it continue to operate the station until June 2007 when it expects to start construction on a roundabout. The project will use some of the land where the Texaco station sits.
He said the department is waiting for an answer.
Wade was the only government official to speak. Jones said Texaco representatives as well as other government officials were invited. Robert O'Connor Jr., who operates the gas station for Texaco, also did not appear.
Wade said that the gas tanks at Public Works' Susannaberg facility are capable of servicing the government's emergency vehicles, the senior citizen bus and Education Department vehicles if need be. Until recently, most government vehicles bought their gas at the Texaco.
He also said that the VITRAN bus system will soon have two "feeder" vehicles to augment the buses. This will provide more transportation options.
He said that condemnation proceedings for the property are not finished and that Public Works does not yet have the certificate of ownership. He said this means they cannot evict Texaco.
Wade recapped the series of events that led up to this point. He said that public hearings were held on the proposed plan to alleviate traffic congestion that was expected when Enighed Pond Marine Terminal opened. He said residents rejected a traffic light, instead opting for the roundabout.
"We on St. John were made aware that the service station would have to be moved," he said.
However, he said it came as a big surprise that Texaco closed its doors Tuesday. Wade said last Friday, he got gas at the station and no one mentioned it.
He said he learned later that night when his crew went to get fuel that there was no more diesel and that when the gas was gone, the station would close. And, he said that he had no idea E&C was planning to close down temporarily.
St. Thomas resident and radio personality Sam Topp asked why no one from Texaco Caribbean, which is owned by Chevron, was at the meeting.
"We ask those questions, too. I can only speculate," Wade said.
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