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Last Chance Texaco: Station Closing at End of June

May 16, 2007 — Come June 30, a local landmark will be gone: St. John's Texaco gas station is slated for closure, the victim of progress in the name of a roundabout to be built nearby.
"There's nothing I could do about it," said gas station operator Robert O'Connor Jr. He thinks shuttering the gas station is unnecessary, questioning the Public Works Department's claim that it needs a half acre of land for the project.
The roundabout is expected to alleviate traffic problems caused by vehicles coming off the barge at the Enighed Pond Marine Terminal. (See "Texaco Closure to Create Hardships for Area Residents and Businesses.")
Large trucks have trouble navigating the turn by the Texaco, so a roundabout would help with that problem, said St. John Administrator Leona Smith. Public Works unveiled plans to build the roundabout in April 2003. (See "Roundabout Coming, Gas Station Going.")
The roundabout will also consume about 500 square feet of property at the Boulon Center, a shopping center located across the street from the Texaco. Center owner Albert Willis said the project won't impact the building, which sits close to the road, but only the area where construction workers gather in the morning while waiting for day jobs.
He was philosophical about the issue.
"It's the government, and if you fight them, they'll condemn your land," he said.
Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ira Wade did not return phone calls requesting comment.
The gas station was supposed to close in September 2006, but a last-minute reprieve came from Public Works because Cruz Bay's only other gas station, E&C, was temporarily closing to install new tanks. E&C reopened in March with extra pumps.
"We've done all we could to prepare for it," said manager Myrtle Barry of the anticipated closure of the Texaco station. St. John has a third gas station, a Domino, in Coral Bay.
While E&C installed an additional pump station to deal with the extra business, in the long run it won't be enough, Smith argued: "The place is growing."
She also expressed concerns about the additional traffic at E&C, located in the Pine Peace area and across from a small, private school, St. John Christian Academy.
Smith took issue with her understanding that Texaco will start dismantling the station as soon as it closes, because the timing puts it right in the middle of St. John's July 4th celebration. Closing the gas station involves removing the fuel tanks, O'Connor said. If any fuel remains after the station closes, Texaco will pump it out, he said.
Roundabout construction will take awhile, according to Willis: "It's going to impact the whole town for at least six months."
When projects like Sirenusa and others are completed, Smith said, St. John can expect to see an additional 100 cars on the road.
While previously only Texaco took credit cards, Barry said that when E&C reopened in March it started accepting MasterCard and Visa.
O'Connor said he plans to keep open his St. John Car Rental business, currently located at the Texaco station. Final lease negotiations for a new location are still pending, he said.
A gas station has operated at the site for about 40 years, O'Connor said. He became the operator in 1976, the same year he opened St. John Car Rental. The Texaco station holds government accounts, O'Connor said, acknowledging that he has let some of them go to other stations because the government is slow to pay.
The administrative staff at the company that owns the Texaco station, Chevron Caribbean on St. Thomas, referred questions to Winthrop Maduro in the marketing department. He did not return several phone calls requesting comment.
For people transferring their business to E&C, Barry asked that drivers go slow when pulling in, pull all the way to the front pump if no one is there and keep in mind that there are now four lanes of traffic at the gas station instead of two. The station is self service only, and customers must prepay before pumping gas.
"It's fully computerized," she said.
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