Hope is finally in sight for St. John residents frustrated with the daily fight to find parking in Cruz Bay.
After numerous delays, including permit modifications and bids over the agency’s budget, the V.I. Port Authority governing board voted in late September to approve construction of a temporary parking lot at Enighed Pond.
Wharton Smith won the contract, valued at $988,450, to build a 151-space gravel parking lot on the perimeter of the filled area at the Enighed Pond Marine Freight Facility.
While it remained unclear when the project would get started, once underway officials expect the project to take about three months, according to VIPA.
During the late September meeting, the VIPA board also voted to not install the promised turnstiles at the Red Hook ferry terminal. The authority had long planned to install the turnstiles, and a coin machine, in order to collect a 50-cent fee from every passenger for upkeep of the facility.
When news of the impending installation of the devices spread, however, Don Porter led the crusade to stop the project. Porter, who was recently elected to the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, launched a campaign to stop the turnstiles.
By circulating emails, urging residents to call senators and the governor and write letters against the turnstiles, Porter quickly got the message across to VIPA that the community was not in favor of the proposed turnstiles.
“The turnstile issue came up again at a PSC meeting a month ago or so and I brought it up at a chamber meeting and everyone was against it,” said Porter. “So I just decided to pursue it. A lot of people joined the effort and wrote letters against the turnstiles.”
Porter contacted VIPA officials and was told that the turnstiles were on their way to the territory, which sent him into action.
“I thought that instead of allowing an unworkable situation to start and then have to fight against it after they’re already installed, it would be better to launch a full campaign and not have them installed,” Porter said.
The St. John community responded quickly to Porter’s call, and VIPA was flooded with phone calls and emails opposing the turnstiles.
While no one was opposed to paying the fee, it seemed to Porter that a better solution than a coin machine and turnstiles could be found, he added.
“We were not arguing about the fee,” Porter said. “But if we’re going to collect fees, we have to be efficient in the way that we collect those fees. Turnstiles are not the way to go.”
At VIPA’s September meeting, officials cited delays in obtaining the machines and public opposition when the board recommended to terminate its agreement with Perey Turnstiles Inc. for the machines, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.
“Officials plan to explore other ways to collect the fee,” according to the report.
VIPA board members Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Robert O’Connor, V.I. Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan, V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer and Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls, were present at the meeting, according to the report in the V.I. Daily News.