St. John administrator Julien Harley says he's going to call a public hearing, tentatively for Dec. 16, to lay out all the problems associated with solid-waste management on the island.
He reached the decision after a meeting Tuesday morning with Public Works Department officials and contract haulers on St. John.
"I told Public Works they need to let the community know what's happening," the administrator said after the meeting. At a public hearing, he said, residents and businesses will be able to hear first-hand how changes in Public Works policies will affect how they manage their trash.
Complaints about inadequate trash collection, the break-down of compacting equipment at the Susannaberg solid-waste transfer station and payments owed to companies contracted by the government to collect and dispose of St. John's solid waste led Harley to call Tuesday's meeting.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Lenny, Public Works announced the closing of the transfer station because of compactor malfunction and said that haulers would be responsible for getting their loads of solid waste to the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas on their own. That meant out-of-pocket costs to the companies for barge transport to St. Thomas and back and for the time spent by employees making the trips.
In the days following the Nov. 19 announcement, refuse began piling up at public garbage bins around the island. In recent days, however, Harley said, pickups by the contract haulers have made the situation manageable.
Harley said the matter has come to the attention of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, who are reportedly dissatisfied with operations at the transfer station.
Present from Public Works at the Tuesday meeting at the Administrator's Office in Cruz Bay were Commissioner Harold Thompson Jr., Assistant Commissioner Wayne Callwood Jr. and solid waste manager Sonia Nelthropp. From the hauling industry were representatives of Ken's Trucking Service, LTS, James Penn Enterprises, Penn's Trucking, Boyson Inc. and contractor Douglas Matthias.
"I needed to get a handle on the money that's owed to them, when they are going to get paid, and some other policies related to garbage on St. John," Harley said. Going into the meeting, he said, he had "no idea" how much money was owed the vendors by the V.I. government. At the meeting, he was told that Penn's Trucking has outstanding bills totaling $330,000. James Penn Enterprises and Ken's Trucking are not owed anything by the government because they bill their customers directly for services.
Harley said with the transfer station out of service and haulers under orders to barge their collections to St. Thomas, the companies may have to pass along the added costs to their customers. One such customer, restaurateur Aaron Willis, owner of the Fish Trap and the Stone Terrace restaurants, is not pleased at the prospect.
"I'd say it's going to jack up the price quite a bit," Willis said, "but Kendel (Ken's Trucking) said he doesn't know how much it will be, because he has to make the trip."
Currently, Willis said, he's paying $300 a month in hauling fees for the Stone Terrace alone.
"Why don't they just fix the compactor?" is what Willias wants to know. "EPA is going to shut them down because they can't get rid of the garbage," he said. "Why do we get secondary service here?"
Neither Thompson nor Callwood could be reached for comment on what they have been told by federal authorities about the condition of the St. John transfer station.
According to Harley, repairing the broken compactor will entail the removal of trash compacted inside and then the welding of the bottom of the device.
Officials were unwilling to say how long it might take to make the repairs. With regard to the money owed the St. John solid-waste contractors, Harley held out hope they will see some relief when part of the proceeds from the government's recent $300 million bond issue is disbursed as vendor payments, as promised by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.


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