July 9, 2004 Blame shifted from one party to another Friday as the Senate Planning and Environmental Committee tried to determine the reason for the delay of a tire-shredding project at the Bovoni Landfill.
Three years ago, Lester Ashby, a landfill contractor and owner of A-9 Trucking, proposed to purchase a tire shredder to assist in the reduction of the territory's tire waste. However, not a single tire has been shred on the island since the proposal was approved and the tire shredder purchased.
Ashby, who purchased the tire shredder for $225,000, said governmental bureaucracy and red tape has held up the project.
"We can't move forward until we have the appropriate permits and the lease from Property and Procurement," Ashby said.
Leonard Reed, assistant director of the division of Environmental Protection under the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said DPNR issued two permits to Ashby in 2002, one for the assembling of the shredder and another to operate it.
"We responded in a timely manner," Reed said. "The Department of Planning and Natural Resources has not been the stumbling block."
However, the permit to assemble, which was good for a year, expired in 2003, and the shredder has yet to be assembled. The permit for its operation will expire in 2005.
Ashby said the shredder is still unassembled because they were unable to work out a lease agreement with Property and Procurement to set up the shredder at the Bovoni landfill. Now, Ashby has reapplied for a permit to assemble the machine, but he is still waiting for the lease agreement to be worked out.
Elston George, deputy commissioner of property for Property and Procurement, said Ashby currently has the lease and just needs to execute it.
But Ashby said the lease requires more permits to be obtained from DPNR's Coastal Zoning Management division.
Ashby said Property and Procurement should obtain the permits because he would have to go through public hearings as a private company to obtain them.
"I don't see why I should go through all that to do a service to this government," Ashby said. "At this point in time, I'm tired of this. The piece of equipment has been sitting there for three years now."
Committee chair Sen. Louis Hill said he called the meeting because the issue has become a concern with recent reports of the West Nile Virus being found in neighboring Puerto Rico. Tires can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes because they collect and hold water.
"By shredding the tires you practically eliminate that hazard," Jimenz Ashby, also of A-9 Trucking, said.
Hill showed a video clip of the mounds of tires at the Bovoni landfill. DPW Commissioner Wayne Callwood had ordered that no more tires be brought to the landfill in 2000. Tire distributors have been paying A-9 to dispose of their tires since. However, the temporary transfer site that A-9 has been using is now filled.
"This is a catastrophe of immense proportions," Enrique Rodriguez, owner of Rodriguez Auto Parts, said. "This is something that needs to be placed on the fast track."
Hill said he would write a letter to Gov. Charles Turnbull to expedite the matter.
Another issue of concern brought before the committee Friday was a contract with V.I. Recycling to remove scrap metal from the Bovoni and Anguilla landfills.
No work has yet been done and six months have passed since the contract took effect.
The $1.7 million contract was signed by Turnbull in December of 2003 and is expected to terminate in 30 months. V.I. Recycling is responsible for crushing and bailing abandoning vehicles and removing other scrap metal from the landfill.
The contract stipulates that the Bovoni landfill will be done first and then the Anguilla landfill in St. Croix.
Kevin Ruffler of V.I. Recycling said he has been trying to comply with government requirements by filing the various permits. Ruffler is waiting for a permit to allow them to use a diesel-powered potable bailing unit. Ruffler received the application Thursday and said he would process it over the weekend.
"The permitting process seems to me to be a very long time," Sen. Carlton Dowe said.
Reed said he would give "the green-light to go ahead" as soon as he received the application.
"If Ruffler can have a satisfactory application turned in to DPNR over the weekend the project can start as early as next week," Reed said.
Hill asked Ruffler, since six months has passed and no work has been done, whether they will need an extension of the 30 months. Ruffler said he couldn't say for certain yet, but if they did it might come at an additional cost to the government.
Committee members attending Friday's hearing were: Hill, Dowe, Ronald Russell and Celestino White.
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