The Source article about the November 18 V.I. Port Authority meeting pertaining to the proposal to put a communication tower on Hassel Island did not provide an accurate report of the issues. It contained incorrect information, recycled misinformation, omitted key points made at the meeting, and highlighted others to create an impression that misinformed the public and served the agenda of the proponents of the proposed tower.
According to the Source article, the access road was built by VIPA with the permission of the Park Service, which owns the land. That is not true.
This is established by Harmon Killebrew's letter of June 12, 2002, to V.I. National Park Superintendent John King. In his letter, Killebrew stated: "This document serves as a formal request to hand cut a walking path on Hassel Island for the sole purpose of inspecting and restoring and maintaining the existing utility pole line."
On June 21, 2002, King replied: "All clearing will be done by hand. Replacement of poles will not utilize mechanized tools. All digging of holes and transporting of poles will be performed by hand. All soils disturbed by pole placement will be stabilized to prevent erosion. Poles used will be the smallest available and suitable for this application."
On September 18, 2002, Walter L. Challenger, Jr., VIPA property management officer wrote King: "The approved tenants, Mr. Edward Killebrew and Atlantic Tele-Network Inc., have notified the Port Authority of their intention to commence remedial work to the easement access road, crossing Virgin Islands National Park property, leading to their leasehold."
As should be clear, the roadwork for which Killebrew requested permission and that was approved by King and the VI National Park, is not the wide gash that Killebrew and ATN bulldozed and that still scars Hassel Island.
Wanda Mills is quoted at least seven times in the St. Thomas Source article. However, it is notable that the Source did not report that she admitted that she was responsible for signing off on the road that Killebrew and ATN bulldozed when she was filling in temporarily for Myron Jackson at State Historic Preservation Office.
The Source article quotes Killebrew as saying "that mitigating the road is first on the Hassel Island trust agenda," but as the correspondence between King and Killebrew establishes Killebrew is responsible for the damage done to the Hassel Island National Park. The road would not have to be mitigated had Killebrew adhered to the terms and conditions upon which consent was given by the National Park.
According to the Source article, Killebrew is a "30-year advocate for Hassel Island restoration." This statement is puzzling. Killebrew's name in connection with Hassel Island first surfaced as part of a carefully orchestrated public relations campaign, which utilized the media to project an altruistic purpose when, in fact, it was a cover for the installation for a communication tower. My family owned most of Hassel Island until it became a National Park. I have lived there for approximately 30 years, long after my father Isidor Paiewonsky restored Fort Willoughby and the Garrison House. In all of these years I never met Harmon Killebrew, or heard of him, nor did my father or uncle, Governor Ralph Paiewonsky, ever mention his name in connection with Hassel Island or otherwise.
Another significant omission from the article is Alton Adams' statement that there is an alternative site for ATN's proposed tower on government land that would not have to be rezoned. Alton Adams is an engineer by training with years of experience who knows St. Thomas better than most people.
The article also failed to disclose that the proposed tower on Hassel Island poses a danger to flights in and out of the Cyril King airport. Therefore, FAA regulations require that it be painted with bright red and orange stripes which will in addition to its height and bulk add to its visibility and unsightliness.
Nowhere does the article report, although it was stated at the hearing, that there already are three other companies providing telecommunication services in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Specifically, my son Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli testified: "While ATN's proposal is crafted to suggest that the downtown business community is in need of another provider of such services, the reality is that ATN merely wants to build a tower on Hassel Island because it is in its pecuniary self interest to break into the telecommunication market that already exist here."
Moreover, the Source article does not report any of the testimony pertaining to the negative impact the ATN tower poses to our most important economic component –Tourism. Again, Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli testified:
"The original fabric of our historic and natural resources deserve and require protection. Preservation and beautification of the environment and our historic assets are critical to maintaining and enhancing tourism, and thus, to maintaining and enhancing sustainable economic development in the Virgin Islands. Preservation is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Tourism is the number one industry world wide and it is the backbone of the Virgin Islands economy.
"We know from statistics recently published in the Daily News how much the St. John National Park contributes to the overall VI economy. The Hassel Island National Park will not only be a wonderful park and resource for the community, but over time it too will generate far greater benefits for the community than ATN's proposed tower ever could. Let us preserve the Hassel Island National Park for future generations of Virgin Islanders."
"The National Park Service, under the leadership of Superintendent Art Fredericks has stated it's commitment to the preservation and enhancement of the Hassel island National Park. Preservation and enhancement of our historic treasures should be left to organizations with the expertise to do it correctly and who have no other agenda."
Avna Paiewonsky Cassinelli
Editors note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to [email protected].