Feb. 10, 2005 After a more than four year bureaucratic battle, a tire shredder which has sat idle at the Bovoni Landfill will be put to action.
The 26th Legislature, in its first regular session Thursday, unanimously approved a rezoning which will allow the shredder to do its job. Edgar Baker-Phillips, deputy director of Property and Procurement, said it could be in operation within 30 days.
The zoning request is a change from R-1 residential-low density to P-public. About 30 years ago, when the landfill was moved from the east end of the island to Bovoni, it was a residential area and residents were told the landfill would be there only two years, Bovoni residents have said. However, the zoning has never been changed.
The tire problem has become more acute in the last few months because of the health hazard it poses. The water that accumulates in the tires makes them an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
The Health Department has reported eight cases of dengue on St. Thomas, one of which took the life of an infant in October. The Roy L. Schneider Hospital has reported 20 cases.
The problem started in 2000 when the Department of Public Works announced that used tires could no longer be brought to the Bovoni Landfill. Lester Ashby, Bovoni Landfill contractor and owner of A-9 Trucking, bought a tire shredder at his own expense to chew up the unwanted tires on St. Thomas and St. John.
Since then, Ashby has faced mountains of government higher than the mountains of tires awaiting disposal. He said last November that he was "on the verge of shipping the shredder back to the states." (See St. Thomas Source story "Tale of a Tire Shredder; No Happy Ending in Sight").
Then, to further complicate the issue, the landfill ran out of room and stopped accepting tires in November. Enrique Rodriguez, general manager of Rodriguez Auto Parts and chairman of the V.I. Tire Dealers Association, said then that he has limited space to store the tires, and soon the car owners would be left on their own. It is illegal to dump tires anywhere except the landfill. The result is that tires are once again being found dumped all over the island.
The unanimous vote came on legislation sponsored by Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, a Bovoni resident.
Senators quizzed Phillips, James O 'Bryan, government house spokesman and head of the governor's abandoned car task force, and officials from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources on details of the rezoning.
Also on hand was Kevin Ruffler, a partner in A-9 Trucking, and V. I. Recycling. Ruffler explained that after shredding, the tires are reduced by about 40 percent.
Though some St. Croix senators were pleased to see to see St. Thomas moving ahead on the tire issue, they wondered about a similar situation on St. Croix. Freshman Sen. Terrence Nelson said tires were being dumped in the rain forest.
Sen. Pedro Encarnacion said, "Is this process only for St. Thomas? How about the Anguilla Landfill?"
Baker said after the tires were shredded on St. Thomas, the operation could be moved to St. Croix. This didn't sit well with the Crucian senators. Sen. Usie Richards wanted to see Ashby's contract for the tire shredder. Lynn Millin, Property and Procurement Department attorney, said the contract did cover a shredding operation, and that she would supply Richards with a copy.
Freshman Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville asked O 'Bryan if he had considered alternative methods for getting rid of the abandoned cars, such as creating an artificial reef.
The question got Sen. Celestino A. White Sr.'s attention. "Let's don't worry about reefs, or underwater now," he said, "Let's just get rid of those cars."
O'Bryan said he has been sufficiently busy getting the cars off the street. He said the task force has removed 2,000 to 3,000 cars from the streets, and now there's no room at the landfill to put them. In 2003 it was closed to more vehicles. With the rezoning, however, he will be able to move ahead.
He said the governor was sending down legislation to increase the penalties for abandoning cars.
With the dawn of the new Legislature, senators were busy taking one another's measure Thursday. The six new senators got their feet wet, sometimes aligning along St. Croix-St. Thomas lines, and sometimes along majority-minority.
Freshman Sen. Craig Barshinger may have gotten his feet a little too wet. When Senate President Lorraine Berry announced she was distributing the rules of the 26th Legislature, Barshinger arose. "Madame president," he said, "I would like to know if there is a rule that the majority leader (Sen. Celestino A. White Sr.) cannot ask intelligent questions and is only allowed to pontificate?" Berry
declined a direct answer, and directed him to the rules.
The session drew to a close about 7 p.m.
The agenda was re-ordered Thursday to allow for testimony on the rezoning and on a technical amendment proposed by Laverne Ragster, University of the Virgin Islands president, to the UVI Research and Technology Park. The UVI amendment was also passed unanimously. A full report will be in the Friday Source.
Friday the senators will consider bills from the 25th legislature which were vetoed by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in December. In response to questioning by Sen. Ronald Russell, Berry explained in the beginning of Thursday's session that the majority may bring to the floor legislation from a previous legislature to expedite the process. However, she said, this is not the procedure for the future.
Friday's session will convene at 9:30 a.m., Berry said Thursday evening. On the agenda is consideration of the following:
– Bill 26-0003 – The Omnibus Justice Act of 2005
– Bill 26-0004 – To increase penalties for animal cruelty
– Bill 26-0007 – The Financial Services Act of 2005
– Bill 26-008 – To increase fines for school vandalism and deposit them in an impress account to defray the cost of damage incurred.
– Bill 26-0002 – A Resolution to express the Legislature's opposition to the closure of any additional fishing grounds in the V.I.
– Bill 26-0006 – A Resolution to honor and commend Condoleezza Rice on her appointment as Secretary of State.
All senators were present at the session except Sen. Louis Hill who was excused because of a death in the family.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.