Home News Local news New Plans Provided for Frenchtown Fishing Center

New Plans Provided for Frenchtown Fishing Center


Feb. 24, 2006 – After a Thursday night meeting, Frenchtown fishermen and the V.I. Government appear closer to accord on how to proceed with the renovation of the Gustave Quetel Fishing Center.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources announced earlier this month that work to renovate the center would begin Feb. 27. The reconstruction would displace the fishermen and at least partially close the adjacent parking lot. The fishermen and local restaurants were concerned.
They expressed those concerns in an outdoor meeting with the agency on Feb. 13.
Jimmy Magner, St. Thomas Fishermen's Association president, rallied a group of 25 or so local fishermen to unite in calling for an area to clean and sell their fish in the wake of immediate plans to reconstruct the fishing center.
Local restaurant owners were upset by the proposed parking restrictions on the already overcrowded lot. And, they objected to the work proceeding in February and March, the two busiest months of the year.
The DPNR officers had good news for the restaurant owners. Claudette Lewis, DPNR deputy commissioner, said the work has been postponed until May, and the parking lot may only lose between four and six parking places.
Lucia Roberts Francis, DPNR environmental enforcement division director, had said before the meeting that the fishermen could sell their fish at Lionel Roberts Stadium, Fort Mylner Shopping Center or Smith Bay. But the fishermen rejected that idea, saying that those areas belonged to the fishermen that sell there, and by leaving the Frenchtown area, the fishermen would lose their customers.
An agreement was worked out earlier and discussed at a Wednesday meeting with DPNR officers and project manager Steve Lammens of Custom Builders. This plan was presented to the fishermen Thursday night.
It calls for a staggered work schedule for wiring and painting the individual fishermen's stalls, only leaving them without their work storage area for about two weeks, or 10 working days. Meantime, they will be able to sell their fish in the usual area by the bayside.
A list of dates on which unit will be worked on was distributed. Work on the units is scheduled to begin March 20. Francis said the notice will be posted and updated, should there be any change in the schedule. Their freezers, however, would not be able to operate during the work, so the fishermen would have to make other arrangements to store their fish during the 10-day work period.
This appeared to satisfy the fishermen's immediate concerns; however, another problem was unresolved. The fishermen normally clean their fish on the pier behind the center. Now, they will be forced to use tables which will be installed by the gut.
Magner and fisherman Julian Magras said this poses a health problem. "This whole thing was supposed to be a health issue," Magner said. "You will have blood and fish scales and no water to wash them away with. On the dock, you wash them off and it goes into the ocean."
Lewis said water will be supplied, but neither she nor Francis has a definite plan for that, which rankled the fishermen.
"The Departments of Health, Public Works or the Waste Management Authority will address the water situation," Lewis said. "Water will be there. It will be hosed down."
Magras said after the meeting that the water would run down the gut, and if there isn't much rain the gut would back up to the Frenchtown Post Office creating an unacceptable odor.
Magner and Magras brought up another matter that has annoyed them. "Why do we need palm trees?" asked Magner. The plan calls for 12 palm trees to be planted in the back of the structure.
"We don't need the palm trees. They probably cost about $2,000 each. That money could be used for a winch to help us haul up the boats," he said.
Magras and the other fishermen loudly agreed.
Lewis and Francis exchanged a pointed look. Lewis said: "OK, scrap the palm trees; no palm trees."
Lewis said, "I have had many walk-throughs over this project with the fishermen, and nobody ever said anything about the palm trees. Ninety percent of this has been gone over before."
Magner wondered which fishermen she had spoken with. "Where are they now?" he asked.
He said, "We came here in defense of our industry. In the future, we should stand in the same room [when we plan]."
Lewis was plainly taken aback. "I feel awful you would say that, because we have met. I'm hearing we work in a vacuum. That's not fair."
At the meetings' end three things emerged: the staggered work schedule that will allow the fishermen to continue selling fish where they now do, by the bayside; parking lot construction delayed until May; and no palm trees.
The work is scheduled to be completed by August.
Meantime, Senate President Lorraine Berry sponsored an amendment at a Finance Committee meeting last week appropriating $200,000 to DPNR for renovations and repairs to the Frenchtown pier. That work is not included in the current project. The amendment still has to go through the Rules Committee and the full Senate, before going to Government House for Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's approval.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here