March 3, 2006 – Albert Willis, St. John Car Rental owner, is more than a bit irked by a visit this week from Planning and Natural Resources Department officers who told him he had to get rid of the four or five old tires he had sitting at the Cruz Bay rental agency.
He said that while they want him to get rid of the tires, they didn't offer a way for him to dispose of them.
"What am I going to do, spend $3,000 to get a trailer?" he said Thursday.
Senator Craig Barshinger said he was outraged at Planning's directive.
"Is this not the craziest thing I've ever heard?" he said, indicating that it was unreasonable for Planning to tell businesses to dispose of the tires when there was no way to do so.
Barshinger said that he would have someone from the Waste Management Authority attend his Monday town meeting called to discuss the proposed government health insurance so they could hear more about the tire problem.
Planning spokesman Jamal Nielsen confirmed Thursday that Planning officers had been making the rounds on St. John instructing businesses to get rid of their old tires.
"These businesses are charging a disposal fee. They're supposed to be shipping them off-island," Nielsen said.
While that may apply to gas stations, St. John Car Rental isn't selling tires. Willis said he buys about 60 tires a year from Rodriquez Auto on St. Thomas, brings them over to St. John and installs them on his rental cars. He said it's not practicable to return them to Rodriquez, and anyway, he said it should be up to the Waste Management Authority to find a solution.
The agency has a deal with A-9 Trucking on St. Thomas to run a tire shredding operation at the Bovoni landfill. However, Authority spokesman Stella Saunders said Thursday that the shredder is not in operation because it went to the states for repair.
No one could be reached at A-9 for more information.
Willis was annoyed that Planning is clamping down on companies such as his when there was simply no way for him to reasonably get rid of the tires. And he said it was up to Waste Management to deal with the issue of old tires, not to foist it on businesses to come up with a way to dispose of their tires.
"What do we pay taxes for?" he asked.
He said that if Planning persists in ordering businesses to get rid of old tires when there is no where to take them, he and others will be forced to file a class action suit.
Sharon Ehle, owner of Caravan Auto on St. John, said Thursday she does not have to store old tires because she only sells them. She said the store does not install them.
However, she had plenty to say on the matter, including her comment that because the government is not dealing effectively with the issue, people leave their old tires alongside Dumpsters or throw them in the bushes.
She said that the Public Works Department then has to deal with the tires.
Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ira Wade said Friday that he has a "good size" pile of tires at the Susannaberg landfill that his crew picked up from wherever residents discarded them.
"But we do not openly or freely accept tires," he said.
Like island businesses, Public Works also has no way to get rid of old tires until the shredder at Bovoni is operational.
Gas station owners that sell tires on St. John did not return phone calls requesting comment.
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