One aspect of the proposed Cruise Pier and land side development planned for Road Town, the Trolley lines has been rejected by some taxi operators.
"We don´t want it [Trolley], it has to go," those were the words echoed by some taxi professionals during a meeting at The Moorings Conference Room last evening, July 10.
Another operator commented that it just does not fit into the culture of the Virgin Islands.
Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark Vanterpool who was present at the meeting was asked if the system is to be implemented who will be in charged of running it.
"Will the taxi men be operating them or will the park be operating them?" a taxi operator asked.
Minister Vanterpool stated that the trolley system is something for discussion and who will operate it is still to be sorted out.
"Will the city operate it? more than likely it will be the city of Road Town; it will not be owned by the pier park. And would the taxi men want to run it, you never know, any option is possible. It´s just out there for discussion, it´s a good idea as far as a number of people think and it´s not a good idea as far as some other persons think," the Minister stated.
Taxi operators insisted that they do not want the trolley lines, and Minister Vanterpool stated that its just an idea, and if it´s not needed now, then it will not form part of the project.
"I want to let you that is my style, if this trolley deal is not a deal, its not a deal. We have thrown it out [for discussion]; the feedback is coming. Obviously the taxi men don´t like it and I don´t have any problem with that. We are going to bring it out to the wider community in our discussions at the end of July. If it´s a push back and it´s not needed, then it´s not needed, so let´s leave it," he told the operators.
However, the Minister said that there are plans for the city and maybe in years to come the trolley lines will be needed.
"And maybe ten years from now we need it. But when we doing the development plan for a city as a city grows there are things that grow with it. It may not be needed now, but maybe needed down the road. So we are going to make provisions for it; that is what we are talking about...," he stated.
The meeting was be based on the Transportation Staging System for the Cruise Pier Development Project. According to the Works Ministry, the goal is to create a structured and efficient system for transporting cruise ship passengers to and from the cruise pier.
Hugh Darley, President of IDEA presented the proposed transportation staging system to the taxi operators.
The proposed $75M public/private partnership development was unveiled to the community on June 27 during a public meeting by the Minister and Darley.
Under the proposed plan, Government will have to lease the land for 48 years to the developers, and Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines have guaranteed a large number of passengers over the next 15 years and an increase in passenger tax. The guaranteed amount of passengers is 425,000 minimum passenger arrivals per year.
The development is referred to as the Tortola Pier Park and includes a retail village, community park, market, ferris wheel, boardwalk, a terminal building, a chapel and trolley lines.
No Fly By Night
Meanwhile, the Minister told taxi operators last evening that its either they sell the project if they are in support of it, or criticize it if they are against certain aspects.
He was speaking against the backdrop that some talk show hosts are misrepresenting the facts surrounding the project. The Minister said while the talk show hosts are entitled to their opinion, they must not speak based on misrepresentation.
He asked the taxi operators at the meeting if they believe that the project is a good thing for the Territory, and they operators affirmed.
"Sometimes I don´t think that you believe that it is important to the VI...because lately we have been getting some push back from the public. If you listen to the talk shows and you listen to the comments by the talk show hosts. That is what I like about the talk show hosts they are entitled to their opinion...They are entitled to their opinion, but not to misrepresent anything," he said.
Further, the Minister said government has hired someone to carry out the social study for the project where all the opinions of the public will be noted among other things.
"We are doing a sound check of what we are doing, if we don´t hear a lot of support we are going to step back a little bit and think about it. So we are doing sound check, we are doing a social study of it...we are paying someone to do a social study of this project," he stated.
The Minister told the operators that government believes in the project because they believe the economy of the BVI is heavily dependent on the project for its growth and success.
He went on to argue the project is no fly by night since it has been in the making since 2005.
"We are not doing anything out of the sky that wasn´t plan...I told someone today this thing has been in the plan since 2005. We just sat on it and did nothing. It´s not any fly by night project. There have been studies of it; I have studies on my desk that was taken off the shelves that were done since 2005. There was a study done last year by the previous government. Now people are tending to say that we just suddenly come up with this project, no it´s not," he argued.
Minister Vanterpool added that the government of the day has just put in some additions.
Taxi men at the meeting, July 10, 2012
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
"This project has been in the plans for a very long time. Its jut how we are doing it and how we intend to make it happen is what we are putting our piece in. I want you as taxi men understand that your living and in terms of what is happening here is at stake, don´t sit back and let people derail what you are trying to do here....In your own way, either sell this project or criticize it, or sell some parts and criticize some parts, but don´t sit back and do nothing. Our motto that we have as a government is this, `doing nothing is not an option.´ We have to do something to help make this economy grow," he stated.
As reported earlier, the extension of the pier is expected to be completed by December of this year, followed by the works on the project which will take about 18 months. Darley said if the plan is approved with the public input, by January 2014 it will be completed. He said they are looking to extend the pier by 300 feet in length to accommodate the larger cruise ships.
The total investment is $75M, with $25M for pier and excursion dock; $25M landside development; and $25M community investment.
According to the developers, the project which will see the BVI Ports moving from B class to A class port, will develop the area in such a way that it will be "married to the rest of Road Town". This, according to Government, will result in other businesses benefiting as a whole, including vendors at the proposed Craft Alive Market area.
Minister Vanterpool has stated that Government, through the BVI Ports Authority, will remain in control of the Road Town Port.