V.I. Waste Management reverses decision to close Cotton Valley bin site - for now

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ST. CROIX - A cross-section of the island's East End community turned out Tuesday evening for a V.I. Waste Management Authority hearing, but what was supposed to be a meeting to discuss the closing of the Cotton Valley bin site turned into a discussion on how the authority and residents could work together to maintain the bins, following a decision not to close the site - at least for now.

A fired-up crowd of about 150 people - three times the number the authority had prepared for with seating - showed up at the Tamarind Reef conference room to get information and air their concerns.

As the meeting began, VIWMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall cleared the air by announcing that the authority had made the decision not to close or move the dump site at this time.

"This is what we have decided," Cornwall said. "But we are up against some serious challenges which we hope you will have some ideas and comments that will help us to come with more ideas to come back next month with some solutions."

Cornwall said while they authority had already made the decision to close the site, it is now being reconsidered.

Everyone has to try to address how trash is disposed of, Cornwall said, specifically looking forward to when the island's landfill is closed in two or three years.

Cornwall said cost is the driving force behind the decision to close bin sites and it is important to find a way to limit the costs, especially as the authority faces a $4 million budget cut going into the next fiscal year.

Of the authority's $14 million solid waste budget, $6 million is spent in trash collection across the territory, according to Cornwall. She said about $1 million is budgeted for house-to-house pick up on St. Croix and the Cotton Valley bin site, one of four remaining sites on the island takes, $100,000 annually to be maintained.

"We want to get to the point where we change the way people handle their trash and we need your help to do it, because this is for all of us," Cornwall said.

While the residents were anxious to get answers to their questions and did not mince their words in criticizing the authority and government, many were also quick to offer assistance to help the authority achieve a plan for Cotton Valley and for the future of trash disposal on a whole.

Local builder Robert Quinn said he has traveled all over the world and has looked at how other places dispose of their trash.

"This is a small community and you have got to consider reaching out for help and finding a system that might work for us here," he said.

Quinn offered his assistance and said he would be willing to fill the vacant position the authority's board to help move things forward.

Most of the residents opposed any new fees that would be imposed to keep the bin site open and argued that they were paying a significant amount of taxes and were not getting services that others across the island receive, such as house-to-house trash pick up.

Cornwall said the best system is usually a combination of pickups and bin sites and the regulations are in place to determine what is most feasible in each district.

Other concerns included needing a bigger push toward recycling, making a convenience center at Cotton Valley and eliminating house pick-up at other locations where residents do not pay for the service.

Residents also questioned accountability in the authority, and in government as a whole, and brought up what they called ridiculous laws on the books that imposes fines on individuals who remove items like old furniture or other items from dump sites.

The authority is hosting another town meeting at 6 p.m. today at John H. Woodson Junior High School to discuss the relocation of the Mon Bijou bin site.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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