The celebration of the new community centre for St. John’s was tempered with the concerns of a local group that the surroundings could pose a danger to users.
Kenneth ‘Rabo’ Silcott, president of the St. John’s Action Club said there was a “bitter taste in his mouth” as the cliffside presents a danger to the children and adults who want to make use of the new facility.
Silcott was speaking at Saturday’s handover ceremony from the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF). He said a protective wall needs to be built and because of how the land was cut, there was no longer adequate space to construct the playground and basketball court they wished to have.
The roads leading to the centre, located in the valley in Pump Ghaut have also not been completed. As the centre is now to be a hurricane shelter, the president said this could be a problem with heavy rains.
Despite the challenges, the organisation said they centre will be used to serve the community. There are plans to continue the ukelele and guitar classes, the after school homework programme, and masquerade and guppie dancer practices.
BNTF Representative Mervin Browne said they were pleased to handover the building and noted that they have been funding the afterschool classes and other support programmes that the action group has been conducting for some time now.
Under the project, the BNTF also purchased ukeleles, guitars, media equipment and other tools which can be used to continue classes for adults and children at the new building.
Former Opposition member Victor James Sr made a request for a new centre once the DMCA took over the former site in Yellow Hill. The Government of Montserrat purchased the land and also provided additional funds to repaint the building and construct an access bridge.
Project consultants were Adrian and Ivason Galloway with Weekes and Weekes managing the construction. The support of Montserrat Utilities Ltd. was acknowledged as they provided poles and lights to the centre at their own expense.
At a cost of 500,000 EC dollars, the new centre building is about 2000 sq.ft. with bathrooms and showers, an office and kitchen. There is also a mini library so residents can borrow books.
Hon. Minister of Education Delmaude Ryan said the centre is now a prime location to build a bridge between St. John’s rich cultural history to connect the old and young. The opportunity to develop this area is ripe and she is hopeful that lives will be changed because of the centre.
The action group says they will be holding fundraisers to come up with the estimated 300,000 EC dollars needed to build a retaining wall.