Community council in the making – The boys from Cay Hill spark neighborhood-action

POSTED: 02/18/13 12:43 PM

St. Maarten – Employment opportunities, regular fumigation exercises, a multipurpose complex/community centre, adherence to building codes and environmental standards are just some of the needs that the people of Cay Hill have identified for themselves. And with the unanimous decision taken on Saturday night for a community council to be formed, the residents of that area say that they are willing to work together to make these plans a reality.

While at the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex for what was described as the third meeting of minds to discuss “What Cay Hill Needs”, residents spoke at length about some of the social and environmental ills plaguing the area and also offered solutions.

Many of the young men, who had gone door to door two weeks prior to invite people to come out to the town hall meeting, lamented the lack of jobs even after they would have returned to the island, after years of study.  They identified construction projects that are ongoing in the community and wondered why they were not given first priority in terms of employment, as is the case in districts like Sucker Garden and Dutch Quarter.

Community Police Officer for the Cay Hill, Fort Willem, Belair and Bush Road, Rensley Henson offered young men the opportunity to register at the Labor Department for any jobs that may be available. He had more than 25 forms in tow, at the meeting, and urged the young men to take any opportunity that presents itself.

“It doesn’t matter what type of job you get. Everybody starts somewhere, we as St. Maarten people have a mentality that certain jobs we will not do. There isn’t anything too small for you; apply and you will make it.”

“If you don’t want to help yourself, we cannot help you.  It does not matter if you have a police record or not. If you get a job you will be supervised initially, so make an effort to register, Community Police Officer for Dutch Quarter district Juan Statie added.

The officers offered space and time at the Philipsburg police station for the young men to meet and discuss ideas.

Officer Statie said that more than 200 people from Dutch Quarter were registered at the Labor Office and more are still coming in. These persons are expected to benefit from basic training courses as well.

The Soualiga Social Movement (SSM) plans to visit work sites in the area to champion the cause for young men in the district to be employed. Sjaoel Richardson of the SSM executive indicated that the foundation had already held talks with various department heads in government.

President of the SSM Alston Lourens explained the reason why his foundation had aligned itself with the initiative of the Cay hill boys on the block.

“Our function is to promote the awareness, inclusion and participation of St. Maarten people in the development of the nation. We want everyone to understand their position and how they can do something for themselves. Our position was simply to help facilitate the initial objective the boys brought us; they needed to see something happen in Cay Hill.”

Richardson, who lives on Tiger Road, said that he was perturbed at running sewerage water near his property constantly.  His comments received loud agreement by others who said that they were sorely vexed by the unhygienic conditions of several streets because of the waste water.

Others agreed that environmental and building inspectors ought to the visit the community more frequently. Fumigation for pests and rodents also needs to be conducted.

Richardson’s neighbor, Mrs. Bartlett, spoke of the horrors of living near the Black Dog Towing Company.

She said that she has to keep all of windows and doors locked because of the rodent infestation in the area.

“Why should I be living in an area where I cannot open my backdoor because rats are coming in? It is not fair.”

The woman said that complaints have been made at the Ministry of Vromi repeatedly, because a business of that nature should not be located in a residential area.

“It is blocking traffic, car wrecks all over the place, they are fixing cars on the road,” Richardson chimed in, as he spoke of the same towing company.

Officer Henson said that the police had begun an exercise where car wrecks are being removed. He estimated the number of wrecks on the island at approximately 1,000.

Dr. Swanson shared a concern of hers, on the capacity of the roads to accommodate the amount of traffic that runs through Cay Hill. She said that she had witnessed two major accidents near the corner of Builders’ Paradise, one of which involved an emergency vehicle.

“The road can’t accommodate the amount of traffic. When the tour operator is doing his business and the buses have to turn, traffic has to stop because they cannot maneuver the corner. I shudder to imagine, the day that the fire brigade or the ambulance has to be up and down this road trying to help people who are in need. It is a difficult problem to solve because there is not enough space left for the road to expand.”

Those in attendance suggested that certain roads be made one-ways so that emergency vehicles in particular are not impeded.  Officer Henson added that the Police were also busy with the placement of fluorescent traffic signs.

The SSM asked residents to closely monitor the developments are occurring in Cay Hill behind Megamax. More than 1000 families are said to be living in the hills of Cay Hill, and most of them are Haitians.

“Anything that you mention bad is basically going on there,” Richardson said. The group created a video that has been placed on Youtube.com and Facebook showing dilapidated toilets and broken sewerage lines and other health hazards in that section of the community.

Police Commissioner Carl John, who is also a resident of Cay Hill, urged the gathering not to condemn the people living in those hills.

“Whatever the situation, there are families living in the hill. They may not be as well off as the rest of us, who live in Cay Hill, but it is important to recognize the families living here and it is respectable for us to take that part of Cay Hill, which is seen as the most difficult part, to start organizing.”

He suggested that everyone that was present at the meeting visit that section of Cay Hill so that accurate data can be collected on the number of people living there and also to learn from them.

“Here and there is bad, but there is also good in that area. There are a lot of things that we can learn from the situations that they are living in. We left a lot in our discussions up to government, but most of the people there are solving their own problems. That is the example that we have to take,” John stated.

Fundraising activities such as walkathons and dinners were also suggested so that the group could fund the construction of a basketball court, however it was explained that government would be upgrading the entire RISC, and provisions would be made for an indoor basketball court.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Minister of Public Health, Labor and Social Development Cornelius de Weever were also in attendance at the activity.

The prime minister told residents to plan and dream big but to take the first step in organizing themselves properly. (See related story)

More than 12 people volunteered to be on the Cay Hill Community Council. The next meeting of the What Cay Hill Needs initiative has been set for Saturday March 9.

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