First Public Service Centre opens doors in Simpson Bay

POSTED: 04/15/13 1:54 PM

St. Maarten – A spanking new, customer friendly and fully equipped Public Service Centre was launched on Saturday with a soft opening at the Simpson Bay Fish Market. The center boasts five government departments across three ministries and only lacks the capability to process passport applications. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams as Minister of General Affairs officially cut the ribbon to open the facility that should be fully operational by today. The centre was one of the prime minister’s initiatives and is expected to be taken to other districts in the future.

“It would not have been right to go over to the Public Service Centre’s operation without standing still for a brief moment and realizing what it took to get here. When one looks at the Governing Program, the theme of service, technology and community outreach are like red thread throughout the program. With the opening of this Public Service Centre we are actually aiming at those three themes,” the prime minister stated.

She added that while people will speculate as to why Simpson Bay was chosen to set up the first center, the government wanted to meet the needs of people who are not centralized.

“We wanted to start over the hill, it is important that persons in Simpson Bay, Cole Bay, Cay Bay, Beacon Hill and the surrounding areas get the opportunity to access the services that will be attended to here.”

Interim customer center manager Erno Labega said that, “The entire concept about the Public Service Centre is about improving government services offering more efficient, one-stop service to the general population. It is improving efficiency by using modern equipment and modern technology.”

Labega worked along with project leader Hans de Breur and Michael Dijkhoff for the technology innovations at the centre.

Visitors to the location will be able to login electronically and process tax forms or visit the government’s website for additional on services.  A customer flow system has also been implemented where customers will be able to touch a keypad with specific services and be directed accordingly. This is intend to guard against backlogs, long lines and extended waiting periods.

All computers have been connected to the Civil Registry, Social Affairs Department, Receiver’s and the Tax Office. Ten civil servants had to be relocated to the Simpson Bay location to operate the centre.

The prime minister said that the location of the facility is ideal and she expects that the centre’s presence will generate more activities for the restaurants and shops within the area. She further proposed that both the private entrepreneurs and the staff of the centre work together to boost the location.

Financing for the project was secured through Usona to the tune of 1.5 million guilders. Labega explained that the Dutch funding agency took responsibility for staff, rent, security project management and the customer flow system while the government of St. Maarten funded additional personnel costs and construction by Diamond Cut.

The Simpson Bay Fish Market falls under Foundation Government Buildings for which a rental agreement was signed in January. Adjustments had to be done to the market to accommodate the various people who are expected to make use of the facility. On the ground floor of the market lies the Customer Service Centre that has been equipped with a safety ramp to facilitate the disabled and elderly in the community, while on the other top floor is the centre proper.  Those who are able-bodied to climb the stairs will be forwarded to the top floor.

Also present at the launch was Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Cornelius de Weever, who in brief remarks, commended the prime minister for making the centre a reality after years of planning. He assured that the facility will be a one-stop shop offering the same services as the capital; Philipsburg.

The centre will be open to the public from 8:30 am to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 pm from Mondays to Fridays.

“We may not be using cash in the first few days. We ran into some technicalities because our original design was for everyone to use swipe cards,” Labega added.

A grand opening of the facility is still to be observed.

 

 

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