Aug. 17, 2006 – Several East End, St. John, residents are steamed that the government appears to be planning a big project at the crumbling and long-closed East End School without discussing it with them.
"Nobody consulted any of us who live out here and pay taxes," said East End resident Terry McKoy.
Kent Bernier, who serves as director of the Public Finance Authority, said that the building will be rehabilitated for use as the lieutenant governor's annex. He said the building had been used for this purpose until it suffered serious damage in 1995's Hurricane Marilyn.
'"It was used for the lieutenant governor to meet his constituents," Bernier said.
He said the building will have a conference room as well as living quarters that could be used for visiting dignitaries to have a "quiet place for discussions."
He suggested that if residents wanted to use the building for functions they call Government House.
Bernier said that the complaints, by residents about not being consulted, were not an issue. "This is in the best interest of the people," he said, adding that the rehabilitation project will create work for local residents.
A pre-bid conference was held at the Property and Procurement Department on Thursday for contractors wanting to bid on the job.
A published legal notice describes the project as "furnishing all labor, materials and equipment necessary for the restoration and renovation to the East End School, demolition of existing structures and construction of new residential structures adjacent to the historical ones."
Bernier said the project is slated to cost $820,000. He said that of that figure, $63,783 went to pay Sphere Design of St. Thomas for architectural services.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley also was in the dark about the details.
"I have not seen the plans for it," he said.
Residents are questioning the need for any government official to have an annex so far removed from other government facilities. It takes about 45 minutes to drive all the way out to the remote Hansen Bay location.
"Perhaps they just didn't think," Terry McKoy said.
Several people suggested the building be used for a community center or a museum to preserve the East End heritage.
"The school house was central to the community," said East End resident Jay Swartley.
Tom Hickey, who owns a home on the East End and visits about once a year from Jupiter Island, Fla., said something should be done with the building.
"It would make a cute museum," he said.
McKoy said that residents at this remote end of St. John have no place to hold community gatherings so a community center was a good idea.
"We have to hold our neighborhood watch meetings on the street," he said.
St. John resident Guy Benjamin, who grew up on the East End, also agreed with the museum and community center idea.
He said the land for the building was donated by the George family to the Moravian Church in 1861. He said the Moravians built the school, but then sold the building to the government around the 1950s. He sat it sat empty for years.
"Then the government started to use it as a playground," Benjamin said.
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