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West End Residents Challenge Officials on Public-Service Problems

Oct. 22, 2006 — Residents living on the West End of St. Thomas confronted government officials on Sunday afternoon about the need to address numerous road repairs and trash-collection problems experienced in areas spanning from Estate Bordeaux to Bonne Esperance.
They also called on gubernatorial and senatorial candidates to be "more accountable," to stop "making empty promises" and to bring basic services back to West End neighborhoods. In attendance at Sunday's meeting, held at the Bordeaux-Fortuna Multipurpose Center and hosted by the West End Alliance (WE ALL), were Dr. Cora Christian, candidate for lieutenant governor, and senatorial hopefuls Basil Ottley Jr. and Ludrick "Ludie T" Thomas, who is also a charter member of WE ALL.
While WE ALL President Sheri Meyers said that she did not want the meeting to "be politicized," she also reminded residents that the West End is "one of the largest voting districts" in the Virgin Islands.
"We have to be aware that we have the power, and that we have to start putting qualified and productive people in office," she said. Earlier in the meeting, Meyers said there were several concerns plaguing the West End, including a lack of police presence — over the past few weeks there has been a rash of burglaries, she said — and the need to have better access roads in and out of the community.
"We're not asking for luxuries here," she said. "Just the same simple, basic services the other communities are getting."
Also at the top of the list for residents was staffing of the Bordeaux-Fortuna Multipurpose Center, which first opened in 1998 and reopened in late July 2006. Both the police department and fire services were slated to provided overlapping services at the center to assure it gets manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (See "West End Residents Guarded About Emergency Center Reopening").
"A lot of promises were made by all, but they have not been fulfilled to date," Meyers said to approximately 50 residents who huddled close to avoid getting caught in a brief afternoon rain shower. "We were supposed to have temporary personnel here; they gave us a September deadline. Clearly that has not occurred."
When residents complained about the increase in burglaries on the West End, Meyers added, police representatives suggested "installing alarm systems, which is just not financially possible for all residents."
"Instead of depending on these individuals, she said, we all must make a commitment to become more involved, stand up and get active to get the services we need.
As a first step, Thomas said, the alliance invited members of the V.I. Waste Management Authority and the Department of Public Works to address garbage-collection and road problems experienced in the area. Fire Services Director Merwin Potter and Deputy Police Chief Elvin Fahiewere were also invited, but neither attended Sunday's meeting.
In a presentation given at the beginning of the meeting, May Adams-Cornwall, executive director of the V.I. Waste Management Authority (WMA), addressed residents' concerns about garbage not getting picked up on house-to-house collection routes.
Cornwall said the problem lies with contractors not getting enough resources to juggle the routes, or having problems accessing hard-to-reach areas. She said that WMA will use money appropriated in its budget for the 2007 fiscal year to give contractors the resources they need to pick up trash in a timely fashion.
Adams-Cornwall also laid out the authority's plan to reduce the number of bin sites on St. Thomas and to establish one-stop convenience centers where trash could get thrown out and processed.
While residents had little more than suggestions for WMA officials, they were critical of Wynstan Benjamin, highways program manager for Public Works, who said the department is currently looking into creating another access road out of the Bordeaux area. The road is part of a comprehensive "transportation land and water use plan," which has already been put out to bid, he said.
"But projects like these stay in the design phase for years," said Grethelyn Piper, a West End resident. "And these are things that we need right now."
The road running adjacent to the Massac Nursing Center is particularly vulnerable to bad whether and large vehicles, she said. "That road has always had a soft shoulder," Piper said. "If a tremor comes along and the road collapses, then we're all going to be stuck in Bordeaux with no way out."
Benjamin said he "could not say" when the new access road would be complete, but suggested residents write a letter to Public Works Commissioner George Phillips.
"This is ridiculous," Piper said.
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