Commissioner Franco introduces ‘Statia 2025’

The large crowd at the public meeting.

ST. EUSTATIUS–The second public meeting hosted by Dutch Government Commissioner Mike Franco and Acting Commissioner Mervyn Stegers was a calm and informative affair, attended by a sizeable cross-section of the community of St. Eustatius at Mike van Putten Youth Centre/Lion’s Den.

Commissioner Franco opened the session by explaining the role and composition of his Advisory Board.

“We chose people from different backgrounds and who are in contact with a lot of people to hear their views. Their feedback and structured conversation are vital for our work,” he stated.

One area of government policy that is expected to spark much discussion is the launch of Statia 2025. Franco is looking for ideas and elements that could provide motivation and vision for the island.

“We shall not be here in 2025,” Franco said in referring to his two-year term and that of his colleague Stegers. “However, we shall be looking towards the Advisory Board for their input,” Franco said.

In the meantime, and as a matter of urgency, the Island Government has decided to remove an estimated 2,500 abandoned car wrecks from Statia. The first area for car-wreck clearance by the end of May is Man of War.

This decision was greeted with much relief by St. Eustatius National Parks Stenapa officials who were present at the meeting.

Long considered an anchor for the invasive Coralita vine, the wrecks have also served as home for potentially disease-carrying rats and mosquitoes.

On the issue of road improvements, Commissioner Franco explained that they were a critical issue. “Cables are currently being laid and we shall be working on better road infrastructure from now to the end of November.”

Erosion both on the eastern and western slopes of the island was an obvious concern. “We are losing three to four metres a year behind the airport on the eastern slopes. Goats on the western slopes are mostly to blame for erosion there,” Franco explained. “We shall allocate funds to prevent further erosion particularly to assist rainwater catchment.”

Drawings are currently being made to build a new terminal building and tower at F.D. Roosevelt Airport. Commissioner Franco promised that whereas the planning procedure would take about six months, construction could well start by the end of the year.

Both Franco and Stegers answered questions from the floor. They confirmed that annual financial reports for the current and subsequent years would be published. However, quarterly reports, once demanded by the Dutch Government of the dismissed Executive Council, would not be published.

To the question whether the administration would make use of local companies, Stegers replied that four contracts had already been secured with local contractors.

“This is important”, stated Jacqueline “Jackie” Berkel. “In the past, companies have come and gone while leaving a mess.”

Waste-collection fees were also challenged for their sizeable amounts and possible hardship on poorer citizens. One person wondered why collection fees on Statia were more than double the average of those in the United Kingdom. Steger assured the audience that individuals who find the fees too expensive could claim a reduction.

Absent from the meeting was leader of Progressive Labour Party (PLP) Clyde van Putten. “I refuse to attend this meeting and recognize these undemocratic people,” he stated earlier.

“On filing their damning report, the two unwise men from the Dutch Central Government wrote falsely about corruption and nepotism. It was based on this [Democratic Party – Ed.] DP opposition hearsay that the Island and Executive Councils were dismissed. Taxation without representation is anarchy,” Van Putten stated.

Source: The Daily Herald