PHILIPSBURG–The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA has drafted a concept plan to build a multifunctional shelter facility that will serve as a hurricane shelter with the capacity to accommodate 1,000 persons and include all the first-response emergency requirements according to international standards, VSA Minister Emil Lee said on Wednesday.
Lee said the facility would be suitable for year-round use as a convention centre, cultural performance centre and sports auditorium. “This adds value to our tourism product, to our culture as well as to the wellbeing of the population,” he said.
The Council of Ministers has approved that the concept plan be submitted to the Steering Committee for further development and possible financing via the World Bank-administered Trust Fund.
“This is a process. The proposal is being sent to the recovery programme bureau for them to assist with the further development of it, with the idea that this is a project that could possibly be funded by the recovery funds,” stated Lee during the Council of Ministers’ weekly press briefing.
He added that the facility could also be designed to accommodate institutions such as Philipsburg Jubilee Library, the St. Maarten Museum and the St. Maarten Archaeological Centre Simarc facilities, all of which were badly damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
“It is a great opportunity to showcase the culture of the island, a place where our cultural icons can be centralised. I think there is a lot of synergy from that perspective. The activities that we are talking about are all events that would probably not be happening immediately after a storm, so you do not have the conflict like you have with the schools where you want people to move out after a storm,” Lee said.
He was asked about the cost related to this facility and said the VSA Ministry is looking into possible cost based on location and construction factors. “It would be approximately US $26 million maximum,” he said.
The impact and aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria have shown that the island is in need of a high-capacity shelter for island-wide use. The setting-up of well-equipped and properly-structured multipurpose shelters is included in the 2018-2022 Governing Programme. Lee pointed out that the VSA Ministry first looked into the setting-up of smaller shelters island-wide.
“Currently, the shelters being used are not specifically designed as refuges during a storm. The current shelters are mostly schools, community centres and churches. However, this posed many challenges,” stated the minister.
Some of the challenges he presented Lee were: In the event of a storm, limited human resources are spread around the island (security, medical etc.) and current structures were not originally designed for hurricanes; for example, “many schools that were damaged by Irma”; after a storm, if people’s homes are damaged it poses a challenge to move people out; on the other hand, schools need to open as part of the recovery process. People have no real time or and it is not easy to pick back up their lives.
In line with the motto of “building back better,” Lee stated, “When looking at the requirements we realised that what would be better is to have one structure. The Ministry of VSA is looking into a purpose-built shelter in accordance with international standards and able to withstand wind category 5-plus. The concrete structure needs to be safe and after-care needs to be in place.”
The concept plan for the multifunctional shelter includes the following requirements, among others: Capacity of 1,000 people; to comfortably separate men, women and children; storage space for cots, food and water; kitchen facilities; secure communications; enclosed parking for emergency vehicles; laundry machines; in-house medical facilities; generators; and bathrooms/showers for those in the building.
No location has been designated for the facility at this time.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/85612-minister-lee-working-on-multifunctional-shelter