MP Brison questions Smith’s ‘lack of care for monuments’ | THE DAILY HERALD

Old house at the corner of Front Street and Cyrus Wathey Square.

PHILIPSBURG–Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison wants Culture Minister Wycliffe Smith to explain what Brison sees at Smith’s apparent lack of urgency and care for the country’s monuments, several of which are in disrepair following the onslaught of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Brison (United St. Maarten Party) has forwarded his concerns to Smith via a letter from Parliament in which he questioned whether the minister understands the implications of his lack of urgency for monuments in need of urgent repairs especially now that it is hurricane season. He pointed to the “unacceptable state” of the privately-owned cistern just before Walter Plantz Square, the Watkins House and “The Old House” on Front Street.

“Why has the council not replied to owners in regard to their urgent requests to begin repairs to the properties? … The importance of protecting these sites and buildings cannot be overstated,” said Brison in his letter.

If a favourable response to his queries is not received “as soon as possible,” Brison said the “only other recourse” would be to call the Minister to answer in Parliament.

Brison’s concern includes that Lee has not reported back about the Monument Council’s plans to protect and preserve monuments. He also enquired whether the council had the correct number of members and sufficient expertise, the number of urgent compared to regular requests for advice that were sent to the council, and whether Lee allows sufficient time for the council to conduct its due diligence when advising on monument reconstruction efforts.

Brison also questioned in his letter the status of Pasanggrahan Royal Guesthouse and why the property is being split up.

Referring to the September 2018 Parliament meeting when the council members were approved, Brison said Lee had assured Parliament the council would to be extremely active in ensuring all monuments received the necessary urgent attention. However, Brison said he had received reports to the contrary stating many monument owners “are frustrated by the ministry’s and the council’s lack of effort in addressing various issues they face such as repairs, building permits, funding and information.”

Council members were only installed in March, according to Brison who called on the minister to explain why there was a major delay.

The council members were approved in September 2018 and members were sworn in on June 19, according to information released by the council. The council has since met with several monument owners, as many of the properties and sites designated as monuments on the Dutch side of the island are in private hands.

The Monument Council issued a press statement on June 19 saying it had been busy facilitating pre-Hurricane Irma requests and taking stock of the monuments post-hurricane. Two projects in particular – Kenepa Garden Estate, a residential development on Emilio Wilson Estate; and the commercialisation of Mary’s Fancy Plantation – have had the council’s attention over the past few months.

The council cited in the same statement that it has also been busy taking inventory of the monuments and the effects of the hurricanes on them. It also reported that one of the oldest monuments – the St. Petrus Gonzales Chapel in Simpson Bay, built in 1879 – had been destroyed by Irma.

“There are a number of primary residences that are owned by pensioners, many of whom are unable to afford the necessary repairs or to keep up with the high cost associated with maintaining the traditional building materials/style.

“We as a Council understand that the privilege and honour of owning a monument must be acknowledged, but assistance in accessing financial avenues for homeowners to be able to adequately protect these national treasures must be guaranteed,” Council Chairman Patrice Gumbs Jr. said in the June 19 statement.

Source: The Daily Herald