Last year around this time, an article appeared in the New Today Newspaper from a concerned citizen of St. Paul’s about the use of the Community Centre by someone who did not give his or her name, some of my friends thought it was me; however, I am not a ghost Writer, because my name will always appear alongside all of my articles regardless who will be at the unfortunate end of the stick.
I had two years to think about what I wanted to write about concerning the use and abuse of the Noel Collins Complex or the St. Paul’s Community Centre. It can be said that I am about to wash our dirty linen in public, but I am not apprehensive to do so because it needs to be done in this way because I have no other opportunity to express my opinion on this subject matter in my community.
In addition, we do not need any help from outside of our community to solve our problems because we have enough munitions to do so, including me.
When our former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop officially opened the Noel Collins Complex or the St. Paul’s Community Centre, on the 14th of March 1983 in a spectacular ceremony it was done as a work in progress. Because there were several things that needed to be accomplished to fully complete the project and I will list them one by one.
Firstly, where the playground is presently situated that space was deliberately left like that for the construction of an outside stage for open-air concerts and shows. The stage would have had attached to it a first class female and male dressing room and proper lighting.
In addition, a storeroom downstairs to store the items that would belong to the Complex. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying that the playground should be moved, I am just narrating the history as it relates to our community centre, because I have the authority to do so because of my previous involvement in the construction of the complex from 1981to 1983.
The Scotilda Noel Library was not furbished because there were no books in it at the time of its opening, likewise the Dennis Renwick games room had nothing to play or to use in it also.
Additionally, the Rupert Bishop Conference Hall had to be further developed in order to accommodate conferences, weddings and other social activities, including a bar at the back, where the floor is not tiled.
Furthermore, the area to the top where the second entrance is located, where the old medical station was situated that space was left vacant for the building of the Welcoming Centre. Moreover where the Commancheros and Associate Mas Camp is located presently that area was due to be developed for VIP parking because the complex was going to be used for tourism tours by our taxi drivers.
In other words, visitors were going to visit our Complex for a tour of the facility and its history.
We have seen the demise of the Grenada Revolution on the 19th of October 1983, when former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his colleagues were executed by firing squad, including Evelyn Bullen and Keith Hayling from our community of St. Paul’s on what was then called Fort Rupert now Fort George.
This led to the historic invasion of our country by USA and Caribbean Forces on the 25th of October of the same year, and the previous management structure that was chaired by Mr. Norbert Bruno, now deceased, vaporised.
This gave rise to a new management committee, which was chaired by Mr. David Thomas from 1983 to 2013. During the last thirty years, that Management Committee had to constantly secure the facility from being vandalised by the schoolchildren and other people alike.
Another important development was Commancheros Steel Orchestra’s occupation for the last eighteen years of both the games room and the library, which in my mind saved the building from further destruction.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, some concerned citizens from our community in conjunction with the former management committee, people like Glenn Morgan, now deceased and Carl Pivott came together and did a project proposal to USAID.
In fact, it was my task to hand the project proposal to Mr. Crawford Best who was working with USAID at the time which I did. In doing the follow up on the proposal I was told by Mr. Best that the proposal ended up in Mexico – how that happened I still have no idea but we got no funding from that organisation.
Moreover, during the last thirty years, the Complex was used by almost every organisation in the community, the Schools, Churches, Commancheros and Associates Carnival Committee, among other organisations and social groups.
If I have to say one good thing about the previous management committee is, the community centre was always available for use by all organisations that applied for its use. Furthermore, they were able to get DIPCON, a construction company to resurface the basketball court free of cost with the help of persons in our community who were working with that company.
Additionally, they were able to keep the politics out of the functioning of the Complex. Equally, what I was disappointed with is the Management Committee did not get Government’s funding to develop the Complex because of the politics involved.
Secondly, they did not seek outside funding, from organisations in the region and around the world. In addition, they did not organise fund-raising activities in order to do so.
With the emergence of a new sports, cultural and developmental organisation several years now after the one that was hi-jacked in the 1990s when Neil Noel was elected president, gave rise to new thinking for the development of the Complex.
With the help of a Politian from the constituency of the Town of St. George, they were able to get funding from China and Venezuela and were able to resurface the basketball court and developed the outside area, with the funds which was well spent in my opinion, which was outlined in the ceremony in June of 2011.
Furthermore, they were able to obtain more funding – this time a grant from the Australian Government to further develop the Complex and in particular the Rupert Bishop Conference Hall, the stage and backstage and the bathrooms outside.
For a second time it was money well spent and everyone was pleased with the outcome of the project, including me.
Subsequently, after the official ceremony to reopen the project, problems started to emerge and which I hope the readers will decide if the end justifies the means or the means justify the end.
The previous Management Committee had to hand over the keys to the St. Paul’s Sports, Cultural and Developmental Organisation for the project to commence, with the thinking that the keys will be handed back to them when the project was completed, only to find out that was not going to happen.
In my humble opinion the Complex was hi-jacked by the people who got the funding to refurbish the building, thus setting the stage for bad blood with the people and organisations that were using the facility before.
Just like that, we had no right to re-enter the main hall to continue playing table tennis as we did previously, even if there are five table tennis boards sitting in the building to be used for almost two years
In addition, Commancheros and Associates Carnival Committee had no access to the Rupert Bishop Conference Hall as they did in previous years to make the king and queen costumes’ and to distribute their finish costumes’ to its members as they did formerly.
They have had to find another site to make the king and queen costumes.
On the other hand, the most unbelievable incident for me was and still is the unavailability of the bathrooms for the people who are using the compound as they did before for example the people who are producing the costumes in the Mas Camp and all Lime Commancheros players, both juniors and seniors like.
Lime Commancheros membership consist mainly of young women and the vast majority of persons who comprise Commancheros and Associates Carnival Committee are women.
In addition, the people who pass by the Mas Camp to visit also the people who pass by to listen the Steel orchestra practice their panorama song, they are unable to use the bathrooms because it is under lock and key. That situation must be brought under control sooner rather than later because it is very appalling.
Another disgusting situation is the changing of padlocks on the entrance gates as the sinister forces see fit to do.
Last year after carnival, a well-known so-called bad man was seen changing the padlock on the gate which the members of the Mas Camp used and was using for many years to bring their material on site to work.
To this day and the start of this year’s carnival season, the members have no access to the Mas Camp from that entrance. In addition, the Mas Camp had a branch of electricity from the Community Centre, which was removed without informing the people who lead Commancheros and Associates Carnival Committee.
This left the executive of the Commancheros and Associated Carnival Committee with no choice but to apply to GRENLEC for a connection in order to be able to do their work during the last Carnival season.
It is my understanding that all community centres in our country are owned by the government. In that regard, the NDC Government of Mr. Tillman Thomas developed a guideline for their functioning.
One of the guidelines was the election of a management committee to oversee the overall development of the Complex.
Both the members of the Sports Club and the Management Committee had a date set for the election to take place, but it was cancelled on the same day for some strange reason.
However, the new NNP Government decided that there would be a new set of guidelines for the functioning of the community centres in our country, according to a source of mine.
Since then, there has been an interim management committee, which is headed by Mr. Adrian Hayes for the last year and we still have all the problems that I mentioned above and they still exist with no end in sight.
One can only hope and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ for common sense to prevail because the way in which things are looking for this year carnival season I can only imagine it will get worse and I hope that I am wrong in that respect.
In closing, I have spoken to some of the key players involved people like Carl Pivott, Cecil Noel, O’Brian Robinson, David Thomas, Mathew Lawrence just to name a few persons who I still have some sort of personal respect for, whom expressed their personal point of views on the subject matter which I hope that I will never like to put into its proper prospective.
However, it is my view that there is a creepy force that is bent on evicting Commancheros and Associates Carnival Committee and Lime Commancheros steel orchestra from the Complex.
These are the only two organisations that continue to represent culture in a big way in our community, in the case of Lime Commancheros since 1970 and for the Carnival Committee since 1983 – and these are organisations that were founded in our community many years ago.
I will only support the removal of those two organisations from the compound if and when they have a home to continue doing what they do best which is to produce sweet steel pan music and exquisite carnival productions.
I hope that the so-called owners of the Complex demonstrate some common sense, which is not so common these days even among people who have very decent academic backgrounds.
It appears to me that their level of reasoning is no better that that of children in kinder garten on that subject matter.
I hope I will never have to write part two on this subject matter – who owns the Noel Collins Complex.
Let it be known that we constructed that project with a lot of love, hard work and sacrifice and had much fun doing so. While some people were playing small goal football at the Melrose Court during its construction while others were associated with the people that caused the demise of the Grenada Revolution on October 19th 1983.
Even some were never around, while others were out of the country during those years.
The complex was built with the aim of providing our community with a proper resource centre for the development of sports and culture and to make it available for the people who want to use the facility for those purposes.
It was not to be lock up by any one bad man who feels that the multi-faceted Complex belongs to him. One sure thing about this life is our death which is the least of my worry because when we die we will be leaving the same way we came into this world.
In addition, our Lord and saver Jesus Christ said, why worry about death, leave death to him.