I recently read that the V.I. government had a surplus of funds which were being allocated to, among other things, $1 million to repair restrooms in Charlotte Amalie (I did not even know they existed) and $300,000 to repair the waterfront in Frederiksted, which I remember as being simple and beautiful and mostly grass and some pillars and benches. These things caught my eye and may not be good examples, but then what do I know? OK, I will tell you — not one dime was allocated for St. John.
I expected a loud hue and cry about the lack of funds for St. John, but have heard nothing from any quarter so far. Since 2017, we have been looking at several derelict structures that are smack dab in the middle of Cruz Bay, sad eyesores that are exceedingly dangerous. The JESS annex, the bleachers for the ball field that we had and the shop building for JESS.
We have virtually no recreational facilities for our children — the basketball court in Pine Peace has fortunately been kept up, but the tennis courts (the most COVID-safe sport to play) is in terrible shape. The courts are worn down and need paint at the very least, but are still usable.
Recently, the New Age Moko Jumbies led by Yisrael Petersen had a practice at the courts. I brought my grandchildren and was horrified to see rusty nails sticking out of the bleachers that they were sitting on to get their stilts assembled. Blazing hot sun as well, since the roof on the bleachers blew off in the hurricanes and has not been replaced.
The bleachers are so decrepit that anyone who sits on them, which these children were forced to do, risks getting slivers in their hands or butts. Good grief, what is wrong with us? How can we tolerate this kind of neglect and what verges on abuse?
The money this little island of St. John generates that goes into the General Fund is probably disproportionatelyly high when compared to the other islands and our size. But that is not the main point. The main point is how can we allow this to go on? We have no public library, little recreational facilities, the public school is closed and the public tennis courts right in the heart of Cruz Bay are a disgrace! The school trailers installed after the hurricanes in the formerly very active ball field are now unsafe in the time of COVID and one wonders how necessary they really were, considering the fact that one scarcely sees a schoolchild anywhere on the island except at Gifft Hill School. Had the former classrooms been rehabilitated, maybe the children would be in school now and using the ball field for sports.
I cannot help but feel that they have been driven out because of the failures of this government to address their educational and recreational needs. Speaking of recreation, when was the last time any government official took a real look at that hot mess — the decrepit building housing the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation has been in a state of disgrace for at least a decade.
The Love City Pan Dragons are still going strong thanks to the dedication of their parents, directors and students, but are forced to practice in the Pan Yard which is a leaky ruin of a structure next to the DSPR building. There is so much effort and energy put into this activity that it is a shame to not support it. How long can volunteers beat all the odds posed by the lack of government support for all of these issues facing our young people, always touted as “the future” at campaign time and then ignored as usual?
Since the days of Gov. Juan F. Luis, the V.I. government has been operating by “crisis” particularly where education is concerned. “We don’t have the money” was the cry back then when the teachers went on strike. And that has been the same excuse ever since. Give me a break! Take a good look at those budgets, salaries, etc. to see how much money is being spent with unfortunately poor results.
While I am at it, I am going to list another major disgrace to illustrate what I feel is creating a divisive situation in our community. This morning, Monday, Aug. 30, the first day back to school for some and work for others, our power was out from about 6:30 a.m. until 8 a.m. I thought to myself of the parents struggling to get their children ready for school and themselves to work and realized that we are no longer in the time when we felt like at least we are all in this together. Now one feels foolish or bitter that they have not invested the $20,000 to $30,000 in solar panels so that they are not dependent on the V.I. Water and Power Authority, which so many of their neighbors have done. This situation and the educational divide are deepening the gap between the haves and have nots. And I ask you, WHOSE FAULT IS THAT?
— Janet Cook-Rutnik, St. John