The jury is still out on the future of the recently closed fire station at Weston, St James.
Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, who is also the parliamentary representative for the area, told reporters on the sidelines of a recent tour of Parliament by students of the Gordon Greenidge Primary School that the matter would be the subject of a town hall meeting in October that will examine the development of the entire western community.
“We plan to have a town hall meeting, not only on the issue of that property [the fire station], but the whole development of Weston because Weston is an area which has tremendous potential. It is one of the most beautiful spots in Barbados and I would not like to represent any other constituency other than St James North and we will involve the people in a town hall meeting in October. That is our intention,” Hinkson said, while stressing that “the whole of Weston has to be developed in terms of concept and strategic planning to benefit the community and for the empowerment of people and jobs for the people of St James North”.
However, he could not commit to having the fire station reopened, even though he has been publicly warning as far back as April 2017 when a fire at Prescod Road, Mount Standfast, St James razed a building that housed three homes belonging to Elizabeth Richards Miller and her children, that the closure of the Weston Fire Station would leave virtually the entire north of the island vulnerable to such disasters.
Hinkson, whose Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration was swept to power in the May 24 general elections, has therefore not sought to hide his disapproval over the manner in which its closure was handled by the former Democratic Labour Party Government.
“It has been closed 14 months ago as you know. Again I would have laid parliamentary questions asking what was the then Government’s intention with the property. We got no answers,” the St James North representative said, adding that no one in the constituency was notified about the fire station’s closure.
“Members of the Weston community were not told it was being closed. I was not told it was being closed. I regarded it as total disrespect to my constituents.
“The ironic thing is that I am now the minister in charge of the Fire Service and we are going to involve the people, as it was what should have been done in the first place with this decision,” he said, while acknowledging that the decision on the fire station’s future was not his alone to make.
“I cannot commit to the re-opening of Weston Fire Station because clearly that would be a Cabinet decision. It may very well be that we will decide to use it for some other purpose for the greater benefit of the community, but, as I said, we will involve the people in the decision and clearly after that, we will take it to the Cabinet of Barbados for the decision to be made,” the Minister of Home Affairs said.
Hinkson also emphasized that the new BLP Government intended to keep its manifesto promise of holding regular public consultations.
“We are not going to do like the previous Government and make decisions in private and impose them on the people as if it is an omnipotent will. People must be involved in the process and we have Member of Parliament [for Christ Church South] Ralph Thorne heading up the committee which is conceptualizing the development of people’s assemblies and committees in part of the decision-making process which will affect their lives,” he said. (LG)