NIA Cabinet Ministers Host Community Meeting in Barnes Ghaut to Hear Residents’ Concerns
Charlestown, Nevis, March 11, 2022 (Nevis Island Administration) – Members of the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Cabinet hosted a community meeting in Barnes Ghaut on Thursday, March 10, 2022, to dialogue with village residents about their concerns.
The meeting was held at the Barnes Ghaut Community Centre and saw more than two dozen residents in attendance. Premier Hon. Mark Brantley, Deputy Premier Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Hon. Eric Evelyn, Ms. Latoya Jones, Special Advisor in the Premier’s Ministry and area resident, and Dr. Judy Nisbett, Medical Officer of Health in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) and Chair of the Nevis COVID-19 Task Force fielded questions from the residents.
One of the key concerns voiced by residents was the issue of land not being available for expansion of the village. Premier Brantley pointed out that this issue is a perennial one that exists because the surrounding land is privately owned and is considered some of the most expensive real estate on Nevis. With a market value of US $10 -15 per square foot, this has put purchasing of land in that area beyond the reach of government and residents alike.
The Premier assured that his administration continues to negotiate with the owner in order to access land to make it available for expansion of the village.
“We have not given up. We are in an advanced stage of negotiation with the landowner and we have discussed a possible land swap. Should we get that land we will section it up and sell it to the people of Barnes Ghaut. I hope that if we are successful in obtaining that land, the community will step forward and purchase it because we would have gone to considerable length to make this land accessible to the people at a subsidized cost,” he said.
Hon. Alexis Jeffers also pointed out that since taking office in 2013 he has approached the landowner several times as this matter remains a priority on the government’s agenda. One resident commended the NIA for assisting a church in the village to successfully negotiate the purchase of a small piece of land to construct a place of worship.
Other issues brought forth by residents included the lack of a sporting facility in the village and the use of the community centre.
As Minister of Sports and Community Development, Hon. Evelyn explained that the process to access the community centre was rather simple, requiring persons to submit a letter to the Community Development office seeking permission to use the facility. He noted that the centre continues to be used by study groups, exercise classes, for meetings, and private receptions. He said there had to be a process in place to record who has use of the centre to ensure it was not misused or vandalized so that it could continue to be available in good condition for the entire community.
With respect to the lack of any sporting facility, the government members pointed out that there were facilities available in the nearby villages of Jessups and Cotton Ground. It was also highlighted that due to the unavailability of land, the government is presently unable to construct any such facility in the village.
Premier Brantley addressed the question of job creation, explaining that the government continues to do all it can to regain the momentum lost due to the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said with efforts at diversifying the economy and providing concessions in various sectors including construction and agriculture, the government is creating an environment conducive to development and hence avenues for persons to gain employment.
Residents raised the issue of stagnant water in two areas, one of which the NIA has already mobilized to rectify and the second area was noted for redress.
Dr. Judy Nisbett provided an update on the COVID-19 situation including the latest statistics and continued vaccination campaign.
Ms. Jones thanked the residents of Barnes Ghaut for requesting the forum to air their views and concerns and also thanked the Ministers for making themselves available to meet with the villagers.
Premier Brantley thanked the residents for engaging in the dialogue which he said was extremely fruitful, and assured that the government remains accessible to all the people of Nevis and would make every effort to provide assistance where it could.