01 February 2020

Community centre on ancient burial ground?

Originally published in the Daily Express,
by Kimoy Leon Sing,
June 14, 2019

Community centre: The newly opened San Fernando North Community Centre.

Flickering lights and power failure marked the official opening of the San Fernando North Community Centre on Wednesday.

Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and mayor of San Fernando Junia Regrello were at the site to open the multi-storey facility, which has had several unexplained occurrences since 2009.

It was reported during the initial phase of construction that these incidences were believed to be the work of spirits.

Some of these unexplained occurrences included falling tools and various accidents, after members of Amerindian tribes visited the site in 2009, claiming it as a First Peoples burial ground.

However, these claims were never confirmed.

According to Gadsby-Dolly, the centre sits on one acre of land along St Vincent Street, San Fernando and has taken 11 years to build to the tune of $16.8 million.

The multi-million dollar facility is a four-storey structure which consists of an auditorium with a capacity to hold 275 people along with changing rooms and washrooms, all located on the top two floors of the facility.

On the ground floor, the centre is comprised of an audio-visual room, computer room, a gymnasium, administrative office, kitchen, and multipurpose room.

There is parking in the basement and outside the building. There is also an elevator and ramps for the differently abled.

Speaking to media following the unveiling of the commemorative plaque and ribbon cutting ceremony, Gadsby-Dolly chuckled when asked about the supernatural occurrences at the centre.

She said, the country is steeped in folklore, but the flickering lights and power failure at the start of the opening ceremony was not any foreboding of evil and doom, but there was a reasonable explanation.

“We are a country rich in folklore and heritage and that’s good too. Burial sites are revered by T&T’s first people and were happy to have done the right kind of ceremony, which had the blessings of the Amerindian descendants,” she said.

“We feel that we are honoured to be on this site. We feel that it is a good addition to the foundation and it means that the whole centre is steeped in the good values of our ancestors and we look forward to that continuing,” Gadsby-Dolly said.

She noted with the change of government in 2010, work at the center halted, but with PNM returning to office in 2015, work at the center resumed in 2017.

At the opening ceremony, residents of Spring Vale, San Fernando, and environs said the center was a great addition to the community.

Regrello said the centre will now be used for various events and outreach programmes spanning education campaigns, health activities, and many cultural items.

It will also act as a safe haven and be a central pillar in the community, he said.

“These activities are simply some of the everyday initiatives that community centres such as this can host. However, one of the most critical factors that we all must pay heed is ensuring that all those who utilise this facility take responsibility for it. Treat it as your own. The long-term sustainability of this building, as well as many of the other upcoming projects in San Fernando, hinge on our citizens accepting responsibility for the general upkeep of these buildings,” he said.

Project manager of UDeCOTT, Terrence Beepath attributed the flickering lights and loss of power during the opening ceremony as power failure.

He said, “UDeCOTT is going to be here one year after, on this project to improve all aspects.”

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