by Bria King
A pool of refuse and an apparent homeless man at the Questelles hardcourt are stirring up concerns about public health and safety for persons in the community.
At the hardcourt in the South Leeward community is an area heavily strewn with garbage, including plastic drinking containers, old shoes, snack wrappers and old clothes floating about in dirty water when it rains heavily.
June Findlay, owner of the Creative Minds Pre-school, which borders the facility, told SEARCHLIGHT that tons of mosquito larvae can also be seen swimming around in these waters.
And with the threat of dengue fever still looming over Vincentians, she is fearful of what may happen to the 21 young children that attend her school if the situation is not rectified.
“…Over by our school, we have a lot… of mosquitoes. So much so that we can’t even take babies because I’m so fearful of taking babies.
We normally would say babies, but I am not taking any babies for now because dengue is on the rise,” Findlay said.
The Questelles hardcourt is located adjacent to the pre-school and several yards away from the Questelles Government School.
Findlay said that the issue has been present for quite some time but she has yet to receive any kind of redress from the relevant authorities, including the Public Health Department.
Gesturing towards a man sleeping in the bleachers, the pre-school owner told SEARCHLIGHT that he was responsible for most of the litter seen in the pile; and that despite her own efforts to clean the area, the man, who is seemingly homeless, continues to throw his garbage there.
She also said that he sometimes releases his bodily waste in the water.
Findlay told SEARCHLIGHT that when she contacted the Public Health Department about the matter, she was told that “they can’t do anything about it other than treating the water and that they would report the matter to higher authority”.
“That’s all. On their hand, that’s all they can do. So they would send a report — I don’t know who they would send the report to but ever since, nothing has been happening here. And as I said, school is open for Questelles Government School, I run Creative Minds pre-school there, that’s my small business,” she said.
The pre-school teacher said that she has been taking all the necessary precautions to protect the pre-schoolers but she is saddened by the situation.
“I’m trying. As I would mention to the parents, I’m trying on my side to get the situation highlighted so that somebody, whether Public Health, whoever can come in and deal with the problem, but to no avail. All they’re saying is they would send somebody to look into the situation. I’m not seeing anybody coming…”
An individual close to the issue, but who wished not to be named, told SEARCHLIGHT that the man at the hardcourt is said to be mentally unstable.
“He does his washing, he does his dressing — it’s home,” she said, adding that he has been occupying the hardcourt for “quite a while”.
The individual noted however, that it did not pose much of an issue before because the children who go to school in the area were attending classes in the online format.
The National Sports Council (NSC) has responsibility for over 130 facilities in this county, including the Questelles hardcourt.
Lance John, the NSC’s facilities manager said that he is aware of the situation concerning a man frequenting the pavilion at the hardcourt and that reports have been made to the Questelles Police Station, both by the Council and principal of the Questelles Government School.
“There is some water that is settling next to the pavilion and I reached out to Public Health…” John said. “It’s a hardcourt that was being done by the Lottery and it’s not totally complete but when the rain comes, there’s nowhere [for the water to go] so the water settles there…”
John told SEARCHLIGHT that the NSC does not usually clean litter at facilities, as there are management committees in the various communities that are responsible for the maintenance of respective facilities.
He added, however, that plans are being put in place to clean up the area of concern as soon as possible to help in addressing the issue.
SEARCHLIGHT contacted Neri James, the Chief Environmental Health Officer at the Public Health Department yesterday with regard to the issue.
However, James told the reporter that he was unable to confirm whether our reporter Bria King was in fact employed with the media house.
“Few things — one; I cannot confirm who you are and two, I am not sure if we would have gotten that complaint so I will check…so feel free to call me back and I will say if we have gotten that complaint and what was done,” James said via telephone.
He further instructed King to call again at 2:p.m for a response, but when the reporter called, she was told that James was on lunch.
Another call was made to the Public Health Department at 2:4.0pm. The journalist was told that James had received her previous message but was “very busy” and had again “stepped out” and was unavailable to take or return the call.