By Latrishka Thomas
Residents of the Grays Green community should be getting their community centre back in short order, as repairs to the St John’s Magistrates’ Court building on High Street are slated to begin in a “couple weeks”.
Minister of Works Lenox Weston told Observer that they are just waiting on the architectural drawings.
“We wanna start shortly so we can get out of that facility at Gray’s Farm …. maybe in another couple weeks we should start. We are just waiting on the architectural drawings to be adjusted and completed,” he disclosed.
Weston, however, shared that the plan to expand the facility to accommodate both courts – All Saints and St John’s – in one centralised location, has been scrapped.
“We are supposed to be repairing it. Initially there were some talks about replacing it with a much larger structure and so on, but we are not going to go through with that plan right now. We are just going to repair the existing structure and improve it, but there was some idea of demolishing it and acquiring land and making it a huge structure.”
The St. John’s Magistrates’ Court officially began sittings at the Grays Green Community Centre on April 29, 2019.
For several months, staff at the St John’s Magistrates’ Court had been working half days due to unsatisfactory conditions at the building on High and Temple streets.
In December 2018, the workers, through their union, wrote to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs about the situation and gave the authorities three months to relocate the workers.
That period ran out at the end of March 2019, which prompted the relocation to the “Knuckle Block” facility, which was originally intended to be a sports complex and community centre.
The idea was met with criticism from community members, including the United Progressive Party representative for the area, Richard Lewis
In a 2020 press release, Lewis said, “It is time to give the community centre at Knuckle Block to the residents of Rural West. It has been almost two years and we still have no access. We need our community centre! The centre is pivotal and critical to the development of the youth in the community.”
The former prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, also made a call for the St John’s Magistrates’ Court to be moved from the Grays Green Community Centre, so that the facility could be utilised for its intended purpose.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Works also disclosed additional plans in the pipeline, including for a renal unit which is set to be built at the Holberton Hospital.
“We are going to convert the old Edwards Ward for the renal unit. We are gonna get some funding for the equipment from IDB coming through CDB and we hope to start that also in another four weeks,” Weston revealed.
He said that the drawings are being finalised and they are awaiting a mechanical engineering report.
In addition, “we are going to complete the Nugent Avenue facility by building the surgical unit next to the hospital,” Weston said.
He was referring to the retrofitted National Technical Training Centre building on Nugent Avenue.
The building was refitted to create a 75-bed medical facility some time ago.