The Island Government hosted town hall meetings in The Bottom and Windwardside to discuss proposed changes to the General Local Ordinance with the purpose of “regulating and safeguarding the public order, repose, safety, and health.”
The current ordinance has been in place since 1985 and Government felt it was time to reassess it to properly serve the community. Topics discussed during the meetings of March 9 and 10 were public order, environment and enforcement.
Many in the audience deemed the proposed changes vague and poorly worded as a result of Dutch translations, something Government promised to address and clarify with the concerned parties via group- and or one-on-one meetings.
The hot-button of the meeting was littering where many were concerned about the blatant illegal dumping of garbage happening all over the island. Particularly food containers and bottles are carelessly discarded, it was stated. Litter is someone else’s problem is the general perception
As well as cracking down on the issue, Government suggested educational programmes in the schools to start Saba’s children off with the right mind-set.
Other concerns were based around the amount of litter, particularly bottles and food containers, left late at night by patrons of the island’s bars, restaurants and clubs. This led to a heated discussion with many attendants very frustrated at the amount of garbage in the streets every morning.
One suggestion was to disallow drinks served in glass bottles. Plastic cups, however, are far more dangerous to the environment than glass, as these do not break down and are easily blown around and can end up in the ocean making them more difficult to clean up.
The root of the problem is to stop the mind-set that littering is okay, and encourage people to take pride in the beauty of Saba as well as make people responsible for their own littering with education and enforcement, it was said.
Parking frustrations were also addressed. People said they were encouraged by the new parking lot in Windwardside but felt this did not go far enough to address a growing problem.
Double and illegal parking, blocked roads, as well as general parking concerns in The Bottom, particularly around A.M. Edwards Medical Center, were also hotly debated.
Government advised they were aware of the issues and considering options for a central parking solution in The Bottom and that the other issues would be addressed by enforcement.
Calling for an emergency and getting an off-island operator on the line who is not familiar with Saba was also a point of frustration, but was not discussed by Government representatives at the meeting.
Zika and mosquito-borne infections in general were also a concern, with many citizens upset with their neighbours not doing enough to curb standing-water issues on their properties. There was a call to give more authority to the spray teams, including the power to hand out fines.
The biggest issue of the evening was noise, primarily loud music. Cars, bars, restaurants and clubs all came under attack for playing excessively loud music, but there was also concern that overregulating music volume would have a negative effect on the hospitality and entertainment industry.
The debate became so heated that Government shut down the conversation after taking extended notes and promising to carefully consider the points brought up, including possibly setting a safe noise level using professional sound metres or similar equipment.
The meeting was generally positive with all involved looking out for the public good and betterment of Saba. There will be another town hall meeting after Government has had an opportunity to explore all the points that were brought up during last week’s meetings and if necessary, revise the proposed General Local Ordinance.
The current draft Local Ordinance can be found on the Government website or here.
The Daily Herald.