Published On: Sun, Dec 6th, 2020

Monument Fund is almost there

PHILIPSBURG – The creation of a Monument Fund is almost completed, Minister Drs. Rodolphe Samuel (Education, Culture, Youth and Sport) told Parliament members last Thursday during a meeting about the state of the monuments in St. Maarten.

According to Minister Samuel, the fund will become an independent organization that will be able to acquire funds from international and kingdom sources. Those funds will be used to help monument-owners with the restoration of their property.

The minister said that maintaining monuments is the government’s responsibility if owners are unable to do this. Answering questions from members of parliament, Samuel pointed out that the majority of monuments in Curacao are publicly owned, while the majority in St. Maarten is privately owned.

Currently the country has 51 designated monuments. Among them are three schools (St. Borgia, St. Joseph and the Oranje school), the Foga salt factory on Arch Road, the Pasanggrahan Royal Guest House, and the L’Escargot restaurant, both on Front Street. Three other historic monuments are Fort Amsterdam, the old Spanish Fort in Pointe Blanche and Fort Willem.

According to MP Christophe Emmanuel Pasanggrahan is on the market for $7 million.

The government is currently drafting an archeology-policy and an underwater heritage policy. Minister Samuel said that he is in constant contact with the NRPB – the National Recovery Program Bureau – but that discussions so far have been focused on education-projects and not on monuments.

The minister explained that, based on the monument ordinance, restoring monuments cannot be done without a permit.

The Monument Council and the Cadastre are currently in the process of re-measuring all monuments to determine how much land is a part of them. “The land on which a monument stands also becomes a monument,” Minister Samuel said. The re-measurements could free up some land for other purposes.

The Monument Council currently has five members, while there are four vacancies. The council does not have an architectural or an archeological expert on its board.

Minister Samuel mentioned a few monuments that have been damaged during Hurricane Irma: the St. Petrus Gonzales Chapel on Simpson Bay Road, the Tommy Hilfiger store on Front Street and a property at Front Street 134. The chapel was completely destroyed and the Tommy Hilfiger store, established in the convent building, took a hit to its roof and the first floor which have in the meantime been repaired. Samuel said he will provide parliament with a complete list of damaged monuments.

Emmanuel asked the minister whether he considered the deal with the World Bank – the manager of the €550 million reconstruction fund – as a farce. While Samuel did not use that last word, he did say that he was not happy with the progress so far, in particular with the school repair program. “Repairs to the Marie Laurence School are slated for completion in 2023,” he said. “I am not happy, but I have also seen the results of some home repairs. And that was well done.”

Lastly, the minister confirmed that he will fight for efforts to buy back Fort Amsterdam. “It belongs to the people’s patrimony,” he said.

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