“[…] Among Arimians, there is an angst over the absence of crucial services in Arima namely: District Revenue Office (in the past, an office existed for almost a century at Broadway, Arima), Immigration, Performing Arts Centre, Social Welfare, Ministry of Education sub-office, and HDC (given the massive housing programme one expected Arima and the surrounding areas to be furnished with at least a sub-office).
“[…] Any other country would ensure that a historic town like Arima—the only Royal Charted Borough in the Western Hemisphere, home of the First People with a Carib queen—is in better condition and would move mountains to ensure that modern infrastructure and buildings are in place to deliver services to its people…”
The following letter to the editor on the state of Arima was submitted by former Arima Mayor Ashton Ford:
On 30 September 1949, then Mayor of Arima Charles Gomes Netto laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Town Hall on Sorzano Street, Arima. According to the records of the Arima Borough Council, it was a historic occasion and Arimians witnessed the construction and completion of the Town Hall the following year.
What was also a significant feature of the building, as related by then town superintendent the late Henry Perreira, was the fact that the gravel used in the construction came from the Arima river. Since then, the building was used as the Mayor’s Office from 1951 to the present day; that is 71 years.
Several mayors of the only Royal Charted Borough in Trinidad and Tobago adjusted the building due to many factors—chief of which was the expansion of the town in 1980, which resulted in the Council renting private properties to accommodate the increasing staff.
In fact, on 9 August 1992, then Mayor Keith Denali commissioned the refurbished Town Hall which maintained the Mayor’s Office while the staff functioned on the upper floor of the First Citizens Bank at Hollis Avenue.
For the records when I assumed office in April 1980, the Borough was expanded from its original one square mile to four miles from the Bye Pass Road in the north to the Churchill Roosevelt Highway in the south, and the Council began to aggressively pursue the construction of a new Town Hall to accommodate Mayor’s Office, Council Chambers and administrative staff.
The years rolled by, and it was the dream of every mayor thereafter to work towards the construction of a new Town Hall.
Under Mayor Eustace Nancis, new designs were drawn up and the then minister of local government the late Rennie Dumas turned the sod for the construction of a new Town Hall.
To date, no one can explain what transpired after that sod turning ceremony. The administrative staff occupied the offices at First Citizens Bank until 2018 when then Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian presided over their relocation to a space behind a supermarket, while her successor Cagney Casimire oversaw the Municipal Police taking up residence at a vacant rumshop on Prince Street.
Just a note of comparison, Salvatori Building in Port of Spain was constructed after the Town Hall but because of age and other factors that building was demolished about three years ago.
The Arima Town Hall is standing and currently undergoing yet another phase of renovation with completion date unknown.
The sad reality is the inability of the Council to build an appropriate and modern Town Hall. It is not the only major problem Arima and surrounding districts have endured.
The grave situation in Arima has been described in a comprehensive document in 2018 entitled: ‘Towards 2020 and Beyond – Arima – the City of the East’, which was presented to the Arima Council, approved and submitted to the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government.
It stated: ‘Over the years, Arima and surrounding areas have seen massive expansion. Yet, the significantly increased population has not had the benefit of many of the services that one would normally expect within a large population centre.’
The report further indicated that: ‘This has created some dissatisfaction, as systems and infrastructure strain at the seams and frustration levels rise among the citizenry. The complaints are increasingly strident and frequent.’
These are the harsh facts:
- Administrative building for the Council (rented)
- Water and Sewage Authority (rented)
- Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (rented)
- Trinidad and Tobago Postal Corporation (rented)
- Registrar General Office (rented)
- Election and Boundaries Commission (rented)
- NALIS (Library) (rented)
- Court House (rented)
- Vat office (non-existent)
Among Arimians, there is an angst over the absence of crucial services in Arima namely: District Revenue Office (in the past, an office existed for almost a century at Broadway, Arima), Immigration, Performing Arts Centre, Social Welfare, Ministry of Education sub-office, and HDC (given the massive housing programme one expected Arima and the surrounding areas to be furnished with at least a sub-office).
On 2 October 1974, then Mayor of Arima Egbert Alleyne officially opened the extension of the existing Arima Market along with then Minister Sham Mohammed with a promise to construct a new facility before the end of the decade; that is 1979.
Today, the Market with 400 vendors is an eyesore with a two-year promise to cover the open area created in 1988 by then Mayor Edward Metivier—exactly 100 years after Arima was officially declared a Royal Chartered Borough by Queen Victoria.
After 133 years as a borough, Arima should never be treated so shabbily by any government, more so a People’s National Movement (PNM) government.
Arima deserves to be treated much better than what it is undergoing at present. Any other country would ensure that a historic town like Arima—the only Royal Charted Borough in the Western Hemisphere, home of the First People with a Carib queen—is in better condition and would move mountains to ensure that modern infrastructure and buildings are in place to deliver services to its people.
Instead, the town has been reduced to a glorified village. The whole sorry state of the sporting fraternity will be dealt with in another article.
In its conclusion the report stated:
‘A national strategic perspective on development places Arima at the centre of a major development thrust in the east.
‘Travel, communication, commercial enterprise, service accessibility, geographically spread national growth, economic savings, population satisfaction, people development, employment generation and organisational efficiency can all be achieved by closing the gap between what Arima is and what Arima can become.’