Tourism Minister Stuart Johnson has pledged to “correct the callous and poor maintenance of public lavatories at the Kim Shaw Beach in Simpson Bay” where most of the beach-loving cruise passengers who visit our shores have congregated since hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated St. Maarten in 2017.
In a Press Release issued Thursday, Johnson said he was “shocked at the condition of the toilets.” He said, “We cannot sell St. Maarten like this. This is not the image we want to showcase to the rest of the world.” The proprietors of the bars that line the parking lot at Kim Shaw Beach reached out to Minister Johnson’s cabinet and lodged their complaints stating that the condition of the toilets was a significant hindrance to their ability to provide a high quality of service to residents and the hundreds of tourists that are routinely bussed to the beach.
Johnson said, “The situation at the Simpson Bay Market needs to be structurally addressed in the near future as this was never done since the parking lot was built.” According to the release this is one of the many issues that the minister has been confronted with since taking office less than three weeks ago.
Since being informed of the situation, Johnson has asked the head of his inspection department Lucien Wilson for a follow-up and has also pledged to work with his colleagues in the Council of Ministers to find a workable solution for the “gross neglect of the public toilets.”
Brenda Arrundell who operates a Bar at Kim Shaw Beach with her husband Dino said she was very impressed with the quick response of Minister Johnson and his Ministry. She said she lodged many complaints in the past but received no response. According to Arrundell, they have had to resort to renting a portable toilet as an alternative for visitors, because of the terrible condition of the public bathrooms at Kim Shaw Beach.
According to the release, the operators of the Bars that line the parking lot at Kim Shaw Beach, it was disheartening to see the condition of the bathrooms, which on many occasions are out of service. In December 2017 the toilets were installed at the Kim Shaw Beach parking lot in Simpson Bay, and according to the bar operators, there was some maintenance until mid-February this year when it suddenly stopped. Since then the bar operators have reportedly had to pay out of pocket for pumping the septic tank, repairs to the toilets, bathroom supplies, and at least one attendant routinely cleans the facility. This particular operator of Breeze’s Bar said he has tried to keep the bathrooms clean despite the lack of assistance from the government but said there was only so much he could do. He said a significant challenge in cleaning was that when the toilets are put out of order and covered pending maintenance, persons defecate on them and many do not bother to discard sanitary napkins properly.
Minister Johnson said, “This is not just about our image as a tourist destination, but the poor condition of the bathrooms is a major health concern as well. We simply have to do better at taking care of our people, tourism product, and our facilities.”
Johnson said he was also concerned about the manner in which the septic tank was installed. He said it appeared to be unsafe and because it is not routinely serviced the area has a stench. He said, “What concerns me is that in speaking with our local ambassadors the Taxi and tour operators at the beach, they said that this has been ongoing for a very long time without anyone looking into it. They are concerned that this structure was put there with no plans for its upkeep and we simply must do better if we are serious about restoring our tourism product and economic vitalization.”