The $6 million Babonneau Fire Station has been commissioned — two years after it was completed and three years and six months after a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the start of construction.
The commissioning took place last Sunday with the area’s parliamentary representative, Ezechiel Joseph, coming in for high praise for his part in presenting the facility to the constituency.
Criticized by many for becoming something of a white elephant after completion in 2016, the facility is being referred to – jokingly by some fire-fighters – as their headquarters.
But, jokes aside, the facility does have the appearance of a headquarters for fire-fighters.
Armed with a fire chief and a deputy fire chief — positions the country’s fire department had vacant for quite some time — the department now seems poised for a new beginning, with renewed strength and vigour.
Adding to this were hopeful words of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of an ambition held by government to compensate fire fighters and police officers to the extent that they ought to be.
Highlighting the risks they face each day on the job, the prime minister spoke of how government wants to raise the salaries of both police officers and fire-fighters and create a pension plan for them.
However, these are just hopeful words that the prime minister would not mind seeing come into effect.
“We appreciate what you are doing, despite the state not being able to provide you with the resources you need,” Chastanet said to the men and women of both the fire department and the police force.
He took the opportunity to give Saint Lucians a sneak peek into government’s development plan for the country, describing it as a new frontier.
“We are working on opening up the highway from the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground to Dennery, which will facilitate the opening of lands that were not available to Saint Lucians previously,” he said.
Chastanet even spoke of government ‘talking’ of building a major artery road from Babonneau to Choc.
He applauded Joseph for his role in bringing the fire station to Babonneau, noting that was it not for Joseph he would not be standing where he was on Sunday, at the podium delivering a brief address Sunday at the commissioning.
Joseph spoke of difficulties associated with getting financing for the fire station and the Babonneau Police Station.
He pointed to the need for a fire station at Babonneau, but more importantly the need to have an ambulance service close to Babonneau, which is the case now the fire station is located in the heart of the community.
The fire station, Ezechiel said, is part of a holistic plan for the community and its environs that involve the upgrading of health centers in the constituency and other infrastructures.
Home Affairs Minister Hermangild Francis also spoke highly of the facility stating that although some persons may have called it a sitting duck on account of it not being in use for some time, it could now be viewed as a lovely peacock.
He reasoned that the time the facility was sitting unused it was due to a lack of money for its utilization. However, with the help of Joseph, they were able to convince the Minister for Finance (Prime Minister Chastanet) to allocate the necessary amount.
Explaining the delay in commissioning the facility, National Security Minister Hermangild Francis said that “Government would not do a rush-job” in facilitating the opening of the facility simply because of what people were saying.
“The fire station is an element of national security and there are international standards to be met and guidelines to be followed,” he said.
He called on the people of the Babonneau to support the men and women employed at the new facility and for them to play their part, now that they have a fire station and police station right in their midst.