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Residents: We hope the money will be well spent
Once dubbed the industrial capital of T&T, the quiet community of La Brea has fallen into ruins in the last century. Its downward spiral, exacerbated by the recent Petrotrin oil spill, has occurred despite its international acclaim of having the Pitch Lake, the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world.
With high levels of unemployment and poverty, La Brea has experienced its own brain drain. Now that the community is set to receive some monetary compensation derived from a $20 million fine imposed on Petrotrin by the Environmental Management Authority, many residents are hopeful. President of the La Brea Fisherfolk Association Alvin La Borde said he wanted the money to be spent on developing sporting facilities, building a fishing jetty and community centre, as well as upgrading educational opportunities for youths.
“We have many young people in La Brea who are out of jobs. The whole of La Brea is very poor and education is the only way out of this. We need to focus on the whole community, from Rousillac to Vance River,” La Borde said. He called for construction of an Olympic sized pool and a proper fish market.
“We need a place for boats to be repaired as well. We want the Government to bring in coaches to work with our young people so they can excel in football, cricket and basketball,” La Borde said. He also said a tilapia farm could be built in the area to bring employment to the people. However, La Borde said he did not want the Government to donate money to community organisations for fear of embezzlement.
“My advice is to work with officials from the University of the West Indies who did a comprehensive study on La Brea and develop a proper framework so all the money can be accounted for,” La Borde added. Meanwhile, Melissa Joseph, of Coffee Bay, who was hospitalised after the oil spill, said she would like to see a proper library and computer facilities for the children of La Brea. Joseph said since their library burnt down in 2012, poor children had been journeying to Point Fortin to access computers.
“We cannot afford to buy computers, and our children have school projects and SBAs (School Based Assessments) to complete. It is really hard for us,” Joseph said. She recommended upgrades to the dilapidated Brighton Community Centre and a play park for children. “When I was a child, we had a play park at Brighton, but that fell apart and it was never repaired,” Joseph said. Arch deacon of the St Anns Spiritual Baptist Church Jason Jacobs also called for tourism development in La Brea.
“We have nice beaches, but people do not come here because there are no proper facilities. We want them to provide sheds and cooking facilities for the Carat Shed beach and Station beach. There is also a historical site at Coffee beach which can be developed,” Jacobs said. He called for all families to be properly compensated by Petrotrin.
Klavon Cadette, of Queen Street, called for proper street lighting and a health centre to be opened on a 24-hour basis. He said a park could be built between Victor and Freeling streets because children had no form of recreation. Cadette also said the roads in La Brea were deplorable even though La Brea produces asphalt to pave the entire country. He said while residents welcomed the $20 million investment into their community, they hoped that it could be well spent to improve their lives.
La Brea wants
• Sporting/educational facilities
• Proper roads and lighting
• Library/community centre
• Tourism upgrades