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By Cécile Lucot
Cécile Lucot has lived in St. Barths for ten years. Originally from Bordeaux, this professional journalist was the editor-in-chief of St. Barth Magazine for six years. She then participated in the daily local mini-newspaper "Today" and writes regularly for regional magazines. Once or twice a month, she presents a recap of local news on St. Barths Online.
February 10' 2010 - #113

Synthetic Turf In St Jean Stadium

For many years, soccer players and rugby-men have complained about the condition of the playing field in the only sports stadium on the island. This situation has finally been remedied with the placement of 6000 sq meters of synthetic turf, a major improvement financed by Russian businessman Roman Abramovitch, who owns the English soccer club, Chelsea FC, and recently purchased the large property along Gouverneur beach.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, the old soccer field was located where the airport terminal sits today. It was covered with natural grass... and “mowed” by sheep! The work on the “lawn” in the newer stadium in St Jean should be finished by the end of February, and the island’s “ballplayers” are already happy at the thought of playing and training for local teams and kids in a facility that is finally finished, rather than playing on the old dirt surface.

The generous donation to finance the new turf also comprises a synthetic athletic track that runs around the playing field. The turf was rolled out in late January, then filled with small pellets of rubber and sand for a final surface of one-third of an inch, a patented technique that assures the comfort of the players, as if they were on a natural grass field.

Renovation of Former Town Hall

This charming old building with an upper wooden story painted green and white had housed local governmental offices since the island was returned to France by Sweden via a treaty signed on August 10, 1877, until the new town hall was built on the far side of the harbor near the Wall House. In the old building, the offices opened directly into a general meeting room in the center of the upper floor. The lower level housed different services, from the local police (now located on Rue Oscar II) to the library and tourist office over the years. Access to the upper story was via a large, exterior stone staircase. To use the restrooms, municipal employees crossed a lovely garden with its flowers well hidden in the center of town.

According to the Historic Monuments archives, the building was a private home built in the 1870s for a Mr. Allogreen, who later granted it to the Swedish Crown, which in turn used it to house a series of Swedish governors from 1875-1877, before it became a French town hall as of 1878. Other than the lower story of lava stone, which are still in good condition, the building saw its wooden sections attacked by termites, making it unusable. Aware that the building was becoming dangerous and no longer large enough to house all of the municipal services, the elected officials voted in 1999 to build the new town hall on The Point—this building is now the center for the territorial government.

Demolition of the upper story of the old building began in early January, and the reconstruction is meant to conserve the original style of the building, which has been on the inventory of Historic Monuments since 1995.

New Hospital Wing Inaugurated

In early February, Pierre Nuty, director of the De Bruyn Hospital, welcomed president of the Collectivity, and second vice-president in charge of health and welfare, Nicole Gréaux, as well as the president of the hospital board, a representative of the Prefect for the Northern Islands, the construction companies, and those who had participated in the building of the new wing, plus local residents. They were all there for the inauguration of the building. In his speech, Pierre Nuty recalled that the “hospital of Gustavia” was founded by priest Irénée de Bruyn and started operation as of October 15, 1933 under the aegis of the Sisters of St Paul of Chartres. It wasn’t until 1985 that the hospital in Gustavia was named Irénée de Bruyn Hospital, at which time it had 20 beds (three for maternity, 10 for illness, and seven for hospice), a capacity it maintained until 1988. At that time, its evolution into a local hospital meant the suppression of the maternity beds, and the hospice beds into convalescence. Since then, the addition of emergency services and the demands put upon the hospital in terms of safety and quality of care made the board realize that the existing building should be renovated and a new, main building should be constructed. Begun in late 2007, the work on the new building was completed late last year and it has been operational since December 2009. A total surface of 1,000 square meters on two levels, the new wing comprises 12 rooms, six of which on the upper level are private, with direct access to the emergency room. The lower level houses a pharmacy, technical services, and archives. The director of the hospital explained that phase two of the work should begin next month and consists of renovating the original building with two consulting rooms for doctors, a laundry, a multi-purpose room for physical therapy and pre-natal preparation, a chapel, a meeting room, locker rooms for the staff, administrative offices, and space allotted for radiology and a new scanner. The total cost of the project is 3,460,000 euros, financed by the FEDER (European Funds for Regional Development, 1,211,000 euros), the Collectivity (917,000 euros), and the hospital.

More to come

  Cécile Lucot

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