EDITORIAL – Officials should ‘play ball’ with North Side parents

Never has there been so much grassroots support for Astroturf, as North Side neighbors rally to push forward long-awaited playing field improvements for the students of Edna M. Moyle Primary School.

We support the community’s spirit and empathize with their impatience. There is no question that the students and community will benefit from the new football field and track, yet – thanks to government inaction – this relatively simple project has lain dormant for years.

Generally, we strongly favor private initiatives and, more broadly, “initiative.” File it under the general heading of “self-reliance.”

That said, it is not ideal for private parties (the PTA, interested parents and other well-meaning volunteers) to construct the much-needed field all on their own. After all, it is a public facility; therefore, it deserves public support.

The fault lies not with the ambitious and civic-minded North Siders, but with the Ministry of Education, which has been, at best, a non-participant in the project.

Let’s review: A generous North Sider bought and donated a swath of artificial turf for the field. North Side MLA Ezzard Miller called a press conference last month to discuss what he terms “the ongoing battle” with government to construct the field. In the meantime, all sorts of people have stepped forward to help.

We’re not sure if “it takes a village” to improve a playing field. But this project has a village behind it.

Mr. Miller said he received advice about how to prepare the rocky, flood-prone ground from Donovan Ebanks, who grew up in North Side and later served as the Public Works Department’s chief engineer.

Mr. Ebanks said he is happy to assist and hopes to see the project completed soon, adding, “I think it will be a definite enhancement to the school.”

PTA president Carol Saunds said she hopes truck owners, heavy equipment operators and even parents with rakes and shovels will step up to transport and spread the fill.

Mr. Miller said he has been talking with Island Paving and Paramount Carpet about laying the hot-mix asphalt and artificial turf – which was purchased by a donor earlier this year (for $17,000) and shipped from Miami by the PTA (for about $5,000).

The PTA plans to raise funds for any costs over and above the donations they are able to secure.

We suggest shaking their tin directly in front of Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, acting Chief Officer Cetonya Cacho and others who have failed to recognize adequately the community’s efforts. We, and we are sure Mr. Miller, are pleased to report that the government, at least, agreed to waive import duty and port storage fees on the artificial turf.

The last public word heard from the Ministry of Education was last month’s demurral that the field has not been budgeted for in the current funding cycle, along with bureaucratic statements of concern about the artificial turf, potentially causing “aesthetic” issues as the material fades in the sun. (Compared with “no turf,” faded turf is a fashion faux pas we are confident young footballers would be content to overlook.)

With volunteers already stepping forward to do most of the heavy lifting, both literally and financially, we are confident education officials – or failing that, Cabinet – could readily find enough spare change in the budget, approaching $800 million for central government alone, for the relatively modest project.

The truth is, public purse holders are able to find funds to cover unanticipated expenses all the time. That is part and parcel of the budgeting process. If bureaucrats can locate the cash to fund OfReg’s international travel and consultant overruns, to hold a summer version of the island-wide “Christmas cleanup” project, and to purchase pieces of beachfront property in George Town, they (meaning “we”) can surely spare a few dollars for youngsters in North Side.

We are concerned that the resistance may not be primarily practical in nature, but political.