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Town figure sees reason for optimism in St George

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Walkabout: Secretary of St George, Courtney Trott, walks with reporter Owain Johnston-Barnes around the heart of St George

New businesses and a busier summer season could be positive signs that St George's is on the road to recovery, according to Courtney Trott.Mr Trott, secretary to the Corporation of St George, said that while the town still faces its share of challenges he is bullish on its future.“I’m optimistic about the town. It seems like there are new businesses opening up. We’ve had a few pop up over the summer. That gives me cautious optimism,” Mr Trott said.“As far as the cruise ships are concerned, we do get about 1,500 to 2,000 [visitors] a week who come up here on the buses and the ferries, which I’m sure must be good for the stores. I know some of the stores are doing a little better this summer than last.”In recent years the historic town has struggled economically, in large part due to a rapidly falling number of cruise ships visiting the port.While cruise ships serving Bermuda have grown in size, the narrowness of Town Cut has limited the number of vessels that can service the port. A report looking into the possibility of widening Town Cut found that such a project would entail the near destruction of three Islands and carry a price tag of $78 million.Regarding the proposal, Mr Trott said: “I think it’s in Government’s hands now. I know there are other ideas out there.“My personal belief is that we need to look at all possible ideas before we move forward and determine what’s best for St George’s and Bermuda.“I know that we are in St George’s, but we must consider the Island as a whole. If Bermuda flourishes, so will St George’s.”For the time being he said the Corporation is focusing on a proposed marina project to be built to the east of Ordnance Island.Mr Trott said a group has been selected to move forward with the proposal and talks are ongoing.“Hopefully we will be able to talk more about the project soon,” he said.Regarding the Park Hyatt resort project, he said that he understands that projects of such size encounter delays, but expressed optimism that in the end the project would come together.In the meanwhile, he said the Corporation is working to provide opportunities for east end businesses, noting a recent initiative promoting evening shopping in the town.“We tried to bring evening shopping and encouraged stores to stay open later,” he said. “The generous people at Marine and Ports helped us by putting on later ferries.“That seems to have been a success. Some of the stores, the restaurants more than anything, saw an uptick in business.”Since the municipal election, he said the Corporation’s various committees have been working wholeheartedly to tackle other issues arising in the town, such as concerns about summer traffic.He said that the Corporation has been working to establish a single drop-off area for minibuses to prevent congestion near the town square, improving signage and regulating the hours delivery trucks can service the stores.Mr Trott also noted other challenges facing the town, ranging from dog owners failing to pick up their pet’s waste to people leaving residential waste in the town to be collected.“Our foreman knows it’s household trash and we really shouldn’t collect it, but at the same time we can’t just leave it there because it’s an eyesore for our visitors,” he said. “It means more work for our staff to do.”And increased costs to dump items at the Airport Dump and Pembroke Dump have resulted in more people dumping items such as mattresses and dressers in the municipality.He also said that the Corporation reached out to the owners of empty properties in the town, such as the Somers Playhouse, about the possibility of renovating or repainting the buildings to make the town more attractive.“Unfortunately we have not been successful in that endeavour,” Mr Trott said. “The owners cited the economic conditions. One property owner said they were in the process of going through planning to do something, but the others said they wouldn’t be able to.”

Optimistic: Secretery of St George Courtney Trott gives an update on the east end town.