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Mayor confident things are on the move in St George

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Rich in history but hard struck by the economy, St George is a town whose fate remains in the balance. In a wide-ranging interview, newly named St George Mayor Garth Rothwell tells

Owain Johnston-Barnes about the future of the town, and the challenges it must overcome to move forward.

Outside the St George Town Hall yesterday, staff continued their seemingly endless work maintaining and improving the historic town.

Inside the building, flanked by portraits of his predecessors, Mayor Garth Rothwell was doing the same.

Less than 24 hours after being sworn in, Mr Rothwell said: “It feels like a challenge, but I think it’s a challenge well worth having, and well worth trying to get stuck into.

“My family has been in St George’s a very long time, and it’s a great old place. It’s got a lot of history, and in some ways you could say the past is our future.

“You say that, and then you figure out how to go into the future.”

Over the last few years, Mr Rothwell said the town has suffered from a “triple whammy,” losing cruise ships and the golf club while the entire Island struggled through recession. Despite the difficulties, he said he was optimistic about the town’s future.

“I think that things are beginning to happen that gives us confidence that things will move,” Mr Rothwell said. “Over the past few years 20 or so businesses have shut down, but we have the Old Town Market, we have the new, young businesses coming in and it’s kind of refreshing.

“They come in with a fresh attitude and they want to do things, and we in the Corporation support and encourage them and are working with them. We need to do more of that.

“A couple of them have formed an events committee, and we have events in the Corporation, so my hope is that in the new year we go even further. We can get together better and coordinate things better than we have done.”

He said the immediate focus for himself and the Corporation is talking with Government about the ferry schedule for the coming year.

“Last year we did work with the Government and we asked for six of the large ferries per day, and by in large it happened. I think that was a big help to the businesses in St George’s, which means employment, which is good for the residents of St George’s,” he said.

“This year we need to get together with the businesses, look at the cruise ship schedule and say between us what would be the ideal ferry schedule for St George’s and give that to Transportation. Hopefully they will do it, but if we don’t tell them they won’t know what we want.

“The other focus is our operational budget. We need to talk with them fairly quickly. Our fiscal year ends in March and we are just a little short of funds. Our operational budget is our immediate priority.”

Mr Rothwell said that the results of the general election could help the municipality, noting that both the House and Senate now have members intimately aware of the challenges facing the town.

Former Mayor Kenneth Bascome now sits in the House of Assembly, while former Alderman Renee Anderson-Ming has been appointed to the Senate.

He said the next immediate priority for the town to improve the public restrooms, which he said were well maintained but dated, and then move forward with the proposed Ordnance Island marina.

“We have had a positive response all around,” he said. “It’s too late to hit it for this year, 2013, but if things go smoothly, we would aim for March of 2014. We want to catch the transit yacht season, the start of the season.

“Like all ventures, it’s not a sure thing, but all the indicators are positive.”

In the meanwhile, he said he hopes to build the east end as a beach attraction for visitors by highlighting the beaches in the area.

“We are hoping to get some sort of minibus working the area around Tobacco Bay and Fort St Catherine’s,” he said. “If that is successful, we could extend that to Southside. We are working on that, talking with private minibus operators.

“If we do that, St George’s would not only be a historical destination, which doesn’t appeal to everybody, but also a beach destination, with a nice ferry ride in between.

“There are a lot of little things that we are hoping will come together to create a revitalised St George’s, more successful businesses, but more importantly more employment for the community.”

Regarding security, Mr Rothwell said he would continue his predecessor’s campaign to establish a stronger fire service and police presence in the town.

“In these days with all the modern communications, do they have to all sit together in Southside when they just refurbished the police station in St George’s?” he asked.

“We will sit down with the authorities and hear their reasoning, but I don’t think they will be able to convince us that we don’t need a police station in St George’s.”

Ideas for the future: Mayor of St George Garth Rothwell.
Ideas for the future: Mayor of St George Garth Rothwell.
The past and present: The new Mayor of St George Garth Rothwell stands in the town hall in front of pictures of his mayoral predecessors.
Cruise ship problem remains unresolved

St George’s is in a difficult position in regard to cruise ships, according to Mayor Garth Rothwell.

The town’s economic struggles in recent years have often been blamed on declining cruise ship visits to the port, caused largely by the inability of larger ships to negotiate Town Cut.

A study on the option of widening the Cut was carried out, but Mr Rothwell said yesterday that the results of the study were not what was hoped.

“It called for the virtual removal of three Islands. Hens, Higgs and Horseshoe, which I would say is unacceptable in terms of what you have to give up to get a cruise ship into the harbour,” he said.

“That seems to leave going to find a smaller ship, which seems to be against the current market strategy for cruise ship companies, so we are in a lose/lose situation unless there is a niche market for bringing smaller cruise ships to the Island.

“The ideal for the town would be one 1,500-person cruise ship sitting at Penno's and no real alterations to the Town Cut. That would be the ideal, but unfortunately the cruise ship companies seem to believe that the market is heading towards bigger cruise ships.”

Mr Rothwell said the remaining option for bringing cruise ships to the town would be the construction of a new dock built to the north of St George near Murray’s Anchorage.

While the proposal has its supporters, Mr Rothwell said be believes numerous factors, such as the weather that affects the area during the summer months, must be considered before any such plan can be given the go-ahead.

“It would need a study. I wouldn’t rule it out, but we would need a study. That’s my belief,” he said.

“It’s something we haven’t really discussed in the Corporation, so even as Mayor, I can’t really speak to that on behalf of the Corporation.”

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Published January 09, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 08, 2013 at 10:32 pm)

Mayor confident things are on the move in St George

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