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Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Fish Market Denizens Fix Up Public Facilities

The Fish Market restroom before and after repairs.Ever heard anyone complain that few people take responsibility and do something to make things better on St. Croix? Some of the men down at the Frederiksted Fish Market have done just that, replacing and fixing up some of the plumbing in the public restrooms just in time for the annual boat races this coming Sunday.

On a recent walking tour of the area with community activist George Flores, looking at the town’s infrastructure needs, many of the folks at the fish market said the restroom was the single most pressing need. A week ago, the toilets were not working on either the men’s or women’s side, a sink was hanging off the wall, leaves and debris were all over the floor. They were, frankly, smelly and scary.

"There will be hundreds of people here for the boat races next week and look at it," said one man who did not want to be named. "I understand how it is for the government when they rebuild it and two weeks later it is trashed, so they say forget it. It can’t be just the government. It has to be the community too."

One man, "Fling" Nazario, who spends some time of an evening liming and enjoying the breeze at the park benches by the waterfront, said it would be great to see it fixed up, both for the use of the many retirees who spend time there and for tourists.

"People strolling around from the cruise ships, this is something they see as they pass by," Nazario said. "I think I’ve got a pedestal sink and a commode at home — it’d be great to put them in here. But I’m scared they are going to just break it again."

The Department of Housing Parks and Recreation owns the facilities, but Public Works informally takes care of any repairs and urgent needs. A call to Public Works two days later to inquire about their state of repair revealed the department had already been notified of the problem and was preparing to get them ready in advance of the boat races. But when officials got there, they found them clean, and up and running –on one side anyway.

Right after the first walk-through with Flores earlier in the week, Nazario decided to set his pessimism aside and wade right in. He swept the restrooms out, went home to get the commode and materials he had, and set to work. He spoke to a friend at Delgado’s Plumbing, who donated the skilled labor and all the necessary parts upon hearing what it was for.

They replaced the sink — which was not vandalized, but which collapsed due to rusty connections — with a sturdy new pedestal sink. The pedestal makes it much stronger and makes it more difficult for vandals to disconnect the water to attach a hose, Nazario said. To take away any incentive to try, they installed a bucket faucet.

Replacing all the fittings, they fixed leaks in both toilets and the sink that may have wasted untold amounts of water. The gasket flange underneath the toilet was cracked and leaking, so they removed and replaced that too, before putting on the new commode. Now the men’s side is good to go. It could use some tile work and a paint job, to be sure, but it is clean, crisp, functional and leak-free. The ladies’ side still needs some work on the toilet and is locked up for now.

To help keep things in order, Nazario put padlocks on both sides and now a dozen or so of the older, reliable regulars, retirees and the like, all have keys, so they can lock them at sunset and reopen them when the early birds come out to read the paper and play checkers.

Will it stay in good shape?

"I like to be hopeful about my community," Nazario said.

Meanwhile, the residents say they would really like to have the V.I. government — whether Parks and Recreation, Public Works or the Department of Planning and Natural Resources — repair the boat ramp and fix up the fish market shelter itself.

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