Village council members are being reminded that community centres are for all residents to enjoy as some administrators have used centres for their own personal gain.
Speaking at the opening of the Tacarigua Community Centre, Bally Trace, on Wednesday afternoon Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe said community centres were a valuable resource in uniting residents for positive programmes.
Cudjoe said while the facilities were intended for use by all residents, she has heard complaints that some village councils in other parts of the country chose to use the centres for their own purpose while isolating others.
Referring to incidents where in-fighting among village council members leads to the setting up of parallel village councils, she said her ministry was often brought in to act as a mediator and called on administrators to act more responsibly.
In other incidents, she noted, council members have acted carelessly in managing facilities.
"We have a situation in one community centre where the person who is holding the keys has turned the community centre into a homeless facility, so no one else in the community can access the centre.
"You have people who have the keys...who keep the keys at home and who are not allowing others to use the community centre.
"You have folks...who are utilising the community centre, leaving the lights on at night, running up the (electricity bills), renting out the community centre (for events) but not using the money to pay the bills – but that's what the money is for.
"You have a village council: you are to generate economic activities to get money to pay your bills.
"Half the time the ministry doesn't see those funds, and secondly, you don't pay your bills and then you want to take the ministry to court.
"It's a challenge, and some village councils and some communities are doing a better job than others, but I hope some of the problems that we experience elsewhere, we do not experience here."
Cudjoe said while the government would continue to make efforts to develop and empower communities with upgraded facilities, it was their responsibility to ensure the centres were not being misused.
Public Utilities Minister and MP for Lopinot/ Bon Air Marvin Gonzales recalled being barred from a community centre in his constituency and called on administrators to wield their power responsibly.
"In Trinidad and Tobago there are many people who aspire to serve because they are more interested in holding high office, because they are trapped by the callings of office to put on a suit and wear nice clothes, to come before a microphone and read long speeches, because the media cameras are there and their names will be called in the newspapers tomorrow.
"But too many times in TT we often forget what public service is all about.
"It is what you do for the people that you serve, it's simple as that."
Construction of the community centre began before the covid19 pandemic in 2020, and cost $18,193,229 to complete.
It is expected to serve residents of Tunapuna but is in the constituency of Lopinot/ Bon Air.