The new welcome centre on Jost Van Dyke will be outfitted with offices where residents will be able to pay their electricity and water bills. (Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

More than three years after Hurricane Irma destroyed the wooden welcome centre at the Dog Hole Jetty on Jost Van Dyke, a new structure has been built in its place.

At 2,538 square feet, the new building, which will be outfitted with Wi-Fi and space for vendors, will serve as the main arrival hall for guests to the sister island, and it will also include office space for various government agencies, BVI Ports Authority Chairman Kelvin Hodge said during a Dec. 21 ceremony.

Starting Jan. 15, officials from the BVIPA, the BVI Tourist Board, the BVI Electricity Corporation, and the Water and Sewerage Department will all report to work at the new building, allowing residents to pay their bills without leaving the island, said Junior Minister for Tourism Sharie de Castro.

Although residents of JVD and other sister islands often complain of receiving less attention than their counterparts on Tortola, Ms. de Castro pointed to the construction of this building as proof of the current administration’s commitment to the sister islands.

“Last year, when [the new government was elected], we set sail and entered into a new adventure, because we wanted to ensure that the dreams and aspirations of the people of Jost Van Dyke were fully realised,” Ms. de Castro said.

‘Teething pains’

District Two representative Mitch Turnbull, an opposition member who represents JVD, said bringing such a building to the island has been a long time coming.

“This … building is one that has been I think one of the teething pains that I’ve been speaking about even before the hurricanes of 2017,” Mr. Turnbull said.

Although Mr. Turnbull said he had wanted to improve upon the old wooden structure before the hurricanes struck, these plans were upended after the clouds passed.

For years, tents replaced the wooden structure that formerly welcomed visitors and residents, he said.

Mr. Turnbull recalled visiting the island about four days after Irma made landfall.

Seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces, and seeing how resilient they were amid total destruction, moved him to tears for the first time since the storm hit, he said.

“The people of Jost Van Dyke don’t just talk about love: … They depend on one another,” he said, adding that they deserve a port “that is fitting to welcome people to their shores.”

Besides investing in infrastructure, he said, government also must ensure that when development opportunities arise on the sister island, residents are given the chance and equipped with the skills to compete for the contracts.

“We have to make sure they are the ones getting the work,” he said.