Colonia, Yap—The Tenth Legislature of the State of Yap issued a resolution on Dec. 7, 2020 directing “the appropriate line agencies and department to secure the renovation or construction of the Yap State Community Center.”
However, the name of the building is the Colonia Community Center, and they’re a little late to the party. The demolition began one week earlier.
The Colonia Peninsula Master Plan that was created during the administration of former governor, Petrus Tun between 1987 and 1995, calls for an industrial site. The idea was to move the legislature, administration and other government offices, as well as the community center, to different locations nearby. To this day, that plan remains on the shelf collecting dust.
Reel forward 30 years to the two administrations that served between 2007 to 2019, quarterly reports filed with the legislature by the Office of Youth Services repeatedly requested that money be allocated to renovate or replace the aging structure. As the years went by and the building’s condition worsened, demolition replaced renovation as the only advisable course of action.
Not needing to wait for the legislature to issue a resolution, Gov. Henry Falan instructed the director of the Department of Youth & Civic Affairs, the state agency that has oversight of the condemned, hazardous property, to take matters in hand and proceed with the demolition. It could no longer be put off.
The state’s Office of Planning and Budget was named the lead project agency and Wa’ab Construction was awarded the contract that also includes the demolition of the old supply building, another condemned property in the middle of the island’s only town. Both projects were set in motion during the first week of December 2020.
The legislative resolution attributes the property’s “neglect and deterioration” to “lack of funding.”
When Yap was designated as the venue for the 2018 Micronesian Games, the organizing committee identified the community center as a site for some of the sporting events, plans and budgets were requested and submitted to the legislators. It was subsequently reported during meetings of the committee that the Chinese embassy expressed interest in providing the funding, but they decided instead to donate an open-air gymnasium at the Matson Yap Sports Complex on the north side of the island where the majority of events were to be held.
The sagging metal structure continued to rust and throw off chunks of debris. Built sometime in the 1970s, not the 1980s as the legislature’s resolution states, it was condemned during the prior administration in 2018. Signs were put up on the rusting steel posts and yellow tape was strung around the outside pillars warning people to not enter the corroding edifice.
Located adjacent to the Yap State Youth Services and Gender Support offices and the public library, the island’s youth ignored the signs and continued to congregate under the metal roof as the steel beams and pillars deteriorated in the island’s heat and humidity.
Over the decades, the open-air building served many purposes from after-school and weekend sporting events and basketball and volleyball tournaments to traditional dances, graduations, and other celebrations. Residents fondly remember first dates, a slippery basketball game played in the eye of a typhoon, Friday gatherings after school, and other passages of youth.
The recent resolution directs the governor to renovate or reconstruct the structure to “provide a venue for further activities,” such as school graduations and education programs and events, public forums or summits, for use as “an auxiliary to the state hospital for emergency and mass casualty events, including medical triage” or to “showcase international cultural programs and such events on customs and traditions of foreign or non-Yapese communities.”
Those uses are under consideration, but since the first pleas were submitted more than a dozen years ago to take action before the building collapsed on its own or falling debris hurt someone, other enterprises, both public and private, have come forward with preliminary ideas for use of the land which is in a prime location. None have been solidified but discussions are ongoing about the best use of the site.
The resolution of support issued by the legislature is welcomed despite its arrival after the fact, but the question remains as to why the 10-member body was only willing to approve and submit it to Governor Falan after demolition had begun and not before.
Located on government-owned property directly across the road from the legislature’s offices, the Colonia Community Center was termed an “eyesore and public nuisance, including potential liability to the State of Yap” in the formal document. They pass it every day coming and going to work. But perhaps no one had read the quarterly reports during the last three decades.