|Councillors quarrel over market closure
Saturday, October 11, 2003
|Mayor of Spanish Town, Raymoth Notice (right) talks with vendors in the Spanish Town Market on Monday -- two days before the closure of the facility. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)|
TEMPERS flared at Thursday's monthly meeting of the St Catherine Parish Council as councillors debated the closing of the Spanish Town Market by health officials on Wednesday.
People's National Party (PNP) councillors charged that the council's chairman and mayor of Spanish Town, Dr Raymoth Notice allowed the market to be closed without prior consultation, and appealed to the health department for more time to allow vendors to be relocated.
"We do not support the complete closure of the market. We are opposed to the (unilateral) way the decision was taken to close it," said former municipal and commercial services committee chairman, Councillor Norman Scott. He requested that the council immediately meet with local government minister, Portia Simpson-Miller on the matter, as he would not accept the closure of the market as a done deal.
The market was ordered closed in July by health authorities because of its insanitary condition, but the council was granted more time to keep the facility open. This expired on Wednesday.
But Scott, a councillor for the PNP, was adamant that the decision to close the facility should have been taken by the entire council, claiming that it was not a matter for the mayor and his staff to decide.
Notice said, however, that a meeting to discuss the matter was called, but no one attended. "The chairman and vice chairman of the committee (municipal and commercial services) refused to take part in the meeting. They say 'let Notice fail', but I am willing to fail for the people; I took the decision to follow the health authorities' request as a public health advocate myself," the mayor said.
"Some of you want things to blow up, let it blow, I am not looking any one upmanship," the mayor quipped.
At the same time, former deputy mayor, Denise Daley (PNP) cautioned the mayor to be transparent in taking decisions on behalf of the council. But she said the mayor had the right to make the decision to close the market on his own good judgment. She said, too, that the mayor had the right to speak for everyone, even out of council.
On Tuesday, vendors from the market demonstrated in front of the parish council's offices to protest the closure of the facility. They charged that no notice was given to them before the closure.
Meanwhile, chief public health officer, Samuel Cameron, told the meeting that the health department would not allow the market to be reopened until basic requirements were met and the minimum public health standards maintained.
The council's secretary/manager, Michael Morris said a minimum of $4.5 million was needed to effect repairs, noting that $2.4 million had already been committed. The council, he said, was in dialogue to secure the balance and noted that phased repairs to sanitation, toilets and running water would be done.
However, the council's superintendent for roads and works, Franklin Binns said repairs done to the market would only be cosmetic because Spanish Town needed a new market.