Key amenities closed, Green Island facing stagnation
Residents of Green Island, in Hanover, say they are still grappling with the loss of three key basic social amenities - their library, their market and their post office, which has not only made their lives more difficult, but is also threatening to stagnate the western town.
The coastal town, which is one of the parish's most popular townships, has been without a functioning library, a market and a post office, for several years. The absence of these facilities has resulted in residents having to travel more than 20 kilometres to the town of Lucea to use the facilities located there.
One resident, Community Peer Educator Jannette Burke told Western Focus that the closure of the three amenities has even contributed to an increasing crime rate, as well as the stifling of farming activities in the area.
"From my viewpoint, it has affected the community socially and crime-wise. Because when the library was open, a lot of the persons, who had nothing to do, particularly unattached youths, would normally go there to use social media like Facebook and pass the time during the day," said Burke. "It's not there anymore, and so, they are not going to pay to go to Lucea, so many find other things to do, and this includes, getting involved in criminal activities."
"In the holidays, students would be there reading and so forth and it benefited the primary school students because the students would go there to do their research and stuff like that. It use to also serve as an after school centre, where children would stay and read books and so forth, until they got picked up," added Burke.
Burke said the closure of the post office has resulted in a major set-back for the community, particularly the payment of bills, where many people get into problems with their utility companies and other service providers, due to late receipt of bills. She said agriculture-related commerce was dealt a hard blow, as farmers from the area had resorted to travelling to other parishes to sell their produce.
"Peoples' utilities are getting disconnected because they are not getting their bills on time. Most people are having to pay late fees because, sometimes when you go to Lucea to collect your bills, they post mistresses tell you it is not there yet and so forth... So even when you have no other reason to go to Lucea, you have to be incurring additional costs, just to collect bills," said Burke.
"As for the market is concerned, if we don't go to Lucea, we have to pay higher rates to the people who come to sell fruits and vegetables in Green Island. Secondly, we don't get fresh things, because the vendors come from Thursday and Friday and are not leaving until whenever, plus we don't have a wide variety to choose from," lamented Burke. "Lucea is already packed, and so Green Island vendors can't go on the roadside to sell, because police are going to run them off; so they find other places to go to sell.. the transportation cost is (also) heavy for them, so it is a lose-lose situation for them as well."
In June 2011, the Jamaica Library Service concluded that the Green Island Branch Library was structurally unsound and declared it temporarily closed in order for reconstruction work to take place. The Green Island Market was closed several years earlier by the Hanover Parish Council, which had cleared the land space in a bid to put a car park there. However the area is still bare, and at times is used by commercial entities as an illegal garbage dumpsite.
The post office was declared structurally unsound more than three years ago and was rebuilt with J$5 million from the Constituency Development Fund of member of parliament, Ian Hayles. Last September, Wayne Cover, the National Works Agency parish manager for Hanover, said his organisation would be bringing the facility up to minimum habitable standards within six weeks. However, the new structure has not been re-opened by the Postal Corporation of Jamaica.
Leonard Sharpe, the Vice President of the Green Island Development Area Committee, agreed with Burke's sentiments, telling the Western Focus that the market was demolished approximately 10 years ago to be used as a taxi stand.
"When the market was taken out of operation, it was like people went back to square one. People had no where to go to shop other than Lucea," said Sharpe. "Nowadays, you have some little pick-ups that come in the area to sell farming produce. People from Caudwell and Pell River, who used to plant and come to Green Island to sell their produce, no longer go to that area; they go to Savanna-la-mar or Lucea and some stop planting because they have nowhere to sell."
"The post office is closed and it is hard to pay $150 each way to go to Lucea to collect mail, so it hampers the community a lot. They say they are gonna fix the post office but it take too long for it to be opened," argued Sharpe. "By now the people should be using the post office. As for the library, nothing is happening. They shut down the town. It can't work like that. The government needs to do something better to uplift the town of Green Island."