THE KINGSTON and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), is pushing ahead with plans to acquire the building which houses the Public Health Department for direct KSAC usage.
The building, located on Marescaux Road, Kingston, is owned by the KSAC but has been the home to the Public Health Department since some duties were transferred from the KSAC to the Ministry of Health in the early 1980s.
At Wednesday's Building and Town Planning committee meeting, councillors again told The Gleaner that the KSAC was determined to assume control of the building.
"If we had that building, we wouldn't be cramped up here (at the Mayor's official residence) today. We could use it while the refurbishing of the KSAC is going on," said Councillor Basil Gordon, who chaired yesterday's meeting in the absence of chairman, Councillor Trevor Bernard.
The meetings are being held at the Mayor's official residence at 7 Argyle Road, to save on the $5,000 per meeting that it was costing the KSAC to operate at the Jamaica Conference Centre.
An earlier bid to acquire the building from the Health ministry had failed.
According to the Ministry's Permanent Secretary, George Briggs, the KSAC had stated a desire to use the building while its headquarters at Church Street, downtown Kingston were being refurbished. Mr. Briggs said that he had reminded the KSAC that the health department carried out technical duties for the KSAC as the local board of health and that it was not practical to temporarily relocate the public health staff.
At a previous meeting on April 7, 2001, KSAC councillors had voted to draft a resolution asking that the Government either return the building for the Council's use or compensate the Corporation for it.
The resolution should have been put to the KSAC's Council for decision on April 10, but this was not done. The Gleaner was later told that the KSAC could simply issue a notice, asking the administration of the Public Health Department to leave the premises but "that is not a good principle," said Councillor William Hasfal.
The issue resurfaced at the April 4, committee meeting, along with revitalisation of plans for Cross Roads and other areas, after a representative of the Jamaican Institute of Architects, Victor Patterson lamented, that not one civic centre has been built since Independence in 1962 while others have been left to deteriorate.
In addition, areas such Cross Roads, which noticeably reflected the hub of the city, was left to wrack and ruin, Mr. Patterson said. "We can do something in the short-term," he continued, drawing support from committee members who disliked the congestion, decay and indiscipline in the Cross Roads area.
The councillors had enthusiastically greeted a suggestion that the Public Health Department could serve as an ideal town hall based on its convenient location, adequate parking, available space and beautiful grounds. But those are the very reasons why health officials believe it is better for the Public Health Department to remain at its Marescaux Road location. People know where it is, said Mr. Briggs.
Mr. Briggs made it clear that the Ministry would not become involved in a tussle for the property as there were mechanisms in Government to discuss the issue.
A number of factors will have to be considered such as whether moving was practical, adequate space was available and the cost of moving, he said. It is subject to discussions on what would be in the best interest of health care.
"We would have to decide which of the competing interests is best served," added Health Minister John Junor. Mr. Briggs and the Minister refused to speculate on where the department would go if the KSAC is successful, stating at the time that they had not received notice of the KSAC's plans.