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Portmore hopes for tourists from Lakeland

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2010 | 1:00 AM



Mayor of Portmore Keith Hinds is flanked by the mayor of Lakeland, Buddy Fletcher (right), and Lakeland city commissioner, Ambassador Tom Shaw, at a ceremony to formalise the sister-city agreement between Lakeland in Florida, USA, and Portmore, St Catherine, on November 19, 2009. - Contributed

TOURISM AND educational exchanges are two likely developments from the recent twinning of the municipality of Portmore, St Catherine, with the city of Lakeland, Florida, in the Unites States of America.

"We have been talking about a tourism product for some time ... and we are getting ready to accept and host visitors from our sister city (Lakeland)," Portmore Mayor Keith Hinds told The Gleaner. He noted that Portmore had already been prepared for bed-and-breakfast tourism for the staging of Cricket World Cup in 2007, "so it's not a difficulty, we really want tourists to come and interact with the Jamaican people".

Mayor Hinds made the disclosure during the recent visit to the island of a delegation from Lakeland to complete the sister-city arrangement with Portmore. Formal discussions for twinning both localities began formally three years ago under Hind's predecessor, George Lee. The talks were initiated by a Jamaican immigrant in Lakeland, Warren Thomas, a former community leader in the Hellshire area of Portmore.

Lakeland city commissioner, Ambassador Tom Shaw, who has been spearheading the sister-city arrangement, disclosed that "on this particular trip, we brought three teachers and they are going to be visiting schools. We are thinking along the line of teacher exchanges first and then student exchanges as we go along."

Hinds explained why he has embraced the sister-city arrangement: "We have decided to forge partner-ships and we have sought to look to partners who can give us best practices. Once you step into Lakeland, you will immediately feel and see the city's management; it's impressive."

Enthusiastic

He added, "When you look at our municipality of Portmore, we have over the years tried in many ways to make local governance be felt. So, it is imperative that we learn and adopt some of those best practices." In this regard, Hinds pointed to Portmore's disaster chart which is modelled off Lakeland's - providing all the relevant information, including the location of shelters, emergency numbers, fire and police stations.

Mayor of Lakeland, Ralph 'Buddy' Fletcher, is also enthusiastic about the new partnership between his city and Portmore, disclosing that "when Mayor Hinds visited our city several months ago, he asked us if we could help in this capacity - with people as well pieces of equipment."

Accordingly, the Lakeland city commission, in addition to the teacher exchange programme, has provided Portmore with the temporary services of two waste-water management and land-scaping personnel. Fletcher further disclosed that Lakeland had decided to provide Portmore with a retrofitted water truck - donated by a construction company - to facilitate beautification efforts in the sprawling St Catherine suburb.

Lakeland is located in the state of Florida between the cities of Tampa and Orlando, the home of Walt Disney World.

byron.buckley@gleanerjm.com