Sav mayor holds ground
Moore won’t evict vendors from proposed market site without suitable alternative
Bertel Moore, chairman of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC), has said that he will not be forced to disrupt the livelihood of small business operators in order to build a fruit and vegetable market in Negril.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Moore, who is also councillor for the Negril division in which the market is to be built, said he has no intention to evict the current occupiers of the property unless a suitable alternative location is found for them to conduct trade while the market is being constructed.
“You cannot disrupt people’s livelihoods for 18 months without them being able to do anything,” said Moore, who has also announced that he will exiting the political arena at the end of his current term.
“If you disrupt their livelihoods, they will not be able to send their children to school and I don’t believe in that,” the Savanna-la-Mar mayor insisted.
Moore was reacting to statements made by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, who last week accused the local municipality of not delivering timely services, pointing to what he called the corporation’s tardiness in serving notices to have the vendors relocated from the market.
McKenzie had announced that $75 million had been allocated for the construction of a fruit and vegetable market in 2017. However, only a soil test paid for by the Negril Chamber of Commerce has been done since then.
The plans have not yet been approved and more vendors have also moved on to the property since then.
Moore said that last December, the WMC wrote to the housing ministry, requesting temporary occupancy of lands it owned in Whitehall, next to the market. That response, he said, came last Friday.
According to a January 21 letter seen by The Gleaner, the decision on the pending relocation of approximately 25 small business operators is now in the hands of Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Vincent Haldane, senior director for the Land Administration Management section in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, in his letter to WMC CEO Marvalyn Pitter, said that the WMC’s request was being “favourably considered”.
Clovis Campbell, who operates a cookshop in the space, said that he is prepared to be relocated, but noted that he is not harbouring hopes of being offered a space for rent after the construction is completed.
“It’s about 15 years now that I am occupying the land here. I know that I will have to leave one day because the land is not mine,” Campbell told The Gleaner yesterday. “I’m not looking forward to be offered a shop in the market because friends and political people will get pride of place.”
Ann-Marie Edwards, a haberdashery store operator, said that she and several other vendors had previously been relocated from another sector of the Whitehall lands by the WMC to the now-designated market site in 2006. While she is mentally prepared to move again to facilitate the development, she is hoping that safety concerns will be noted.
“We don’t have a problem relocating, but not to the back. That would be exposing us to the mercy of criminal elements operating in the Whitehall area,” Edwards said, adding that she, too, was not hopeful of returning to the space after the development.
“Maybe when the market is finished, they price it outside of our ability to afford the rental because everything is politics, especially now that a parish council election is due next month,” she noted.