Sun | Feb 5, 2023

Vendors, Negril Chamber in row over plaza

Published:Wednesday | November 30, 2022 | 12:10 AMHopeton Bucknor/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU: DOZENS OF disgruntled vendors at Negril Plaza in West End, Westmoreland, have threatened to take legal action against the Negril Chamber of Commerce because of an eviction bid. They claim the plaza had been donated to them in the...

WESTERN BUREAU:

DOZENS OF disgruntled vendors at Negril Plaza in West End, Westmoreland, have threatened to take legal action against the Negril Chamber of Commerce because of an eviction bid.

They claim the plaza had been donated to them in the early 1990s by the People’s National Party (PNP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

One elderly female, who identified herself as Miss Peddie, said that she has been operating from the plaza since 1994.

“From the beginning of the plaza, we were on the street selling, and the police say we cannot stay on the street and sell, even Chamber of Commerce said we cannot stay, and they used to harass us,” Peddie said.

“So in 1992 we decided to form an association called Itinerary Vendor, and so we ended up writing to USAID and asked them if they could assist us in building a plaza. They said ‘yes’, but they did not have all the money to purchase the land. So in that year we wrote to the Government, that was P.J. Patterson (prime minister), asking him if he could assist us. So he said ‘yes’, he would donate the land,” she added.

Peddie said the Government started to have dialogue with the Westmoreland Chamber and the police, and the Vendors’ Plaza was eventually constructed.

“In 1994 all of us moved on this plaza and started to operate our business,” Peddie recounted. “We are the ones who formed the plaza from the beginning; they were not the ones. The only thing we asked them to do as small business people was just to oversight us, because we used to pay rent, and they have office on the plaza.”

Wesley McIntosh, who said he has been operating a barber shop from 1999, is preparing for court action.

“Wi feel bad, real bad, because right now Christmas coming up and mi have my children them to take care of and them a tell we say we have to go. Yesterday (Monday) police run in and say Tuesday morning we must clear off the plaza, so mi have to take it to the station,” McIntosh stated. “Mi take it to the mayor and mi take it to the court’s office a Savanna-la-Mar. That’s how mi take it so serious.”

However, the Negril Chamber of Commerce claimed that it is the rightful owner and has pledged to take legal action against the vendors because of their refusal to honour a rental agreement.

“We, at the time (early 1990s), went to USAID which we already had a good relationship with and we put in a proposal for a plaza to be built,” Daniel Grizzle, director at the Negril Chamber of Commerce, told The Gleaner.

“We got our drawing, we wrote to them, it was a delegation of four of us who went to Kingston on that trip. Unfortunately, two of those people have now passed and are gone.”

Grizzle said that USAID’s Bill Drasley, with whom the organisation reportedly had a relationship, granted the chamber the building at 65 per cent of the cost.

The chamber director further explained that the group had raised the balance of the money through fixed deposits and fundraising events and that the land was later purchased with the assistance of the Negril Land Authority, after which a proposal was submitted to the land agency for a lease to the chamber, which it is reportedly still paying.

Grizzle also confirmed that the vendors played a role in securing the plaza, but their fundraising only covers approximately $15,000-$17,000, he said.

Meanwhile, McIntosh said that the vendors want the local government ministry to intervene.

hopeton.bucknor@gleanerjm.com