Stench-free streets

Stakeholders wash HWT corridors as J'cans complain about public bathroom 'fee'

Observer staff reporter

Saturday, October 20, 2018

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THE National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) will be investigating claims that people are being charged to use the public restroom facilities inside Nelson Mandela Park in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew.

The issue was raised by the Jamaica Observer following multiple complaints from people that they have been forced to pay a fee of between $30 and $50 to use the facility as representatives from the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, Ministry of Health, Jamaica Fire Brigade, Island Traffic Authority, and the constabulary's Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch embarked on a clean-up drive yesterday in sections of Half-Way-Tree where people often relieve themselves.

NSWMA Community Relations Manager Shauna Guthrie told the Observer yesterday that the agency has not received any complaints, but said that its enforcement team will be investigating the claims.

Guthrie said the restroom facility is opened seven days per week, between the hours of 6:00 am and 10:00 pm.

A fruit vendor, who made it clear that he does not mind paying the $50 each time he uses the facility, said yesterday that some people relieve themselves on the road because they are unable to pay the fee.

Welcoming the clean-up initiative, the vendor said: “Every morning I have to buy bleach and wash down the place. More time is the same people who are taking taxi run go around there (the entrance to a learning centre on Suthermere Road) and use it. I don't have any problem to pay it, because if a man come and see me peeing around there, they are going to say, 'dah fruit man deh nasty ehh man'. So I make sure I head for the bathroom.”

Another vendor, Wayne Mowatt, said people have been using the area because the public restrooms are not always available.

“At night there is no bathroom out here because the bathroom dem closed... That is a public bathroom so that supposed to be open, but they are charging $30 and $50 to go in there go [urinate]. Is a Government place, and dem a get pay, so dem nuh supposed to charge wi,” Mowatt said.

A commuter also raised the issue of the fee.

“Some people go around there because they have to pay money to go into the restroom and sometimes people don't have the money, so they just do a quick thing. It is not healthy; any time mi smell it, I feel sick. Sometimes the restroom... don't have water, because is tank dem tank the water in the morning. Sometimes it close early, so that's the problem,” the commuter, Alexander Wynter, said, adding that people should not be turned away because they are unable to pay the fee.

“If yuh nuh have it one day, dem [might] actually let you in and say, 'Alright, use it, but next time come with your $50,'” he said.

The section of Suthermere Road, in the vicinity of the Papine and August Town taxi stand close to one of the entrances to the Skills Training Centre for the Possibility Programme, which was littered with garbage and heavily used by the public for makeshift bathroom facilities, was washed by firefighters under the watchful eyes of the police.

Manager for the learning facility Leroy Campbell said the property has been ill-treated by the public.

“Night and day they use the place as a public toilet. We have changed three gates and the pee has rotted all three of them. I am now looking sponsors to put up another gate. When you [direct] them to the public toilet they say the people down there charging money for it, and they are not going down there,” Campbell explained.

Meanwhile, head of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Allen yesterday told journalists on Suthermere Road that the stench from the urine and faeces permeates the area and presents a health hazard.

“Part of what we do at the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch is to collaborate towards greater order, but also the safety of our people. There is a major entity that does run/walk on a yearly basis, this is one of the corridors that we used to use, and because of the stench within this area, they changed their route. So I know they will feel good to see efforts like these, and these are efforts that will continue as we seek to restore that level of safety,” Allen said.

At the same time, he said that anyone seen urinating in the public space will be arrested, adding that there are restrooms in the park for people to utilise.

Responding to claims that the restroom closes at a particular time, Allen said he will have dialogue with the managers to see how best they can extend the opening hours.

Insisting that people will be prosecuted if they are found relieving themselves in public while the restroom is open, Allen said yesterday's operation is a long-term one that will be extended to other areas.

“It is no better time to do it than now. Persons have been crying out for a long while, I am happy that I was able to get the [Jamaica] Fire Brigade on board — a crucial entity — to use their hose to power wash the area. So now is the best time; all the entities are on board and we intend to continue this collaboration,” he said.

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