News

Smiles all around as Islington Post Office reopens

BY RENAE DIXON Sunday Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.co

Sunday, April 20, 2014    

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ISLINGTON, St Mary - The smiles on their faces revealed the joy that the residents of Islington felt on Thursday, April 17 when the post office in the community was reopened after an 18-month closure, following the passage of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

The structure, which was destroyed during the hurricane, was repaired at a cost of $5 million, half of which came from the coffers of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme.

"After a year and a half, this is like a dream come true," stated community member Rev Paul Beckford, following the ribbon cutting to mark the official reopening of the facility.

He described the reopening of the post office as a "great relief" for citizens, especially senior citizens, who had to travel to Port Maria to access mail and payments such as pension and PATH benefits.

"On behalf of the community, we want to thank the team which has made today one where we can breathe a sigh of relief,"

he added.

Robert Wellington, another community member, also expressed joy at the return of the facility which serves 17 communities in the Islington area. The eight square-mile Islington is the second largest community in St Mary, by size, beaten only by Belfield, south east of the parish, with its nine square miles.

"Having this service back is an honour," Wellington stated.

Several persons who spoke at the reopening ceremony at the front of the Islington Post Office cited the difficulty experienced by the people during the absence of the postal service in their community.

"When this post office was damaged in Hurricane Sandy, persons went through hardships," Mayor of Port Maria, Councillor Leevan Freeman said.

He pointed out that citizens had to pay bus fare and travelled on poor roads to Port Maria. This, he explained, was particularly challenging for the elderly.

As the residents welcomed the return of the facility, Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Richard Thompson assured residents that the facility was redone to resist disasters. Thompson too spoke of the plight of the residents. Recognising the struggles of especially the elderly. Thompson said that ODPEM made the effort to contribute to the project.

Postal service employees were also delighted to be back in the community, none more than Postmaster General, Post and Telecommunications Department, Michael Gentles.

"Today we are very very happy we are back in Islington," he stated.

Gentles said that among basic services to provide at the facility will be the issuing of pension cheques and the payment of PATH benefits.

The Postmaster General said that the post office will also be offering a bill payment service which will be implemented soon.

While many believe that the post office is no longer relevant, Thompson pointed out that there is still a place in rural Jamaica for it, while underscoring its relevance to Jamaica as a whole.

"I thank you for your patience, having waited for over a year to have your post office back," he told the citizens.

Community activist Cassandra Carter, in thanking all the agencies which worked with the political representatives to have the facility repaired, urged the people to take care of their post office.

"The onus is now left on us as citizens to protect this our post office," she stated.

The post office was opened for business immediately after the morning reopening ceremony that day.

The Islington community on Thursday was also celebrating the refurbishing of several roadways in the community.

However, resident Dudley Champagnie pointed out that after years of waiting for the road to be fixed, immediately after the completion of the road, the National Water Commission dug it up and that section of the road has still not been fixed.

"We are happy that the road is fixed, but immediately after it fix the NWC dig it up and they left it without fixing it," he said.

He said that the NWC was called about the matter and a representative told the citizens that it was a National Works Agency matter.

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