Winnifred Beach Benevolent Society counters money claims

Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Winnifred Beach Benevolent Society President Maria Carla Gullotta yesterday countered a story in this week's Observer North & East about a dispute over the repair of the road leading to the popular beach in Portland.

The fortnightly sister publication of the Daily Observer had reported two members of the benevolent society complaining that since a court case was won by the group, money has been collected from visitors to the beach and from residents in surrounding communities for road repairs which are now being done by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).

“We not pointing nuh finger or saying is any wrongdoing; we just saying money was collected and is UDC fixing the road,” said one of the two, who asked for anonymity.

“It nuh look good. Now UDC can come tek back the beach because it's dem fixing the road,” the member added.

However, when the Observer North & East contacted vice-president of the Winnifred Benevolent Society Cynthia Miller she said that the road is being repaired by the UDC because “they are the owner” and “they have the title”.

“The person who told you that money was collected for the road, ask that person how much money was collected,” Miller said, adding that she has been working on that beach for 22 years and has never collected any money or seen anyone donate funds to repair the road.

“The only money that we have been collecting was asking for a contribution at the gate, and sometimes the guy at the gate collects,” Miller said. “I have receipts. Sometimes we collect $3,000 or $4,000. …I can show you the list of all the money that has been collected here on the beach. The money that has been collected, we pay the lifeguard, the lady for the bathroom, the garbage truck to come here, and we pay to clean the beach.”

Miller's explanation was corroborated by Gullotta, who said that the society has record books as well as an account and all its income and expenses are subject to annual audits. “Whoever is willing to look in our account book is welcome. Our income is solely coming from donations at the beach entrance and from some visitors' donations,” Gullotta said, adding that over the years the group has received financial support amounting to $65,000 from Stand Up Jamaica.

She said the society pays a lifeguard $2,500 per day; the woman who cleans the restroom is paid $1,500 per day; toiletries, including disinfectant, amount to $4,500 per month; garbage collection is $3,000 per month; plumbing, $5,000 per month; and items for the beach such as rakes, garbage bags, gloves, and bins amount to $10,000 per month.

Gullotta said the two individuals who complained were not members of the benevolent society. She chided the newspaper for publishing their claims and said that no attempt was made to contact her to verify what was stated.

She said the benevolent society has been struggling, without any funds, for seven years to keep the beach public. “We have been fighting for the right for every person to access the beach, to enjoy it without paying an entrance fee, defending community places and heritage sites,” she said.

The only request that is made, Gullotta explained, is for people using the beach to donate, if they wish, to its upkeep.

“Vendors at the beach work every day to keep the beach safe and clean and they do it without any reward. They do it to offer a service to the community and to visitors. We are proud for our commitment and our permanent engagement,” she said, adding that the society was committed to transparency.




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