Regional

Negril municipality push

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland —Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, says Prime Minister Andrew Holness, has given him a directive to fast track discussions surrounding the possibility of giving the resort town of Negril municipality status.

The minister, who made the disclosure last Friday during a meeting called by the Negril Chamber of Commerce (NCC), indicated, that “there are challenges.”

“The prime minister said to me in a very rough tone, and he doesn't speak to me in a very rough tone most times, that I need to fast-track the discussions on the municipal status of Negril,” McKenzie informed. “But, I did say to him that we have to find the formula that is workable, because to do that, you would have to prove your worth to be self-sufficient,” he added.

He noted that Negril would be taking away a sizeable chunk of the limited revenues, such as those derived from trade and motor vehicle licensing, property taxes and building fees, currently earned by the Hanover Municipal Corporation and the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation.

“The scheme of funding that is available to the local authority, that is, to Hanover and Westmoreland, is so small that it could not be enough to serve,” McKenzie pointed out.

The minister stated that in order for Negril to get municipal status the town would have to be of a “certain size” and will have to have its own municipal administrative arm, among other things. The minister was responding to a proposal from the NCC for Negril “the capital of casual” to be given municipality status. The resort town is located over the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland. The larger and most popular hotels are located in Hanover, while the commercial hub and numerous small resorts are located on the Westmoreland side.

NCC president Daniel Grizzle, argued that municipality status would allow Negril to manage the little resources for the benefit of the community, and the country at large.

“Mr Minister, the fact that we are situated on two parishes, we become like the outside child because Hanover is busy taking care of their city centre (Lucea). Westmoreland is busy taking care of Savanna-la-Mar, its capital, and we get completely neglected. So, we think the time has come. We have grown big enough where consideration should be given to us being a municipality of our own,” said Grizzle, adding that “this is how the majority feels about such a proposal.”

The minister, however, questioned what type of municipality is the chamber asking for.

He asked if they were thinking of something similar to that of Portmore, which he described as a “failure”.

McKenzie pointed out that Portmore on its own, does not have any real legitimacy, and is just a further replication of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation.

“The mayor who is elected directly by the people is more of a figurehead mayor. Not a mayor with powers, because the powers are still invested in the councillors whose decision is what really matters,” McKenzie stressed.

In the case of Portmore, he pointed that efforts are being made to separate the two, to allow Portmore to operate fully on its own, but stressed that there are problems doing so, due to politics.

And in regards to the proposed new town centre for Negril, the minister noted that while it would give Negril the kind of control that it wants, “you would still retain the privilege that you would enjoy from Hanover and Westmoreland by virtue of the resources and the services which are required.”

Grizzle argued that,“as it stands now, the town centre is far too shabby”.

“We need a better town centre. When you go in the town centre, you need something to uplift you, not to depress you,” said the NCC president.

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