NEGRIL,Westmoreland — A $100-million project being undertaken by the National Works Agency (NWA) that was expected to enhance the tourism product in Negril has been placed on hold, following concerns raised by Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill and other interest groups in the resort town.
"The Minister of Tourism has expressed dislike for the harshness of the concrete sidewalks being built and a tour is being planned to re-examine the aesthetics of the project. So the project is currently on hold until we have that tour and have feedback and come to a consensus as to how to move forward in dealing with that issue," said Chief Executive Officer for the NWA Everton G Hunter, in a letter read by Damion Townsend, the agency's western regional manager, at a meeting of the Negril Resort Board last week.
In December, the NWA announced that it would be undertaking the multi- million-dollar improvement works in Negril.
At that time, Hunter stated that the works on the Norman Manley Boulevard in the town would include the construction of sidewalks, medians, the installation of pedestrian crossings and stoplight equipment.
However, mid-way into the project, concerns were raised by tourism interests over the type and quality of work being undertaken.
Last month, for instance, Chairman of the Negril Resort Board Cliff Reynolds expressed dissatisfaction at the project during the board's regular monthly meeting.
"I am completely dissatisfied with the way the NWA has being handling this project. It is very obvious that there is scant regard for the business community, locals, as well as the general safety of persons in the area," he emphasised.
And last week, President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Evelyn Smith, disclosed that the organisers of the annual renowned Reggae Marathon set for December this year in the resort town, have also voiced concerns about the project following a tour of Negril.
"This is actually their (marathon organisers) first time to see the medians that have been put in and they have expressed deep concerns in terms of the ability of the marathon to be executed with the medians as they currently are, and the sidewalks...... the way the whole thing has been constructed," said Smith.
She added that next year the Reggae Marathon may have to be eliminated entirely.
"What they have indicated is that, clearly, it may be extremely difficult for anything (changes in the event) to happen for this year, but they are going to probably reduce registration for the Reggae Marathon. And, secondly, they may need to actually consider in 2014 to eliminate the full marathon entirely," explained Smith, who was also speaking at last week's monthly meeting of the Negril Resort Board.