BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTEGO BAY, St James — President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Davon Crump has blasted the St James Parish Council for the deplorable state of the city's historic Dome, one of the country's national monument.
"The Dome serves as one of Montego Bay's most striking landmarks and every effort should be made therefore to preserve it as such. The rich history of this important landmark which was initially designed to protect the mouth of the creek which fed the town's early central water supply system has not been maintained and is now fully taken over by squatters that have made this historic landmark their home," said a seemingly infuriated Crump.
Erected in 1837, the historic Dome is located at the intersection of Creek Street and Dome Street in downtown Montego Bay.
It later became a major source of water in the area until 1894, when piped water was introduced.
Up to the late 1960s, householders in the area got water from the source whenever there was a disruption in the public water supply system.
It was later declared a National Heritage Monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
The structure, however, was left to fall into a state of disrepair until about five years ago when it received a much needed facelift.
This was a few years after an elderly man who goes by the names of 'Bugs' was forcefully removed from the monument, having lived there for more than a decade.
The restoration was undertaken by the St James Labour Day Committee, as the parish's Labour Day project.
At that time, then mayor of Montego Bay Noel Donaldson said the improvements works were a "most fitting project for the parish to undertake", given the Dome's significance in the history of the resort city.
The works on the monument and surrounding areas included the washing of the monument; repainting of the rails and windows, landscaping work at the site, as well as the erections of bollards.
But since then, the landmark has again been allowed to fall into a deplorable state.
Crump said yesterday that the chamber believes that preservation of the monument has to form part of a wider plan to recapture Montego Bay's rich cultural heritage in a bid to provide visitors to the city "with a different side to our tourism product, outside of just sea and sand".
"The city needs a signature tourist attraction and it is our hope that we begin to look at an educational tour of Montego Bay and its environs and market our city as the preferred destination.........we have the history and
accompanying landmarks to do so," he argued.
"We are therefore urgently calling on the St James Parish Council and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust to immediately take all the necessary steps to rehabilitate the Dome to its original structure and recreate what the
chamber thinks is a piece of Montego Bay that should not be used as a dwelling and what seems to be illegitimate business that is now being conducted there."
Crump emphasised that the chamber stands ready to support all the relevant authorities in the move to rehabilitate the landmark to its original structure, as he urged the citizens and the business community of St James to support such an initiative.
Meanwhile, a seemingly embarrassed Suzette Brown who chairs the Civic and Community Affairs committee at the St James Parish Council has acknowledged that the monument has been in a state of disrepair for quite sometime.
"There is evidence of it having a live-in occupant, who is making changes to the structure, including painting the rail red and white. The bollards placed around the monument continue to be removed by persons tinting motor vehicles at its base" Brown told the Observer West.
"I know steps have been taken to mitigate this, but there is need for continued enforcement."
She pointed out that through the Civic and Community Affairs Committee a request has been made that the Roads and Works department of the council consult with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in formulating a development plan for the monument.
"Already preliminary artist rendering has been done and a budget for overall improvement works on the Dome is being prepared, following which the development plan will be sent to Council for ratification," said Brown, who is also councillor for the Montego Bay Division in which the monument falls.
According to the councillor, it is being proposed that improvement works to the Dome include erecting a statue depicting the historical significance of the monument.
She noted that artist, Kay Sullivan, has already submitted a sketch of what is being proposed. The final drawing, Brown pointed out, will also be ratified by the parish council.
She added too that there have also been discussions about linking the improvement works at the monument to work to be carried out at the historic Montego Bay Civic Centre and Sam Sharpe Square, and then including it in a walking tour showcasing the aspects of the history of Montego Bay.