MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Councillors from both political sides of the Manchester Municipal Corporation are in disagreement over the proposed reopening of the Waltham abattoir, a slaughterhouse and meat processing facility in Mandeville, which was ordered shut by health authorities in 2017.
Discussions for its reopening drew intense debate at last Thursday's monthly meeting of the local municipality, leaving both People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party councillors at loggerheads over re-operationalising the butchery.
Councillor for the Mandeville Division (People's National Party), Jones Oliphant and councillor for the Knockpatrick Division, Cleon Francis (Jamaica Labour Party) suggested different proposals on location for abattoirs to be in operation.
Oliphant said the Waltham abattoir, which up to its closure accommodated 52 butchers, should be reopened to reduce transportation costs for those now forced to travel to Christiana or private slaughterhouses.
“Look back at it to see what we can do, if it can be reopened, so that those around Mandeville and the close areas to the Waltham abattoir would have it a little easier, because what is happening [with] transportation costs and all of that is bearing heavily on the butchers,” he said.
But chief executive officer at the local municipality, Winston Palmer said it would be a costly venture to revisit the Waltham abattoir.
“From a budgetary standpoint, the millions of dollars that would be required and all of the stipulations laid out by the National Environment and Planning Agency, and all of the pits that are no longer working at the Waltham facility, I don't see where it is possible. I think you would be talking about $100 million to do that, so that's the reason Waltham is not being looked at,” he said.
Francis, however, proposed that a new abattoir be constructed in Williamsfield.
“Just sitting here and hearing my colleague discuss the matter of reopening Waltham, it seems as if we are turning back the hands of time…We have collaborated and leased approximately 50 to 100 acres of land down in the Williamsfield area…If we want to stay in the business of abattoir why aren't we looking at building a new facility down in that area, [where] everything is accommodated and centralised down there? I don't see [any] reason why we should be sitting here at the beginning of 2022 and reversing instead of trying to go forward,” he said.
In the meantime, Oliphant told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday that the Christiana abattoir, which was reopened last year after being closed for months by the health department over breaches, was prioritised by the council.
“[Waltham] is the biggest abattoir in the parish and it had basic facilities in the past. The butchers are asking for it to be reopened. I know that the [council] must have spent a pretty penny up by Christiana to refurbish it, so why can't you do this? Because the butchers are saying transportation and the facilities are limited,” he explained.
The other government-owned abattoir in Porus has been closed for years.