'We don't operate nuh shop down there'
Manchester Municipal Corporation officials angered by closure of Melrose Yam ParkTuesday, September 14, 2021
BY KASEY WILLIAMS
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — There is uncertainty as to when operations will resume at the Melrose Yam Park which was last month closed by the health department.
This follows pronouncements by officials at the local municipal corporation who have taken the department to task regarding what breaches should be addressed by the municipality.
Speaking at last Thursday's monthly meeting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation, Chief Executive Officer Winston Palmer said the health department should conduct individual inspections at the yam park for which the municipal corporation has responsibility.
“The health department monitors the restaurants… We are not qualified to go into a food place and [determine] what is what and what is not, so what the health department needs to do, if you have nine shops down there and two of them not complying, close [those two],” Palmer said.
“It is not for the officers to go in the stalls to tell them (vendors) seh you not meeting the standard — that's the health department. It is engineers we have at roads and works. We nuh have any health person up there… that's a technical aspect for the health department,” he added.
Although work is currently taking place at the park, Palmer said the health department should have served notice to the vendors and not to the parish council.
“All the notices were served on the council, but these are individual shop operators who are tenants who don't work on behalf of the parish council. It is not the parish council yam stalls, it is the individual tenants who pay rent to occupy the stalls and to carry out their businesses,” he said.
He listed several breaches outlined by the health department in a letter to the municipality. The breaches included improper solid waste management and storage of food items.
“Most of the people were without a valid food permit; if they don't have it, you serve it on them to say they don't have it. You don't serve that on parish council…We don't sell food down there, we don't operate nuh shop down there,” he said.
He challenged the health department guideline that all food establishments must be equipped with a three-compartment sink for washing of utensils and a single sink for the washing of hands.
“The shops that we have at yam park, those little yam stalls, them can't hold three sinks, so I don't know how three sinks plus one, four, would go in those stalls, so those would have to be an error on the part of the health department,” Palmer argued.
The health department had listed issues with the stalls, the restrooms, and a bar at the yam park.
Work was done in terms of cleaning the stalls and packing a soakaway pit.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Nadine Williams sent an apology for not being present at Thursday's meeting.
She told the Observer on Friday that there was an agreement for a meeting to be held with vendors through the municipality.
“With regards to the yam park, we did write a letter to the council with some information on recommendations that were made for the place to be brought up to satisfactory standard. Mr Palmer did indicate that he thought some of the measures should have been directed to the vendors and we agreed,” she said.
“I had spoken with him and he said he would have arranged a meeting with the vendors and we would be there to inform them of what measures they would need to put in place as vendors to make their facilities satisfactory, so we are still awaiting the convening of that meeting,” she added.
Some of the vendors were transferred from the Old Melrose Hill main road to Melrose Bypass over 20 years ago and have gained popularity among passing motorists over the years for their roast yam and saltfish, roast potato, jerk chicken, and other local delicacies.
Councillor Mario Mitchell (PNP, Bellefield Division) was not pleased with how the closure was done.
“It should not have gone to that. We are stakeholders and there is a monthly inter-agency meeting where every agency sits and works out the problems in this parish. We need to have a sit down with the health department. The same thing is happening with the abattoirs,” he said.
“We are the local authority in this parish, we cannot have the health department going east and we a go west. We are all civilised people working for the benefit of the people. They have called upon all of us (councillors) for this vaccination blitz and a we out there every day with them,” he added.
Councillor Jones Oliphant (PNP, Mandeville Division) said it was an embarrassment for the yam park to be closed.
“It doesn't appear as if we are working together. If you have a fault and we are a family, the first thing you do is keep it in the family and talk it over. If they continue to work that way, then we can't reach anywhere. I'm sure all the justifications [for] why they closed it; they could have spoken to us and we [would have] worked through it…. People come from abroad and want a piece of roast yam and they drive down there only to find it closed. It looks bad. I think the health department needs to modify their approach,” said Oliphant.