BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says operations of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation will have to be relocated from the Black River courthouse to accommodate a second courtroom.
“For over four years, the Black River courthouse is really one of the better attractive courts in the island. We would want it to be a total court,” he said during a tour of the facility recently.
He added that the local municipality now occupies about 25 per cent of the courthouse.
“We are working with the parish council to see how other accommodation can be provided for the parish council, so that the court can utilise all the facilities in the complex including a second court, because it has only one full court now, but we want a second court and that we are hoping [it] can be dealt with over the next year or so,” said Chuck.
However, mayor of Black River and chairman of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation Derrick Sangster appeared to cast doubt on Chuck’s plans for the property, which he said is owned by the municipality.
“The [property] in its entirety is owned by the Ministry of Local Government/the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation. There is no sort of contention on that issue. What is happening now is that the majority of the courthouse building is occupied by the court’s office. Our administrative department is to one side,” he told the Jamaica Observer last week.
“Further meetings are necessary and discussions before any definitive decision and position can be taken,” he said in reference to Chuck’s idea.
“We don’t want to specifically say how this alternative accommodation will materialise, but we are examining the matter. He (Chuck) is only subtly saying that this space that we now occupy could become a second large courtroom…He is only turning it over in his mind, but no definitive position has been taken,” Sangster said.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust website said the date of construction for the Black River courthouse is unknown.
The facility is situated in the historically rich south-central town which political and business leaders say has potential for greater heritage tourism.
Asked if there are plans to construct a new municipal building to accommodate its offices, Sangster said land space is a major issue in Black River.
“It has been a thought over the years, but the big thing is location. There is no land space, [which] is very tight in Black River. There is no alternative site in the immediate area. One would not like to remove the municipal corporation’s offices out of the centre of the town. Also, we would not like to move the courthouse, it is a heritage site,” he explained.
“We have to work with what we have,” he added.
He said the plan for the existing municipal corporation building, which is adjacent to the courthouse, is for a second floor to be built.
“A building could go on top of that, but one of the things that has been posited is to provide a common room for the councillors, which is lacking,” he said.