PETERSFIELD, Westmoreland — The People's National Party (PNP)-controlled Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) has placed a stop order on the construction of a house for which PNP President Mark Golding carried out a much-publicised block-laying exercise on May 29.
This has led to a firestorm on social media, with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor, who had asked if the requisite building plans had been approved, bearing the brunt of the backlash.
The house being constructed, as promised by Golding during a hard-fought bid to lead the PNP, is to be gifted to a party activist who has fallen on hard times.
Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar and WMC Chairman Bertel Moore last week confirmed the stop order but said he was unable to provide details.
He said the issue is expected to be addressed at Wednesday's meeting of the corporation's Physical Planning, Environment and Development Committee. At that time he expects input from the councillor who originally questioned whether the proper procedures had been followed.
Three weeks ago, during the WMC's regular monthly meeting, Councillor Dawnette Foster (JLP, Cornwall Mountain Division) questioned whether a building plan was submitted for the project.
“Where is that building plan? I would like you to tell me where that plan is, because I don't want to know that there is a rule for some and another rule for others,” she said then.
On Wednesday she told the Jamaica Observer that, with the stop order in force, she is being blamed for “stopping a poor man's house”.
Foster has rejected that narrative, insisting instead that the rules need to be followed by everyone.
“We need to do the right thing, the right way; and I am asking the Opposition leader and also the mayor if there is a different rule for a poor PNP, a poor JLP, and a poor 'no P'. I would like them to answer that for me,” she said. “All I asked for was an approved building plan. I am saying to the mayor, why didn't you bring that to the council and ask for a waiver on this poor person's house?”
Foster said the corporation's building officer was supposed to visit the premises and provide a report to the corporation.
“Now, I heard that they stopped the building and they are telling everybody, even on Facebook, that [I] stopped the building. I did not stop any building. All I asked for was an approved building plan. I want to see it,” said Foster.
When contacted, Councillor Ian Myles, who chairs the WMC's Physical Planning, Environment and Development Committee, questioned Foster's motives.
“I don't have a problem with the councillor's request if it is a genuine request. But on the flip side, one has to take into consideration the humanitarian side and the fact that the mayor and council have the authority to waive these plans,” said Myles, who also alluded to a shortfall in the number of building officers needed to adequately enforce the laws.
The one-bedroom concrete structure is to be a gift for Davian Hopwood, whose work with the PNP is said to date back to 1997.
She moved in with her grandmother at age 11 after losing her mother. Over the years, she added her five children to the shared home.
Hopwood, who braids hair to earn a living, started constructing her house five years ago but was unable to complete it. She is the first beneficiary of the OT Fairclough Trust Fund, named after Osmond Theodore Fairclough for his distinguished contribution to the PNP and country. The project is funded from the trust fund endowment of $15,000,000.
Patrick Forrester, the PNP's councillor caretaker for the Petersfield Division who was instrumental in the project, expressed concern at the turn of events.
“It is unfortunate and we are going to fight for this to be done so that [Hopwood] can benefit. She is a woman with five children and she has been serving the party for a very long time and we saw it fit to help her, and we are determined to do that,” he said.
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