MoBay Chamber, SJMC at loggerheads over billboards in Sam Sharpe SquareThursday, May 06, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) and the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) are at loggerheads over the erection of billboards in the historic Sam Sharpe Square.
Janet Silvera, president of the MBCCI, who lashed out at the rampant disorder in the historic town centre, decried the billboards obscuring the view of the historic fountain in Sam Sharpe Square.
“I would love to see Sam Sharpe Square waterfall. I would like to see that. We need to return to that instead of having all those billboards taking over that historic area of the city. That square was named in honour of one of our national heroes. They [billboards] are defacing the town centre. What we should be doing at this time is to enhance [the square's] historical legacy. We want the fountain to be restored to its pristine significance,” Silvera underscored.
“There are other people who disagree with the billboards in the town centre, but they are not going to say anything because they are afraid.”
But, mayor of Montego Bay and chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation Councillor Leeroy Williams was defiant that the billboards are not shrouding the view of the fountain, adding that there is no intention of removing them.
“The billboards do not obscure the view of the fountain, neither do they affect the aesthetics of the area. So from a municipal corporation perspective, we have no intention of removing the billboards,” Williams stressed.
“ In every city around the world...the major towns have billboards, and I think that helps to enhance their city. So what we have here in Montego Bay, St James, in Sam Sharpe Square, for the time being, will remain.
The mayor was quick to point out that the billboards are not a source of revenue for the municipal corporation.
“No, it does not provide any finances to the municipal corporation but, as I said, it is there as advertisement, which we think is a strategic location for persons moving in and out of the town,” Williams pointed out.
But, Silvera questioned the financial benefit to be derived from billboards that “deface” the historic square.
“Whose books are being balanced if it is not the municipal corporation? These are multi-media billboards over our historic fountain. So we humbly request that our history is respected. The billboards and supporting structures are aliens to the fountain,” Silvera expressed.
There was, however, agreement between the MBCCI and the SJMC on the need for greater enforcement to rid the wholesale parking of taxis in the historic Sam Sharpe Square.
“I think there needs to be more order as it relates to where the taxis are being parked. For instance, you find that taxi operators are now parked around the square in the roundabout. How can that be possible? Something needs to happen where persons are given places to park, where persons can get taxis. So the town really needs a proper plan, which is out there, it is just to implement that plan and ensure that there is order in this town,” Silvera argued.
“What downtown Montego Bay needs is order. It needs enforcement. The municipal police will have to get to the stage where they understand that this is a city and in order for that city to do well, it needs order. We can't have it looking like a 'tent city' for instance. And in some parts of it, that is what it looks like. The people downtown need to know that this is our city and we need to treat it well, and we need to take pride in the city as well.”
Mayor Williams argued that a lack of enforcement by the police has resulted in cabbies parking their vehicles outside of their designated areas, in places such as Sam Sharpe Square.
“That is a matter of enforcement. The police are aware that this is happening in Sam Sharpe Square. We have spoken to them several times and they are to ensure that, that does not happen. So definitely, it is a matter for the police to deal with. The police just have to do their job,” Williams stated.
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