MONTEGO BAY, St James — To mark Jamaica's 60th year of Independence, the city of Montego Bay will greet its citizens with a roughly $30-million beautification project which will see the city's most popular fountain, in the heart of the historic Sam Sharpe Square, receiving a well-needed facelift.
"There is a high concentration of work being done in the Sam Sharpe Square. We are working on sprucing up the kerb and the rails, but most importantly, we are doing a renovation of the fountain. I can tell you that between the fountain and other sprucing work that we are doing, it is going to run us nearly $30 million," mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Leeroy Williams told the Jamaica Observer West in a recent interview.
According to the mayor, additional work has also been done to beautify different sections of the city to not only encourage, but to highlight the patriotism among Montegonians during this year's Emancipendence period.
"We are sprucing up the town and we are doing so by painting quite a number of murals at strategic points around the town; for example, at the clock we are doing a mural, the Jarrett Park wall and the wall by railway. So, if you should drive by now you will see that the murals are up," said Mayor Williams.
This $30-million price tag, he said, "covers the fountain, the murals and the painting that is taking place on sidewalks in the city…the walls they are fixing and so on. But most of the money was spent on the renovation of the fountain."
Known for its symbolic value in Jamaica's journey through slavery to both Emancipation in 1838, then Independence over a century later in 1962, it should come as no surprise why Sam Sharpe Square is the focus of the beautification project, the mayor told the Observer West.
"Every municipal corporation is required to do a Jamaica 60 project and we looked at Sam Sharpe Square and felt that it needed some sprucing up. The fountain has been there not looking good, so we decided that we are going to renovate it and that is what we have done," he said.
"The fountain is currently up and running, the work is not yet complete because we have been doing testing to see if there are any leaks, so I doubt that it will be completed for our Independence Day celebration. But it is looking good so far."
Though slightly disappointed that the beautification project was not able to meet its deadline, Mayor Williams stated that Montego Bay's traditional Emancipendence celebration is off to a good start. He told the Observer West that last Sunday some of the city's dignitaries and residents alike gathered at the historic Burchell Baptist Church, where Sam Sharpe was a deacon, to commence the week of celebrations.
"We had our Emancipation church service at the Burchell Baptist Church last Sunday and later in the night we had our Emancipation vigil which went until midnight when Custos Conrad Pitkin read the proclamation for the place to be emancipated. We had a good turnout," the mayor noted.
The celebrations will continue throughout this weekend, said a proud Mayor Williams, who pointed out that some lucky citizens and institutions will be recognised for their contributions in the development of Montego Bay during the civic ceremony held annually by the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC).
"On the 6th of August, which is Saturday, we will be having our civic ceremony in Sam Sharpe Square and on Sunday, we will be having our gala at the Harmony Beach Park. We will have entertainment packages, the festival section and there will be a religious part of it. It is going to be good," he stressed.
"We will also be having the Mayor's Special Awards and the Spirit of Independence Awards. We have about 10 categories including agriculture, education and media, among others. The awards will be given out to individuals and institutions."
Noting that he is pleased with the project and events being carried out in celebration of this year's marking of Emancipendence, Mayor Williams said he believes citizens will feel a sense of pride when traveling around Montego Bay.
It is against this background that Mayor Williams urges Montegonians to exercise civic pride when coming into contact with the different aspects of the beautification project and by extension the city.
"I would just appeal to the citizens of Montego Bay to ensure that the area is kept clean. Please do not destroy what is there. We do not want any malicious destruction of the property that we have there," the mayor stressed.