WAKEFIELD, Trelawny - Arguing that they are being greatly inconvenienced by the closure of the Wakefield Post Office, residents of the community and adjoining areas are calling for the immediate return of the postal service to the rural district.
The postal office at Wakefield was closed in early 2021, and the services it once provided relocated to Bounty Hall — a distance of over five miles — following the less than desirable state of the building, which housed the facility.
Yesterday, when the Jamaica Observer West visited the Wakefield community, the section of the building that housed the post office remained closed, but one section accommodated commercial activities.
Apart from Wakefield, other communities adversely affected by the closure include Dromilly, Unity, Bunker's Hill, Friendship, Deeside, and Hampden.
A number of these communities have had their respective post offices closed over time, forcing them to access postal services in Bounty Hall.
Bunker's Hill resident Eric Erskine expressed his frustration over the relocation of the postal services from Wakefield to Bounty Hall, noting that the post office in his community was closed several years ago, forcing him to use the Wakefield facility.
"Our post office was taken out of the community and we had to use Wakefield, and then taken from Wakefield to Bounty Hall and it has been a problem for us because right now I am heading to Bounty Hall to the post office and I can't get a drive to go there. So can you imagine the older folks who have to go and collect their pension and so forth, what they have to go through? When it was at Wakefield it wasn't so bad but now that it is Bounty Hall; it is a serious problem, and that has to change. It needs to change like right now," a seemingly frustrated Erskine told the Observer West.
Wakefield resident Barrington Brown expressed similar concerns.
He suggested that the old, out-of-use State-owned market in Wakefield could be used to house the post office.
"We want back the post office in Wakefield because it is not like Government don't have any place to build the post office. They have a market that is not in use so they can build the post office in the market. You have pensioners, people feh collect dem PATH cheque and dem ting deh, it's really inconvenient for some people," Brown rued.
The issue was recently brought to the fore at the inaugural annual banquet and awards function of Wakefield Connection, by Reverend Ruddy Watson, a Wakefield native living in the Diaspora.
During the function held at the Glistening Waters Restaurant in Trelawny on Sunday, Watson, who is the president of the recently formed Wakefield Connection, said he has already raised the matter of the post office with Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern Tova Hamilton and Councillor Jonathan Bartley (Wakefield Division, Jamaica Labour Party).
"After travelling from abroad over the many years to Wakefield I realised that we are losing some facilities, namely the post office, the market and other infrastructure. I have been in dialogue with the Member of Parliament and the postmaster general to get the post office back in Wakefield," Watson remarked.
"We will be holding the political electorate responsible for what they do to Wakefield from now on. We are concerned citizens of Wakefield and will be making them know that we are holding them responsible. So in other words, the Wakefield Connection will be the eyes and ears of Wakefield."
Hamilton later told the Observer West that she plans to resume advocacy for the return of the post office to the community.
"It is an issue that I raised already with Postal Corporation and we had identified a property for them to rent but we have not heard from them in relation to it. They have not moved on it. The Reliance Centre, besides the police station, that's where we had proposed for them to relocate the post office but to date we haven't heard anything," she explained.
Bartley said he played an integral role in identifying a suitable location in Wakefield, which was shared with former Postmaster General Michael Gentles at a meeting in the community over two years ago.
"It was Mr Gentles who came to the meeting with us and told us that as soon as we find a place, 'if we find a place tomorrow' they will come down and deal with it. I found the place within the same day. I even showed them the place and they said it is okay. It is really the postmaster general which is the problem. I played my part, I located the place," Bartley argued.
Since that meeting, the position of Postmaster General Gentles has been taken over by Lincoln Allen.
Hamilton expressed the changing of the guard might have been the cause for the delay.
"I know it is something that they [Jamaica Post] want to revive which I do intend to restart the advocacy because I think there may be a new person at postal corp so the person I dealt with may possibly not be there anymore…but I guess that I will have to re-engage them and see what can be done. It is a real concern. We have people there elderly, disabled who have a difficulty moving from one place, especially if you coming from Bunker's Hill, Deeside to go all the way to Bounty Hall. So it's a real problem," she conceded.
When contacted, Allen, who said he was unaware of the issue, asked the Observer West to submit queries in writing.
"We are on a journey of change," Allen said.