THEY STAY

Gov’t to al­low for­mer sugar work­ers to re­main in unf in­ished houses, avoids clash

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter

AC­CORD­ING TO highly placed sources, the Govern­ment is to al­low for­mer sugar work­ers to re­main in the new hous­ing units at Stokes Hall near Golden Grove, St Thomas, quickly putting an end to a po­ten­tial clash be­tween au­thor­i­ties and the res­i­dents, who had been in­sist­ing that they would not va­cate the un­fin­ished houses.

The Govern­ment had all 120 res­i­dents of the di­lap­i­dated bar­racks in Golden Grove sign con­tracts to tem­po­rar­ily re­lo­cate to the hous­ing units last Friday to re­duce risks as­so­ci­ated with Hur­ri­cane Matthew, which, at the time, threat­ened the is­land.

How­ever, even be­fore mov­ing in, the res­i­dents were adamant that they had no in­ten­tion of leav­ing, even though the houses do not have elec­tric­ity, water, or a func­tion­ing sew­er­age sys­tem.

Their in­sis­tence forced Agri­cul­ture

Min­is­ter Karl Sa­muda to call an emer­gency meet­ing yes­ter­day with mem­bers of the en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion teams, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the parish coun­cil and the health min­istry.

The of­fi­cial re­lease from the min­istry said that af­ter a tour to­day, “a de­ci­sion would be taken re­gard­ing the way for­ward”; how­ever, The Gleaner has learnt that the Govern­ment has de­cided that the res­i­dents will re­main, and the tour will be used to de­ter­mine how soon a sew­er­age sys­tem can be put in place.

En­gi­neers re­port­edly said they could fix a sep­tic sys­tem in three weeks.

Util­ity agen­cies such as the Ja­maica Pub­lic Ser­vice and Na­tional Water Com­mis­sion are also ex­pected to be called in to pro­vide regis­tra­tion and other sup­port.

“There is go­ing to be a fix and the is­sue will be solved,” an of­fi­cial close to the talks told The Gleaner on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rised to speak on the mat­ter.

COSTLY RE­LO­CA­TION

On Sun­day, Millicent Brown*, one of the oc­cu­piers, lamented that she had spent a lot of money to move her be­long­ings to the new unit and that she did not have the funds to move back to the old sugar bar­racks.

“A whole heap a money wi spend fi move come over yah. A Friday night dem gi wi di key seh wi fi move just fi hur­ri­cane, but some peo­ple a seh dem nah move back,” she said.

Most of the res­i­dents would have even­tu­ally got keys to the houses af­ter com­ple­tion, but act­ing per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in the agri­cul­ture min­istry Regi­nald Bud­han said there was no time­line for the of­fi­cial han­dover.

He also said the un­fin­ished houses were be­ing van­dalised.

The houses at Stokes Hall are 145 of the 397 built in sug­arde­pen­dent com­mu­ni­ties is­land­wide un­der the Govern­ment’s Sugar Trans­for­ma­tion Pro­gramme, which is funded by the Euro­pean Union.

A to­tal of 302 per­sons will ben­e­fit from the Stokes Hall houses, which should have been de­liv­ered nine months af­ter the $158 mil­lion con­tracts were signed in Jan­uary 2013 with con­struc­tion firm Al­car Con­struc­tion and Haulage Com­pany Lim­ited.

The houses are be­ing pro­vided free of cost to the res­i­dents, who will only pay to process the prop­erty ti­tles by the Land Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Man­age­ment Pro­gramme at a re­ported fee of be­tween $30,000 and $40,000.

FILE PHO­TOS

ABOVE: New hous­ing units at Stokes Hall, near Golden Grove in St Thomas, for for­mer sugar work­ers.

LEFT: The di­lap­i­dated bar­racks in Golden Grove, St Thomas, where the for­mer sugar work­ers were liv­ing up to last week.

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