Municipal bodies snub disabled in new headquarters
Lawmakers were left peeved on Wednesday after a startling revelation that two newly constructed municipal corporation buildings have run afoul of their own guidelines for public buildings by failing to create full access by the disabled.
Members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) were told by officials from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development that elevators had not been installed in the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) and the Portmore Municipal Council buildings.
Permanent secretary in the local government ministry, Marsha Henry Martin, told committee members that the responsible officers in the technical department would be held accountable for the oversight.
“It is unacceptable that the designs could have been done by the technical services department of the ministry without that in place,” Henry Martin declared.
The Portmore facility is nearing completion while the corporation in Westmoreland is now 98 per cent finished, but the councillors have occupied the building.
St James Central Member of Parliament Heroy Clarke expressed disgust that $104 million has been spent to date on the building housing the WMC yet the disabled are unable to access the second floor with comfort.
Clarke, a member of the PAAC, said the WMC rejects building plans with deficiencies, and yet it has fallen short of its own construction requirements.
“If we are the ones that are setting the precedent, then how can we tell somebody that they can’t follow us and do the same thing?” he questioned.
Committee Chairman Mikael Phillips agreed with Clarke that the failure by both the Westmoreland and Portmore corporations to accommodate the disabled was unacceptable.
Dwight Wilson, senior director in charge of technical services in the local government ministry, told committee members that the design of the WMC building was done in 2015, and it did not include provisions for an elevator.
“The provision of an elevator would have increased the cost of the construction significantly. We were thinking that a lift chair was a quicker and more economical solution to this issue,” he said.
In the case of the Portmore building, Wilson said that the design had the provision for an elevator but it was not built.
St Catherine South Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson said that none of the buildings should have been considered complete until facilities for the disabled were in place.