Brown Town Road before the JEEP project upgrade. (PHOTOS: BRIDGET DIXON)
SPALDING, Clarendon — RESIDENTS of Brown Town in Cumberland, Clarendon North Western, say that until a few months ago their road was little more than a wide footpath.
Nowadays they are describing it as a “highway”. The elevated status comes in the wake of a $10-million Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) project to upgrade the 922-metre stretch.
State minister for works Richard Azan boasted at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the “new road” that the project started on July 16 and ended on August 21 — “on time and within budget”.
Sixty people from Brown Town were recorded as having received employment from the project, which was contracted to Percival ‘Clair’ Broderick of C&C Construction Ltd. Community elder Miriam Richards, who was among the large crowd of residents at the formal road opening, gave visitors an impression of how difficult conditions were before the upgrade.
“It was a dirt road, mud and bush,” she said. “When the rain fall you dare not walk, you are scared … your shoes, you don’t know where to step (because of mud and pools of water),” she said to loud applause. The situation meant that taxi drivers would often refuse to enter the community especially, after rain.
Now, after the upgrade, including paved surfacing and widening, residents say taxi drivers are quick to come, sometimes driving too fast on the “highway”. “Now I am driving on the JEEP…,” said a delighted Richards. “When you coming from Spalding and when you see that taxi lift, the hill is like you going in an aeroplane…,” she added to laughter and applause.
Azan, who is member of parliament for Clarendon North Western, including Brown Town, proudly spoke of the immediate benefits.
“The price of your land gone up, you can able to go out anytime you want, you can pick and chose which taxi yu tek because no taxi driver not going to say they not going to come a Brown Town anymore,” he said. Azan joined other speakers in urging residents to take care of the road.
“Part of your responsibility is to help to maintain it (road),” Azan said. “You can’t block the drain them, you have to make sure the drain them open. If you see little bush a grow on the road, tek you cutlass and go chop it,” he said.
With a number of those attending the function wearing the orange colours of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP), Azan reminded them that the project was not meant to be politically divisive. “It is for everyone,” he said.
Azan took the opportunity to mount a strong defence of the JEEP programme which has come under attack from Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokespersons. The critics should come to communities like Brown Town and see the difference in people’s lives that the project was making while creating worthwhile employment, he said.
“Some people feel is only some people get JEEP money; every Member of Parliament in the last allocation get $10 million to do a project in their constituency. That total up to $630 million that JEEP is spending across the length and breadth of Jamaica through MPs.
But another $140 million has been allocated to parish councils across the island to select projects, and another $56 million has been allocated for special projects that the JEEP secretariat decide on … so when you add it up is almost $1 billion been spent right now,” he said.
He cautioned users of the Brown Town road to drive responsibly and avoid speeding. Residents should also be on the alert for criminals who may be attracted because of the improved road conditions.
They should stay in close contact with the police, he said. Azan also had special praise for Broderick, not just for completing the project efficiently and on time, but for his civic responsibility in trucking water to the people of Brown Town during the recent severe drought. Broderick, Azan said, had left his mark in Brown Town.
Published By: The Observer
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