MONTEGO BAY, St James — At least 150 shops will be built, hopefully in time for Christmas, to replace those burnt out at Montego Bay Shoe Market. But only if vendors sign off on the design they will be presented with this week.
Deputy mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon made the announcement on Friday during a meeting with the affected vendors. The fire brigade estimated that 60 per cent of the shops at the arcade were razed by an early morning fire on Sunday.
“We are going to come back here next week, we are going to put something to you, and if you say this is what you are working with and we can realise a quick turnaround in implementing, then you might end up in a shop for Christmas,” Vernon said during the talks held at Montego Bay Cultural Centre.
“You said that you want it so we are going to do the design; we are going to present something to you by next week,” he promised.
He explained the rationale behind the number of shops that will be built.
“We have on record 150 shops. So then, based on our planning, we can come up with 200 spaces — but we will have at least 150 spaces. It means that those of you who are out there because you don’t have a space to sell, we can accommodate 50 more people,” explained the deputy mayor.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Eron Samuels, who is in charge of operations in the St James Police Division, warned vendors that the new shops are for peddling wares — not for carrying out illegal activities. In the past there have been concerns that there was prostitution taking place at the facility.
“We’re only concerned about persons who sell wares and not the persons who sell body, so I don’t want us to go back to that sort of situation where that area is overrun with crime. Anything that we are doing, we want to ensure that it is safe for each and every one,” Samuels cautioned.
He told vendors that while he empathises with them, he still expects them to maintain law and order.
“Even though we have this incident I want us to ensure that we don’t have a chaotic situation going forward in terms of the locations that you are allowed to vend on the streets. The police, we are not going to sit back and allow you to run up and down like mad people on the streets. Whilst you are doing your business, please remember that we still have to maintain law and order,” said the senior cop.
“A lot of you know what transpired — [I have] my ears on the ground — so no matter what is done, if you don’t work with the police it will happen again,” Samuels warned.
He also cautioned against any conflict during the allocation of the new shops.
“Persons who are registered to this arcade: ‘Please ensure that you don’t allow people who did not lose or are not registered to take that benefit away from you because that is going to create chaos and that is more work for me,’ ” he appealed.