Stuck in God's house

BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth – It seems the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation will be holding its regular meetings in a church rather than its home base for much longer than was previously anticipated.

In April, the council moved its monthly and other large-group meetings to the airy, expansive Black River Independence Baptist Church at New Town, just outside the centre of St Elizabeth’s capital, Black River. That move came as a result of a perceived need to increase physical distance between individuals as part of COVID-19 measures.

The thinking then was that all would be done for councillors, municipal staff, and others to return to their regular meeting room by this month.

But last Thursday the May monthly meeting of the St Elizabeth municipality was again held at the church in New Town.

“I would imagine that we will be here until general (COVID-19-related) restrictions have eased,” chairman of the corporation and mayor of Black River Derrick Sangster told the Jamaica Observer.

Sangster explained that thoughts of using partitions between individuals to minimise the risk of virus spread at the municipal corporation’s air-conditioned meeting room evaporated after an estimate of costs by assessors.

“The cost of doing partitions [is too high],” said Sangster.

The Black River mayor was “hopeful” that the apparent trending down of the number of COVID-19 cases in recent times, from alarming levels a few weeks ago, will make it possible for a return to home-based meetings in the not too distant future.

While happy for the spacious, airy conditions inside Independence Baptist Church, sound reverberation and “security” have been listed as concerns by some people, including councillors and journalists.

During last Thursday’s meeting, Sangster briefly noted that the “acoustics are poor”.

The meeting room and related facilities at the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation were completed in 2015 after several years of stops and starts at a cost of close to $30 million. It replaced a more than 100-year-old wooden structure, which is a National Heritage site.

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