Missing funds?

Claims and counterclaims about money collected to repair road leading to Winnifred Beach

Observer staff reporter

Monday, October 16, 2017

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THERE are conflicting reports about whether or not money collected by the Winnifred Beach Benevolent Society to assist with the rehabilitation of the road leading to the free beach was in fact used to do so.

Two members of the benevolent society, who asked not to be identified, told the Jamaica Observer North & East that since a court case was won by the group, money has been collected from visitors to the beach and from residents in surrounding communities for road repairs now being done by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).

The two said that it was shameful that the road is being repaired by the UDC, which lost to the benevolent society in a matter brought before the court, when money was already collected to do so.

The two members also alleged that a website was set up to solicit contributions from people to develop the free beach, but said no one knows who set up the website or who the US$13,000 allegedly collected went to.

Observer North & East made checks, but could not find this website.

“We not pointing nuh finger or saying is any wrong doing; we just saying money was collected and is UDC fixing the road,” one of the two said.

“It nuh look good. Now UDC can come tek back the beach because it's dem fixing the road,” the member added.

The UDC was ordered by the court in November 2014 to grant public access to the Portland beach, ending a five-year legal battle between residents and the entity. Four members of the society had taken the matter to court, seeking a declaration of the public's absolute and indefeasible right to access the beach.

But vice-president for the Winnifred Benevolent Society Cynthia Miller told Observer North & East that the road is being repaired by the UDC because “they are the owner” and “they have the title”.

“The person who told you that money was collected for the road, ask that person how much money was collected,” Miller said when contacted by Observer North & East by telephone.

“I can tell you, for me, I have been on Winnifred beach for 22 years, and I have been working here on this beach and have never witnessed somebody give me money or donate to persons money to fix the road and we don't use it on the road. The only money that we have been collecting was asking for a contribution at the gate and sometimes the guy at the gate collects.

“I have receipts. Sometimes we collect $3,000 or $4,000. …I can show you the list of all the money that has been collected here on the beach. The money that has been collected, we pay the life guard, the lady for the bathroom, the garbage truck to come here and we pay to clean the beach,” Miller explained.

She said in order to repair the road, the society would need approximately $20 or $30 million and that money of that amount has never been collected.

“I won an award at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre of $100,000 and I can show you that I used it on the road. Every cent went on the road. I didn't take a dollar. I never hear people donating money for the road and we haven't done so.

“We have been begging, we have been pleading and asking people to help us. And at the end of the day if somebody collect $6,000 or $5,000, that cannot do any work on the road. That's foolishness; it's like wasting that money,” Miller argued.

As it relates to the website that has allegedly been collecting money for the development of the beach, Miller said the benevolent society has just started its website and has no knowledge of that.

“We have a bank account…so if any money was contributed on our website it has gone straight to that account,” the woman said.




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