Investigators at Frankfield Fire Station in Clarendon are still trying to determine the cause of a blaze, which damaged a section of the Crooked River / Brae Head Skills Training Centre in the Clarendon Northern constituency on Sunday, October 11.
Fire personnel said they were informed at 11:25PM via telephone about the blaze, which left damage valued at an estimated $5 million.
They also confirmed to The Beacon that they are in possession of two bottles containing liquid substance that is yet to be tested. It is not yet known if the bottles or substance are linked to the fire.
Former Member of Parliament for Clarendon Northern, Horace Dalley, who visited the centre after the blaze, said the administrative block is damaged, adding that many young people are affected.
“A lot of kids have been going to that centre – [some] from as far as Prospect and May Pen. They were doing baking, cosmetology, bar service, barbering – a lot of skills. The centre served the community well and we have a good well-managed board,” he said.
Dalley wondered who, if any one, would have wanted to destroy the building. “When I went there, tears came to my eyes. I know that, if something is in the area that has benefited so many people and will still be able to benefit a lot of people, why would somebody want to burn it down,” he added.
“I am heartbroken… I built it (the centre) from nothing; I built it from scratch; I have personal interest because I am someone who have a deep interest in education and training. When somebody has a certificate, you can’t take away that skill from the person. Anywhere in the world they go they can call on that skill.”
Dalley further explained that he, along with some Clarendon Northern students who were enrolled at the University of Technology, designed the project, which stands today as the skills training centre.
He said construction commenced in early 2006, and the state-owned HEART Trust was asked to undertake a survey of the area and find out what skills the young people wanted.
Dalley recalled: “We started to build the centre from SESP (Social and Economic Support Programme) money, [and] personal funds that I put in. Many times when the workers were to be paid and there was no money, I had to pay them.”
Dalley lost the September 2007 General Election. At that time, the centre was built, but not furnished.
He told The Beacon that, subsequent to his defeat, persons vandalized the facility. “The entire centre was vandalized – everything removed, [including] bathroom bowl, every single door, everything was taken out of the centre,” Dalley added.
He also claimed that, while he was out of office, he, without success, tried to convince the then Member of Parliament, Lawrence ‘Laurie’ Broderick, to repair and furnish the centre.
Dalley won the 2011 General Election and eventually resumed work on the facility.
He explained: “I came back in 2011 and we started to refurbish the centre again from the Constituency Development Fund, donations, etcetera. We finished it – completely finished it. We put in additional classrooms, etecetera. For the furnishing, I was at the Ministry of Finance [as minister without portfolio], and I spoke with the European Union; they gave us a grant for furniture and equipment.”
Dalley noted that the Embassy of Japan at the time also contributed funds through its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project.
The centre eventually commenced operation in 2015.
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