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Electricity heading to Hanover village at last

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 25, 2014    

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SPRING MOUNTAIN, Hanover — For more than three years, 60-odd- year-old Karl Munroe has been living alone in this farming community without the 'luxury' of electricity.

According to the small farmer, who claims that his family has refused to take up residence with him in the quiet community due to the absence of electricity, life without such a vital commodity has been very difficult.

"It's really rough. I have to be lighting candles every night and hope sey me house nuh ketch a fire, and I can't even get to iron me clothes. A pure mash up clothes me haffi a wear," Munroe rued.

Munroe is just one of more than 300 residents of Spring Mountain, located in the constituency of Western Hanover, who has been trying for years to cope without electricity.

A little distance from Munroe's board dwelling, Carlton Robinson, another resident, told the Jamaica Observer that his family had been living without electricity for several months.

"When we just moved up here we had no current so we just had to cope without the electricity for quite a while. We had to hot iron on the stove to iron our clothes so we could get to go to work. Actually, every day we had to buy candles, not even a little ice water we could drink," said Robinson, who lives in Spring Mountain with his two young children and common-law wife.

He told the Observer that after almost a year of "the agony without electricity I managed to purchase more than 1,000 feet of electrical wires and run it from far out at the main road where the last light post stop, to my house".

"That really cost me a lot of money because I had to also buy poles to attach the wire to, and several other little things to make it work."

He argued, however, that although his supply of power is "not very reliable, it's still better than having none at all."

The electricity woes of the Spring Mountain residents are, however, expected to soon be a thing of the past.

This as Member of Parliament (MP) Ian Hayles, who was speaking in the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives, announced last week that Spring Mountain and several other communities in Western Hanover will get electricity under the Rural Electrification Programme (REP) by next June.

"Mr Speaker, believe it or not, in the 21st century, there are people in Western Hanover who do not have electricity in their homes, but we are about to correct that situation. For the first time, residents of Spring Mountain, Rock Hole, Prosper, Winchester, and other communities will receive access to electricity," said Hayles during his presentation. "Through the Rural Electrification Programme, and with the support of our hard-working energy minister, my friend the Hon Phillip Paulwell, we will extend this essential utility to thousands of residents. Soon, our people will be able to enjoy some of the things many of us take for granted: to get a cool drink of ice water, check their e-mail, or watch a football match on TV," he said.

Following Hayles' contribution to the sectoral debate, the MP visited Spring Mountain and the other targeted communities in his constituency where he met with residents to advise them of the latest development.

Munroe, like several other residents in Spring Mountain welcomed the news.

"This is really good news for us. We hope that within a matter of months we can get light in the community because it is well needed," Munroe stressed.

Robinson expressed similar sentiments.

"We really feel good to hear that. Believe me, we really feel good, right now it's like a man give me a million dollars. We just want to thank the MP and big him up," said an elated Robinson.

Interestingly, despite the absence of electricity in sections of the Spring Mountain community, a number of houses have been recently constructed there, while others have undergone major refurbishing.

Hayles told the Observer that the infrastructural work necessary for Spring Mountain residents to have access to electricity will begin within another two weeks, while work to bring the service to the other areas of the constituency will start within months.

He noted that the planned works in Spring Mountain constitutes the second phase of a project aimed at bringing electricity to an additional 300 residents of the area that he initiated a year after he was elected member of Parliament for Western Hanover in 2007.

"Phase One of the project really started in 2008 with funds from my Constituency Development Fund (CDF) after I became member of Parliament for the first time. That initiative benefited over 500 persons," said Hayles, adding that the works were undertaken at a cost of roughly $5 million.

Under Phase Two Hayles, who is also the state minister in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, noted that some 300 persons are expected to benefit.

He said that bringing electricity to all the communities in his constituency forms part of his government's thrust to develop rural communities.

"The prime minister has put great focus on rural Jamaica which includes giving rural folk potable water, roads and electricity and those are things that my constituency needs," he stressed.

"But although they are not coming as fast as we would have liked, we have to bear in mind the tight fiscal space that we are operating... so we are really trying to do our best."

"Hanover tax compliance rate is about 80 per cent which is one of the highest in the island, so I believe that Hanover residents deserve to get basic amenities such as roads, a reliable supply of water and electricity. All our people ask is for a small portion of what we send to central government to make small, but meaningful improvements to our infrastructure," added the two-term MP.

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