Regional

JPS: Electricity theft behind broken street lights in St James communities

Utility company offers explanation as it defends RAMI system

BY CLAUDIENNE EDWARDS Observer writer edwardsc@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, April 11, 2014    

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THE Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has denied claims by the St James Parish Council that it disconnected street lights in Flanker/ Providence Heights and some other St James communities in January.

Director of Communications Winsome Callum, in a response to a Jamaica Observer query, said that theft of electricity from the street lights in the affected areas was to be blamed for the high incidence of outages.

"The JPS is not disconnecting street lights," she said.

"JPS teams have had to repeatedly fix street lights in Flanker/Providence Heights. It is interesting to note that an operation on January 15 revealed that 23 of the 28 street lights checked in Flanker had illegal connections attached. However, despite several appeals to residents from our teams to desist from breaching the street lights, the practice continues," Callum explained.

The St James Parish Council had moved a resolution claiming that the Residential Automated Metering Infrastructure (RAMI) system, which the JPS had installed in the affected communities, had resulted in the disconnection of street lights even as the light and power company continued to bill the parish council.

The issue came up at Tuesday's monthly meeting of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) as the St James Parish Council sought its support on the resolution.

The January 9 resolution attributed "increased and irregular power outages, fluctuation of electricity supply, and a dramatic and inordinate increase in electricity bills bearing no reflection to usage" to the installation of the RAMI system. It stated that the "RAMI system has failed to ensure a better supply of electricity".

The resolution demanded that JPS explain its actions and called for an inquiry to be conducted by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development into the matter.

On a split vote at Tuesday's KSAC council meeting, the majority of the ruling People's National Party councillors, 14, voted for the St James Parish Council resolution to be "noted", while nine of the 10 Jamaica Labour Party councillors voted in support of the resolution with one abstaining.

However, JPS has defended the integrity of the RAMI system.

"With regard to the complaint that the 'RAMI system has failed to ensure a better supply of electricity', we wish to point out that the problem of outages and fluctuations in power supply are predominantly driven by electricity theft," the light and power company stated.

"Of the seven communities in St James on the RAMI system, Flanker, the adjoining Providence Heights, Retirement and a small section of Pitfour have experienced increased outages. This is as a result of persons illegally connecting to the system. Before the introduction of the RAMI system, residents used throw-ups and other illegal connections on JPS wires. Since the introduction of the system, persons have [instead] turned their attention to tampering with the energy guard boxes, where meters are housed (mounted on poles). Interference with the RAMI system will lead to outages — this is one aspect of its anti-theft feature — hence the resulting outages in these areas," the company added.

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