MONTEGO BAY, St James — Deputy mayor of Montego Bay Richard Vernon says the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) is expected to save an estimated $12 million in electricity bills annually after the completion of a multimillion-dollar renewable energy project at the Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay.
The project, which involves the installation of solar panels inside the facility, forms part of the push by the local authority to establish Montego Bay as a sustainable city, is expected to begin within the next few months.
Vernon, who also chairs the SJMC’s infrastructure and traffic management committee, said the project, which is estimated to cost US$270,000 is being partly funded by the Japanese Embassy through a US$100,000 donation.
“The whole idea is that we are moving forward with the development of Montego Bay as a sustainable city and what that means is that we are going to look at the areas that we can make more sustainable,” Vernon told the Jamaica Observer West.
“The market is one of our largest facilities that use much energy to operate, so we also want to substitute the usage of electricity with renewable energy in the form of solar power.”
The monetary donation by the Japanese embassy is already made accessible to the SJMC; however, Vernon told the Observer West that an issue with the procurement of the solar panels has stalled the project which was to commence last September.
He explained that the Japanese embassy requires the SJMC to acquire a specific model and make of the items utilised in the project.
“We are well advanced in the discussion and negotiation for the project. The funding is available, but what we need to do is ensure that we have all the requisite things in place to realise the outputs of this project. Where we are now is trying to procure the correct model that is required by the Japanese embassy, so we can move ahead with the project. That is the hold- up as we were unable to procure the correct model of the solar system to do the project for the Japanese embassy,” the deputy mayor explained.
While he pointed out that the municipal corporation will need to source further funding to complete this solarisation project, Vernon told the Observer West that all donations are welcomed.
“This donation won’t be able to cover the project, so we will have to find our own source to complete the project, but the funding is welcomed and we appreciate that. Any assistance that we get outside of our own source, we usually appreciate those and try to use them as best as possible to get the efficiency and effectiveness out of the investment,” he argued.
In addition to solarising the market to reduce its carbon footprint, Vernon said the present infrastructure is slated to benefit from a well-needed upgrade by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. This, the deputy mayor said, will be done in phases.
He told the Observer West that the first phase is the solarisation project.
“We are going to do an upgrade of the Charles Gordon Market across the different sections over a few phases. One part is solarising the market and that is the part about us reducing our carbon footprint and ensuring that we contribute to the whole agenda of sustainable development,” he explained.
After the solarising project is completed, Vernon said the work to improve a section of the market called the ‘Gun Court’ and the main building will be tackled.
“A lot of our citizens use that section when they go down there on a Friday or Saturday to purchase their ground provisions and otherwise. So we want to improve that section because right now the flooring is not good and the structure for the venue is not the best place,” the deputy mayor said.
“There is also the main building and that is another section that the vendors use a lot, so we want to ensure that area is conducive to vending and shopping.”
He told the Observer West that the ministry has committed $60 million to this project.
Vernon noted that the SJMC has always been committed to improving the Charles Gordon Market and has taken several steps to push Montego Bay in the right direction. However, the deputy mayor said financial backing has not always been readily available to tackle these extensive projects, so the municipal corporation has been seeking additional ways to improve whenever funding is acquired.
“The truth is that we did an improvement plan for the Charles Gordon Market in 2018 and that was sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank to come up with a new design for the market. Though it has much assessment and a document was produced for it, we are finding it hard to identify the funds to redevelop the market because that proposal was to the tune of some US$14 million, and it is going to be hard for us as the municipal corporation to raise that sum to have a much-improved market,” he said.
“What we are doing is ensure that we improve the market up to a point where it is acceptable and conducive for shopping, and can house more vendors as we move to get them off the sidewalk, especially within the market district.”