'We need more fire stations'
May Pen mayor says lack of funds standing in the waySaturday, August 21, 2021
BY HORACE MILLS
MAY PEN, Clarendon — Several assets in Clarendon are at risk due to the shortage of fire stations — a situation that Winston Maragh says he is trying to address but can't find the funding needed.
Maragh, chairman of the Clarendon Municipal Corporation, said at least three more fire substations are needed in the towns of Kellits, Chapelton, and Lionel Town. Based on his estimates, the combined price tag would be at least $60 million.
The parish currently has only two fire stations, which are the divisional headquarters in May Pen and a substation at Frankfield.
“There is the need for more fire stations in the parish to satisfy the demand,” Maragh, who is also the mayor of May Pen, asserted. “We have a local sustainable development plan for the parish. When we were putting it together and doing consultations with communities all over the parish, it was identified that we need more fire stations.”
Based on the location of the two existing fire stations, Maragh reasoned that, in the event of a blaze, properties in a number of communities and towns would be destroyed before fire personnel get to them. That was the case in the Kellits area recently, when fire destroyed two houses a few weeks apart. Alexander Nembhard, an 81-year-old man, died in one of those house fires.
Maragh said: “If there is a fire in Kellits or in Croft's Hill or anywhere in that region, by the time the fire truck leaves Frankfield and gets around there everything is flat due to the time it would take and the situation with the roads and all of that... When we have a fire, say down in Milk River or in Portland Cottage in the south [of the parish], by the time the [fire] truck gets there everything is flat, not to mention if you call and the truck is already on another call.”
Properties have already been identified for construction of the three proposed fire stations, he told the Jamaica Observer. They are the old Public Works Department yard in Kellits, a plot of land owned by the Commissioner of Lands in the town of Chapelton, and a property near Monymusk Glades Housing Scheme in Lionel Town.
Elaborating on the proposed location in Lionel Town, Maragh disclosed: “That property was owned by the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings. I approached them and wrote to them some years ago and, as a result of that, they have given us a letter now to take possession of the property. It is there just outside Lionel Town in the middle of where [National] Housing Trust has just built the Monymusk Glades Housing Scheme.”
He added that, with the possible sites now been identified, the challenge is to get the necessary funding to undertake the projects.
“We are actively seeking funding because we are not depending on the Ministry [of Local Government] alone to find the funds for this,” he said. “To build a brand new large building is going to take anything [from] about $45 million up to $100 million. But we are not looking at those huge stations; the ones we are looking at would be like substations to May Pen. We are looking at anything that will run us into about $20 million [each], which of course would consist of an office to operate from, and sleeping quarters, kitchen, bathroom and so on.”
Maragh also appealed to members of the private sector, as well as international funding agencies, to help build the fire substations.