$80-million fix
Power solutions for three Westmoreland communities
Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz (second right) meets with residents of Prospect, Westmoreland. Looking on are Westmoreland Western Member of Parliament Morland Wilson (right); managing director, Jamaica Social Investment Fund Omar Sweeney (third right, partially hidden); Jamaica Public Service Operations Manager for St Elizabeth, Westmoreland and Hanover, David Lewis (fourth right); and councillor for the Friendship Division Kevin Murray (fifth rigfht).

PROSPECT, Westmoreland — By the end of next February inadequate infrastructure that has resulted in low and irregular electricity supply to Barrack Road, Cooke Street, and Prospect in Westmoreland should be a thing of the past.

An $80-million fix has been proposed, the result of a memorandum of understanding between Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and Jamaica Public Service (JPS).

During a recent tour, Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunication and Transport Daryl Vaz gave a commitment that work will be done to address challenges being faced.

"We will drive the programme, as I said, and we will do it with a whole-of-Government approach to make sure that when we leave this community, the community is properly lit; and all the other areas that come outside of my portfolio responsibility — road and water, which are the big two prides — will be a part of the overall plan," said the minister.

"I am very happy today because this is not just a tour to see what is happening [but] there are going to be results coming out of this tour. Some will take a longer period than some," Vaz added.

Among those who joined him on the tour was Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Western, Morland Wilson (JLP) in whose constituency Prospect falls.

"We have some 3,000 acres. We have quite a number of persons living in this community. There are a lot of persons who are suffering because of the irregular electricity that's being supplied to the community, and we have written letters. I have spoken to the minister and he has responded as the Government should; he is now here taking a first-hand look at the situation," explained Wilson.

"I want to say to the residents who are listening that we have heard the cries, we have heard the complaints about your appliances being burnt up, we have heard the complaints about persons who are suffering because of the low voltage in the community, and right now we have stepped out with JSIF to address this situation," added the MP.

He promised that, in the future, he will be making representation for a similar initiative on behalf of the communities of Egypt Gardens and Whitehall in Negril.

Councillor for the Friendship Division (JLP) Kevin Murray thanked the minister for revisiting the programme which he said started in Prospect some time ago but was delayed. He said residents are eager for it to be completed. Murray added that a supply of potable water and suitable roads are other challenges faced by residents.

Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Central George Wright (Independent), who was also on the tour, said residents have long complained of issues with utility poles, roads and drainage. Vaz's visit, he said, has given them all confidence that their concerns will finally be addressed. Wright thanked the minister; his junior who is responsible for REP, JC Hutchinson; and JSIF for visiting the communities for a first-hand look at the areas of concern.

During the tour, residents pointed to the importance of having street lights in their respective communities. The minister agrees.

"What I've indicated is that it has to be a holistic approach where you bring the Ministry of Local Government, JPS, and the municipal [corporation] so that there is an agreement that once these upgrades are done, automatically the process for the street lights start and are included. Then, you will have obviously happier residents who will have proper lighting inside their residences and outside in their communities," stated Vaz.

JSIF Managing Director Omar Sweeney said the Government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the islandwide programme that will benefit everyone.

"The more persons that have legal access to electricity lowers the operational cost for JPS. A lower operational cost for JPS means a lower light bill for everybody. And so, if you connect the dots, it's an investment by the Government to lower electricity cost for everybody," explained Sweeney.

During the tour, Vaz visited five communities. In addition to the three that will see a solution soon, the others are Farm Pen and Llandilo Phase Five. They will benefit from the JPS/JSIF programme within the next financial year as surveys and assessments have not yet been done.

"The people of Jamaica and people of these areas will begin to see the returns of their sacrifices over the decades of the taxes and everything that they are about to undergo, where they can see that they are now getting back something out of the Government," stated Vaz.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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