SECURITY Minister Dr Horace Chang has defended the decision to build the new Green Acres Police Station in St Catherine, arguing that it was the community, in its desperate need of the facility, that had decided on the greenfield site, which later turned out to be flood-prone.
Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, he explained: "They made it very clear that the road is likely to be flooded, but the location which was the green space for the community would not be flooded and they expected that the National Works Agency (NWA) would do the work to provide the drainage, which the NWA has agreed to do. The station was required as a matter of urgency — there had been significant criminal activity in the area. The old station was miles away and was falling apart."
At last week's examination of the first supplementary estimates by the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), the national security ministry came up short on answers regarding the approval for construction of the police station in that area.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Warren Clarke told the PAAC that the area had "always been one of challenge", and that the flooding problem had been assessed before construction on the $65-million project.
"Admittedly, we tried to avoid it because we knew we had problems. However, we were assured by experts that the area could be adequately drained. We took their advice, and when we continued we heard that some other design was necessary. However, there was some adjustment to the prescription, which caused the engineers to redesign the solution," he explained, advising that the station is 90 per cent complete.
The police station, which was flooded by heavy rains in October, remains unoccupied while the drainage issues are fixed, and Dr Chang promised that the works should be completed by next March.
He said the residents themselves had designed the station, raised the initial funding, and identified a contractor, after which the plans were submitted and approved by the ministry. "Having laid out a policy we did some redesign to meet the standards for police stations. When the redesign was done we needed more money [and] we proceeded to build," he said.
During the tabling of the report on the issues discussed with the various ministries and agencies at the PAAC sitting, St Catherine Southern Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson had again raised the matter, which prompted Dr Chang's response.
Said Jackson: "If we are failing to observe the standards that we impose, what can we expect from the ordinary citizen out there? Ninety per cent completed and the periodic inspection that is required the Government agency didn't do it, and what happen? The place is flooded, which will compromise the use of the police station in due time, and we are told that $70 million has to be spent for the drain."
The minister maintained that the interior of the station itself was not flooded, only the roadway to the station: "Normally, that road is not flooded. The contractor did, in fact, put the building on a platform above ground. The ministry decided that before opening the station we will in fact put in the drainage to protect the station. That is being done now."
— Alphea Sumner