Councillor looking to Lengthman Programme to fix drainage woesTuesday, July 20, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Richard Vernon, councillor for the Montego Bay South Division which experienced flooding recently, is hoping the Government's Lengthman Programme will provide the answer to drainage woes in the area.
“I am really looking forward to the prime minister's announcement of the Lengthman Programme right across the length and breadth of Jamaica. Once we have that programme in place, I am hoping that a few [projects] will be assigned to these areas [and] we can have more active maintenance of these infrastructure. [This will result in] a free passage of water so whenever we have a heavy shower, the water can run off as quickly as possible,” said Vernon.
He was speaking with the Jamaica Observer during a routine drain-cleaning operation last Saturday along Lower Bevin Avenue in Montego Bay.
A number of videos made the rounds on social media last Friday, showing pedestrians and vehicles struggling to navigate flooded roadways. The councillor attributed the problem to a combination of much-needed work to improve the drains and residents' improper disposal of garbage.
“We know that the drains here in Montego Bay need upgrading to manage the development that has taken place over the last 30 years and the capacity of water washing down from as far as Cornwall Courts. That area [was] developed a few years [ago] and, of course, with the removal of forestry and the installation and development of concrete, there is more run-off.
“That is why we have the situation with the North Gully where, as soon as it starts raining at the higher end, the lower sections start to flood or overflow,” explained Vernon.
“The contents coming from the drains, a lot of it is not sludge; a lot of it is commercial waste like plastic bottles, Styrofoam [boxes] and plastic bags. I have to keep asking that the citizens of Montego Bay to take better care in how they dispose of their garbage because this is also contributing to the temporary flooding in some areas. Not only will floods damage property but [will] also create a situation where roads are impassable.”
Vernon noted that each year $1.2 million is made available to each councillor from the Parochial Revenue Fund for drain cleaning. The funds are provided in two tranches, once in June and again in September, and Vernon said he does his best to make the most of the allocation though it is woefully inadequate.
“It does not take a lot of time for debris and garbage to build up in these drains; so for us to keep them in pristine condition, they [must] be cleaned regularly,” he said.
The councillor is hoping the Lengthman Programme will increase the regularity with which drains are cleaned.
During his contribution to the 2021/22 budget debate in the House of Representatives on March 18, Prime Minister Andrew Holness explained that the programme – first announced at the Jamaica Labour Party's 76th annual conference in November 2019 – had been delayed as a result of COVID-19 and the need to repair roads damaged by flood rains in July.
The prime minister He also announced details of the pilot project which will see the National Works Agency working on roadways from Dunrobin Avenue along Washington Boulevard, to Mandela Highway leading to the Jose Marti roundabout in St Catherine.
Holness said the Lengthman Programme is intended to facilitate preventative maintenance of critical infrastructure and is to be implemented at the community level by local residents.
“The programme is designed to do two things, one [is] preventative maintenance but it is also designed to bring employment and some relief and bring new income into these communities,” he explained.
Vernon is eagerly anticipating the jobs the project will provide in his division by providing routine drain cleaning.