MONTEGO BAY, St James — Several councillors in St James on Thursday scolded two utility companies and the works agency for what they say is their lack of effectiveness in carrying out their obligations to the people of this parish.

They complained that the State-run National Works Agency (NWA) and National Water Commission (NWC) have continuously disregarded concerns shared by the local authority. The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) also came in for its share of criticism as the issue of non-functioning street lights was raised.

Councillor Charles Sinclair (Jamaica Labour Party, Montego Bay North East Division) expressed discontent with the habitual absence of an NWA representative from the St James Municipal Corporation's monthly meetings. The councillor, who is also a Government senator, noted that the agency needs to play a more active role by providing "a report on the infrastructure that they have under their portfolio".

"Something needs to be done about it. They are one of the critical stakeholders that exist in the parish. They have an office with officers that operate in the parish," Sinclair chided.

Pointing out that other agencies and stakeholders routinely attend the monthly meeting to give updates on work being done, the councillor urged mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Leeroy Williams to speak with the NWA about its absence.

Mayor Williams told the council that he will be speaking to Prime Minister Andrew Holness as he has had no success in having the matter addressed by the CEO of the NWA. The mayor pointed out that there are many issues across the parish that need to be addressed by the agency.

"There is no doubt that the National Works Agency has fallen on the job and not only are there many street lights that are out, but there are so many poles that are down on the elegant corridor, and it is a serious problem out there. The work agency needs to address these situations. They are the ones who are responsible," he said.

Joining in to voice his annoyance with the water commission was Councillor Anthony Murray (Jamaica Labour Party, Rose Hall Division) who said that several communities he represents have been without running water for weeks.

"I have reached out to NWC and, just like NWA, it seems like the authority of the council is being disregarded. I am happy that my superintendent was able to assist me with a load of water because the schools and health centre in the area were on the verge of closing due to the lack of water," he said.

Murray cited a recent example that has left him convinced that dialogue also needed to be had with JPS.

"I got a very strange text message from one of my constituents this week to say that there is a non-functioning street light at her gate, and she went to JPS to report the same. JPS told her that she has to come to the councillor to make that report. When did it become the councillor's sole responsibility to report non-functioning street lights?" he queried.

Councillor Mark McGann (Jamaica Labour Party, Somerton Division) waded into the discussion to point out that there are inadequate street lights in his rural St James division. He said residents have complained that they are afraid of being targeted in the dark if they walk around their communities at night.

"We have to implore JPS because street lights in a community are a must. We have to put up these street lights for our citizens to feel safe," he said.

BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON Observer staff reporter claytonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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