KSAMC, US mayor pursue water and sewer issues
Mayor of Kingston Councillor Delroy Williams (left) with Mayor of Schenectady (New York) Gary McCarthy at a briefing at KSAMC, downtown Kingston, on Thursday. Photo: Karl Mclarty

One of the most troublesome issues facing mayor of Kingston, Councillor Delroy Williams, has been the lack of funding for improvements to the Corporate Area's (Kingston and St Andrew) sewer and water problems.

Less than a month ago, Williams, confronted with sewage plaguing sidewalk vendors in downtown Kingston, was forced to take into consideration the fact that not only street vendors were affected, but the average visitor to the downtown Kingston area that the corporation has been trying to develop for tourism attraction.

Williams criticised the vendors for their treatment of the areas allotted to them in the past, and warned that the lack of persuasion had led to deterioration in their pursuit of free enterprise, due to the fact that they are not structured enough and may have to stay clear of the business area.

"I keep saying that the municipality wants to do things but we need money. If we had the money, trust me, the place would have been spic and span. It's not that we don't want to do it, we just don't have the money and the resources to do it but, because we don't have all the money to do it, we need cooperation to make the task easier," he said.

Now, suddenly a ray of hope has descended on the KSAMC, which Williams heads, with a likelihood of the city of Schenectady, and its generous Mayor Gary McCarthy, cooperating with the KSAMC to deal with the issues of raw sewage and water flowing through sections of the city, through mutual cooperation.

Incidentally, the relatively small New York City of Schenectady has quite an image for its size, including the fact that it was the home of Thomas Edison, historically one of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time. Edison exerted tremendous influence on modern life in the city, contributing inventions such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera as well as improving the telegraph and telephone ensuring that citizens pay for the service they get.

The visiting mayor said that water and sewage issues will pay for themselves, as people are willing to pay for "good drinking water and systems which produce good drinking water" and sewage systems that are safe and healthy and for commercial development.

McCarthy said that since 2011, Schenectady has undertaken large amounts of borrowing to upgrade its sewer and water systems up to 2017, resulting in the city borrowing some US$42.9 million for sewer problems and over US$9.8 million for water, respectively.

He said that the city's sewer debt alone has quadrupled over the past seven years to US$52.8 million, for both sewer and water systems, involving pipes, replacement of ageing and outdated equipment and rehabilitation of its water plant. Borrowing for the sewer system went over US$20.7 million, with the majority of the funds going to the city's water treatment plant,

The Jamaica Public Service(JPS) Limited, which invited the mayor, noted that Williams was invited as a guest to meet McCarthy at the Smart City Demonstration Project launch in New Kingston. That project is said to be on the verge of becoming a reality, with speculation that its roll-out this year will be extended into 2033, which would give the KSAMC and the Schenectady Council enough time to help drag their 100-year-old sewer systems into 21st-century reality.

McCarthy admitted, at a press briefing, arranged by Williams at the KSAMC Church Street office on Thursday, that after kicking off the Smart City Conference in New Kingston on the previous day that, hopefully, the entities would be at a stage where they could foster a partnership or relationship.

"Where we can share some of the knowledge that we have, and also learn from some of the good things that have been happening in Kingston, and in the island, to our mutual benefit: To make our communities stronger and better and more sustainable" McCarthy said.

"I am humble to be here and thanks for the hospitality that has been shown today," he said, noting that smart city is a broad topic with different meanings to different people.

"I look at it as how you use that and emerging technologies to look at being more efficient, in terms of providing services to become cost effective by a higher level of accountability and also able to be more transparent," he stated.

"We all learn together from our strengths and weaknesses and the opportunity to build on our friendship and relationships with Kingston, which is a very significant thing for both of our respective communities,"' McClarthy said, noting that his city council has already developed the necessary technologies and can share them with the KSAMC.

"But, we also have to learn that we are doing things in policing, whether it is with managing our water, or picking up garbage or managing the streets. We try to use technology to improve any of those areas of service. We don't have all the answers so, again, those are some of the things that we have talked about. We have talked about homelessness. We have talked about economic development. We have talked about tourism; and they are issues in which we can learn from each other," the mayor noted.

Williams responded that there were quality and distribution issues in terms of delivering water to residents as well as sewer issues that are important in the management of the municipality, which have to be addressed with the assistance of the Schenectady Council.

"What we are doing is building and deepening our relationship, so that we can mutually benefit from the relationship by having further discussions on various issues that concern us both. I believe that we can mutually benefit from it," Williams said.

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior writer balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

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