McKenzie promises opening of Barnett Street Fire Station by August
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie (centre) in dialogue with Kevin Haughton (right), deputycommissioner, Jamaica Fire Brigade. Looking on at left is Richard Vernon, deputy mayor of Montego Bay, and other officials involved in theproject. (Photo: Anthony Lewis)

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Following an August 2021 missed date to have the construction of the long-awaited $574-million Barnett Street Fire Station completed, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie has insisted that firefighters will be able to start occupying the building on a phased basis before August of this year.

“I am pretty confident that well before we celebrate our 60th year [of Independence], this facility will be open for the benefit of the people of Montego Bay and the wider western Jamaica. It is a lot of work and, as you know, we have to be mindful of how we treat international funding that has been used for the construction of the facility,” the minister shared.

McKenzie argued that while the people of western Jamaica have been waiting for the facility, minor work is left to be carried out on the facility.

“There are still some minor works being undertaken; the rain in the latter part of last year created some disruption of the work. The contractor has completed their share off the responsibility, in terms of the actual contract that they signed, and the brigade is now working to complete the minor details,” explained McKenzie.

“So, the fire brigade along with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund and the ministry will be working with them to complete the minor details of the facility, and once that is done the brigade will be moving in on a phased basis. The furniture and everything are in place, they have been secured, and once the furniture has moved in, we will be ready for the official opening. But I am really pleased about the progress so far and the fact that after a long wait, [it] will finally come to a reality,” assured McKenzie.

He noted that the utility connections for the building are almost completed, and the sewer line has been put in place for the connection by the National Water Commission to be made. Also, the provision of phones and the Internet is almost completed, as well as the installation of a reliable electricity generator that will provide electricity whenever there is a main power outage.

The emergency vehicles that will be parked at the facility awaiting calls will enter the property on Howard Cooke Boulevard and exit on Barnett Street. However, with the area being a main thoroughfare that could pose a hazardous challenge for the emergency crews, the minister said there will be traffic lights in the area.

“Yes, that is one of the features that is being worked on. The costing on that has been done. The National Works Agency has been engaged and that will be put in,” disclosed the minister, who noted that the firefighters will not have to wait for this to completed to occupy the building.

McKenzie said the Barnett Street Fire Station, which is probably larger than the York Park facility in Kingston, is the first major facility that has been constructed by the brigade in the last 60 years.

Meanwhile, deputy commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), Kevin Haughton, said the JFB is pleased with the progress of the project and has put in place a relocation plan. He said orientation has been done with staff to facilitate the phased relocation.

Deputy mayor of Montego Bay Richard Vernon, for his part, pointed to the rapid growth of the city and the importance of the station.

“It is very important that we have such a facility as this, with Montego Bay growing at the pace at which it is. For any city to be sustainable we must have a facility that is able to respond to the growing infrastructural changes and also to protect the life and property of the citizens of Montego Bay,” he said.

When completed, the state-of-the-art facility will boast dormitory facilities to facilitate the seamless deployment of firefighters across various shifts; and adequate administrative facilities and parking bays for trucks and other emergency vehicles.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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