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Local Government Minister Announces That No Spectators Will Be Allowed to Attend Jamaica’s World Cup Qualifying Match This Sunday

Football fans will not be able to be physically present at Jamaica’s World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and Canada, scheduled for Sunday, October 10 at the National Stadium. Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has announced that due to the need to maintain close management of COVID-19, this match will be closed to the public.

“The Government cannot facilitate large gatherings for any purpose at this time, as we are still managing the public health crisis imposed by the pandemic. As the Minister responsible for the enforcement of the Disaster Risk Management Act and Orders, I wish to advise the public that no exemptions will be granted in respect of the upcoming World Cup qualifying game on October 10. No spectator, vaccinated or unvaccinated, will be allowed into the Stadium. Additionally, the public is reminded that under the current Disaster Risk Management Order, Sunday is a No Movement day. The protocols that I announced in May, which permitted the resumption of Club football under clearly defined conditions remain in place. I therefore expect the Jamaica Football Federation to be duly guided in its management of this World Cup fixture.“

“I am a football fan, and I fully understand why there would be calls for spectators to be present to cheer the Reggae Boyz on, but this cannot be allowed now. I ask that all the supporters of our national team tune in and enjoy the game remotely. The Government is managing the resumption of sport in a phased, orderly manner, consistent with the reduction in the country’s positivity rate. The impact of sport on social well-being and social development is well recognized, and the Administration will support all efforts to promote the enjoyment of sport in the safest way possible.

Local Govt Minister pledges support for late Ocho Rios firefighters

OCHO RIOS, St. Ann: The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development has committed support to the families of the two firefighters who died in a motor vehicle crash in St. Ann on September 13.

“I will be doing everything in my power to ensure that their families receive the best possible support. We will do what is necessary to ensure that the families are not too stressed too much in terms of all that is necessary,” stated Minister Desmond McKenzie during a visit to the Ocho Rios Fire Station in St. Ann on September 17.

“I am giving them the full assurance that I will work closely with the Commissioner (of Fire Stewart Beckford) to ensure that that is done.”

Young firefighters Alex Williams and Stephan Walters died in a crash along the Laughlands Main Road, St. Ann after transporting another colleague home. The men had just ended their work shift at the Ocho Rios Fire Station.

“This is a tragedy in every sense. They were young, hardworking Firefighters. When you put their ages together, it amounts to less than fifty years. I have been meeting with Stefan and Alex’s relatives and assured them of the prayerful support of the Jamaica Fire Brigade,” Commissioner Beckford said at the time of their passing.

The Minister also used the visit to express sympathies to the colleagues of the late firefighters. He added that the incident has highlighted the need for logistical support to firefighters working long hours to mitigate against further loss of life.

“I think the occasion is right to engage the leadership of the brigade in some discussion as to how we treat with situations that will prevent firefighters after completing long shifts to get home without them having to be sitting behind a wheel and driving, It is a discussion that has already started with the Commissioner and I intend to have the Board (of Directors) engage some more to see how this can be done.”

Assistant Commissioner in charge of Area 2, Julian Davis-Buckle, who was present during Minister McKenzie’s visit, also shared that the colleagues of Firefighters Williams and Walters have been undergoing grief counselling through the kind efforts of the Ministers Fraternal in the parishes of St. Ann and St. Mary.

Local Government Minister Expresses Great Sadness at the Deaths of Two Firefighters

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has expressed shock and sadness at the tragic passing of firefighters Stefan Walters and Alex Williams, who were killed in a traffic accident along the Laughland Main Road in St. Ann last night. They were assigned to the Ocho Rios Fire Station. 

“Both Firefighters had finished work and were going home after transporting another colleague home, when the accident occurred. I am very saddened by this…Firefighter Williams joined the Fire Brigade less than two years ago, and Firefighter Walters gave just over five years of service. I know that the whole JFB family is mourning the loss of these young servicemen, and I want to express my personal condolences to them and to the relatives and friends of Stefan and Alex. They lived lives of great purpose, and now, even as there is grief, we can recall their time on earth with pride.”

Commissioner of the JFB, Stewart Beckford said “this is a tragedy in every sense. They were young, hardworking Firefighters. When you put their ages together, it amounts to less than fifty years. I have been meeting with Stefan and Alex’s relatives, and assured them of the prayerful support of the Jamaica Fire Brigade.

JFB Addresses Claims of Disgruntled Drivers

The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) has moved to clarify the circumstances in which a small number of its Drivers protested at its headquarters yesterday, demanding completion of negotiations regarding salaries and related benefits.

Commissioner of the JFB, Stewart Beckford says the demonstrators, who stated that they are represented by the Jamaica Civil Service Association, are trying to enter into the far-advanced negotiations between the JFB and the National Workers Union, which represents the vast majority of the drivers, technicians and bodymen who work for the Agency. The Commissioner also stated that the protest action did not affect its operations across the island.

“The NWU won bargaining rights in 2014, and the negotiations in which we are presently engaged really intensified in the last financial year. We have a cordial relationship with the Union’s leadership, and we have made good progress regarding the items in their Statement of Claim, and I am certain that we will able to sign a Heads of Agreement with the NWU very shortly.

“What has happened is that these Drivers who protested yesterday, were originally represented by the NWU. For whatever reason, they decided to terminate their membership in that Union, which is the one that has bargaining rights for them. They decided to join the Jamaica Civil Service Association, which has tried to convince us that they should now be given a place at the bargaining table, along with the NWU, to represent these workers’ interests. This cannot be done, as the JCSA has no bargaining rights, and indeed, has not even served a claim on the Fire Brigade. The sentiments that were expressed in this protest yesterday, are therefore simply not true. It is the National Workers Union that represents this category of workers. The small number of drivers who protested yesterday, are the ones who broke away from the NWU.

“The Jamaica Fire Brigade is always sensitive to the needs and interests of its employees. In this regard, in relation to our Drivers and related contract workers, I reiterate that we are very close to concluding our negotiations with the National Workers Union, and we look forward to signing an Agreement in very short order.”

Local Government Minister Announces Donation Account for Haiti

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie has announced the launch of a special assistance fund for the Republic of Haiti.

“The people of Haiti are continuing to experience a torrid time as the forces of nature have been unleashed on the country, first, with the recent, massive earthquake and now, the heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Grace. The plight of Haiti concerns us all and a special donation account, managed by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management numbered 212387304, (NCB Oxford Road Branch) has been established, to which corporate citizens and members of the public can make financial contributions. The ODPEM stands ready to answer any questions that persons may have regarding how they can assist in this effort.

“I want to encourage everyone to contribute, as well as to hold the people of Haiti up in your prayers as they endure this period in their history.”

Rehabilitation plans for Negril Fruit and Vegetable Market

NEGRIL, Westmoreland: The resort town of Negril is to benefit from a new J$80 million facility to house its Fruit and Vegetable Market.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie announced that work is to commence on the market in short order will remedy the issues.

“It is a commitment we have given, and it is a commitment that we are going to keep because it is important. The commitment of this Government is to ensure that we provide the kind of environment for our market folks to work in and for people to go and shop and feel comfortable,” he said during a tour of the facility area on July 15.

The Negril Fruit and Vegetable Market project will be a collaboration involving among the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation and the Negril Chamber of Commerce.

He pointed out that rehabilitation of the Market is part of the Government’s thrust to continue its improvement of markets across the country.

“We have just spent some $47 million building a brand-new market in Port Maria. We have spent a substantial amount of money on the Brown’s Town Market. We have even improved the conditions in the Black River Market,” added Minister McKenzie.

Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, Councillor Bertel Moore, wants vendors to cooperate with the project, as it is for their own benefit. He called for all hands on deck in order to push through the works and “complete this market in a fairly good time”.

The Negril Chamber of Commerce has committed J$1 million to conduct the soil testing as part of the preparatory work required for the project.

President Richard Wallace reiterated that the Chamber is pleased to work with the Ministry on the upcoming rehabilitation project as it is a longstanding advocate for the market.

“We are very committed and happy to be a part of the project and we hope that within a short period we will see work starting.”

Innswood, St, Catherine underground water recharging station renovated – Plans being explored for similar facility in Clarendon

INNSWOOD, St. Catherine: The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) is exploring a plan to construct an underground water recharge station in Clarendon to ease water scarcity.

The proposed system will mirror the Rural Water Supply Limited’s (RWSL) Artificial Underground Recharge System in Innswood, St. Catherine.

“This is a very successful project, and we are looking at Clarendon to see if such a system can be replicated there,” said the MLGRD’s State Minister, Honourable Homer Davis.

“It is very, very important as it is a part of the 2030 Vision (Plan) that water must not be a prohibitive commodity. It must be a commodity that the public and citizens must have access to, and it is one such project that will enhance the quality of life for its citizens.”

Minister Davis was speaking to the media during a tour of the Innswood facility on July 13. The operation and maintenance of the facility fall under the purview of the RWSL, which is an agency of the Ministry.

The St Catherine facility sits on 68 acres of land and its main function is to divert water from the Rio Cobre River through the National Irrigation Commission canal during the wet season.

After the water is extracted from the canal, it is settled and injected into limestone wells to recharge the limestone aquifer and to replenish the abstractions from wells in the Portmore/Bernard Lodge area.

“On a daily basis, approximately five million gallons of water is taken from the Rio Cobre and its treated settled, filtered and injected into some limestone wells that recharge the aquifer,’ explained Mr. Audley Thompson, RWSL’s managing director.

“This recharging basically provides an underground reservoir which is very expansive this allows the wells in eth limestone area to get a better supply and prevents the possibility of saline intrusion that is saltwater coming up when the wells are pumped.”

The Innswood system also underwent a recent renovation. It was constructed in 2017 at a cost of J$1.1 billion with financing from the Inter-American Development Bank.

“It is important that we have these wells being recharged, to ensure easy access to potable water and we are also encouraging citizens to have the necessary storage capacity to deal with rainwater harvesting. We have to look at various measures to put us in a better position,” concluded the Minister.

Steer Town benefits from Rural Electrification Project -150 houses to be wired under the plan

STEER TOWN, St. Ann: Some 150 households in Steer Town, St. Ann will be wired for connection to the national electricity grid under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development’s (MLGRD) Rural Electrification Project.

The work, which is being carried out under the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), is expected to be completed by August.

“We are officially launching this special project where we are working in communities right across the country in providing electricity, not the one that we are accustomed to in many communities with the throw-up on the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) line,” said Portfolio Minister Honourable Desmond McKenzie.

“The Andrew Holness government is providing some J$250 million (and) we are not just putting in the structure in the various homes and communities. We have developed a partnership with the JPS, and I want to say how grateful we are for this partnership.”

The Minister was addressing residents in Roaring River, Steer Town on June 24.

“The partnership with JPS is that once we have wired and the homes are certified, they will connect you to their system and you become official paid-up customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company. This investment by the Government is coming from your tax dollars and it is going to be important that you not be good customers for just the first six weeks or two months, and then after that you become delinquent.”

Work in Steer Town, the pilot community, began in May at a cost of J$38m.

The programme forms part of the Government’s efforts to provide vulnerable households with electricity access. The JPS through its Community Renewal Unit will sign contracts with the householders for them to become regularised.

The Rural Electrification Project is also providing employment for members of the Steer Town community.

According to JSIF’s Managing Director, Mr. Omar Sweeney, a little over 100 premises have been wired.

“They still need to be inspected by the GEI (Government Electrical Inspectorate) and the light poles by JPS are almost complete in terms of that infrastructure. So, we anticipate that certainly by August, persons will have their electricity accounts established with JPS and will really be able to have some more reliable service.”

Each targeted household will receive a stanchion to take the connection from the main supply, the meter socket and a panel inside the house for the safety and the switches.

“They will receive two plugs and two lights within the premises. But the panel will give them the opportunity to also expand more in their own right…it will certainly be adequate to carry whatever loads that the average householder in the community will use,” added Mr. Sweeney.

Mr. Ramsay McDonald, Senior Vice President Customer Services at JPS, expressed his gratitude for the partnership.

“Our role here in this community, firstly is safety. Too many things happen when there is not a proper infrastructure in place and I know the people of Steer Town have a desire for safe reliable electricity and that is what we are bringing to the community today,” he stated.

“We are looking forward to great things as we continue to work with you in this community, and that it will become a flagship for other communities that we will work with throughout the island.”

Ministry assessing readiness of emergency shelters

MANDEVILLE, Manchester: Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, has embarked on an islandwide tour of emergency shelters to assess their readiness for the 2021 Hurricane Season.

“We are now heading into the hurricane season and we are making sure the shelters are in a state of readiness. All of the ones we have visited so far are 100 per cent ready and in working condition and I commend the team in Manchester for a job well,” said the Minister during a visit to that parish on June 18.

To date, Minister McKenzie along with officers from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the Ministry’s Technical Unit have visited shelters in the parishes of Hanover and Portland.

The team is also scheduled to undertake similar activities in St. Ann and St. James by month-end.

The Minister underscored that the accommodation numbers at each shelter are in keeping with the COVID-19 social distancing protocols, which require six feet of space between persons. Each designated location also features an isolation area as per public health requirements.

The ODPEM will provide sanitization products for the shelters as well as additional masks.

Acting Deputy Director General at the ODPEM, Mr. Horace Glaze, stated that the agency continues to support the municipal corporations and volunteers who work as shelter managers.

“We not only provide training for our shelter managers, but we also ensure that they receive the necessary sensitization in the COVID-19 protocols and how to operate at the shelter facilities, and to ensure that a COVID-19 monitor, or a protocol officer is included as part of the shelter team,” he said.

He noted that the ODPEM is pleased with the work in preparing the facilities that have been designated as emergency shelters.

Infrastructure in Vaughansfield Housing Scheme to be Upgraded

The Vaughansfield Housing Scheme, in St. James, has been earmarked for an approximately $35 million infrastructure upgrade project by the Government.

This forms part of a multi-billion dollar national programme to upgrade infrastructure of some 100 housing schemes across the island that were constructed in the first 10 years of the National Housing Trust (NHT).

The scope of work for the Vaughansfield Housing Scheme will include the rehabilitation of 1.5 kilometres of roadway, sidewalks and drains.

At  a   St. James Municipal Corporation/National Housing Trust community meeting, held at the Maroon Town Community Centre, in the parish, on  June 17, Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Homer Davis, said the project will restore pride and value in the Vaughansfield Housing Scheme.

“This housing development was among the first to be constructed by the NHT [and] we will be spending to bring back life in this community; to bring back pride to residents and to ensure that the value of your houses are restored,” he added.

The State Minister pointed out that  most of  the residents in those 100 schemes are retirees – former teachers, policemen and nurses.

Mr. Davis emphasised that the value of their hard-earned investments should be increasing and not decreasing.

One resident of Vaughansfield Housing Scheme, Marsha Daniels Powell, told JIS News that the community welcomes the project, noting that it brings hope for other opportunities.

“I really hope that as they develop these particular infrastructure that we will have better lighting and better networks. We are hoping for better responses from our network providers and from JPS,” she said.