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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.

Second water shop to be built in Commodore, Portland

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) has earmarked a second water shop to meet the needs of residents in Commodore, Portland.

“The area is badly affected by a lack of consistent water. We constructed a water shop on the other side of the community, and I hear your cries. We understand the challenges that you are experiencing, and we have agreed to construct a second water shop,” announced Minister Desmond McKenzie during a tour of the area on Friday, June 11, 2021.

The first water shop in Commodore was constructed last year at a cost of approximately J$10 million.

Mayor of Port Antonio, Councillor Paul Thompson, said it “is a good move”, to build the second facility, as the other system is some 20 minutes away.

The concept of water shops – which was introduced in 2017 when the first facility was constructed in Pennants, Clarendon – is to provide potable water for residents in communities that are usually affected by drought. Each facility is outfitted with several 1,000-gallon water tanks as well as an administrative office.

“The water shops have been going exceptionally well…The cost of trucking water has become very expensive, and many of the municipalities are grappling under the burden,” added Minister McKenzie.

During his contribution to the 2021/2022 Sectoral Presentation in the House of Representatives; the Minister shared that the MLGRD has allocated J$110 million to construct new water shops, and the parishes to benefit will fall under the Rural Development Programme.  In total, J$325 million will be spent to provide water to rural communities across the country.

The MLGRD has constructed and commissioned into use seven water shops in the parishes of Clarendon (1), Manchester (2), St. Elizabeth (3) and Portland (1).

Local Government Minister proposes lifeline for entertainment industry

LUCEA, Hanover: Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, has proposed reducing entertainment-related fees collected by the municipal corporations to stimulate the sector which has been adversely affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Despite our challenges and based on our obligations, I am going to be putting it to the Mayors for their consideration, that if we take the decision to open the sector, that for a period we consider a reduction in the fees that are associated with the staging of entertainment events,” the Minister stated.

“I am hoping to get their buy-in on it because I think it will go a far way in showing the commitment of a collective response of Government to a sector which has been severely affected because of COVID-19.”

The Minister’s comments came during a sitting of a Special Council Meeting of the Hanover Municipal Corporation in Lucea on June 10, 2021.

The entertainment sector has been hard-hit since COVID-19 came to the shores of Jamaica last March. Entertainment events such as stage shows, dances, parties, round robins, and cookouts have been banned since last year as part of the Government’s measures to stem the spread of the pandemic.

“Everybody is feeling it and if we take that decision then I will urge the local authorities to come on board and let us try to return some semblance of stability to those who rely heavily on the sector,” added the Minister.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness is expected to make an announcement on the proposed reopening of the entertainment sector in the House of Representatives on June 22.

The Government has also been engaged in consultations with members of the sector on the prevailing health conditions in the country as well as the established protocols for the reopening of the entertainment sector.

Last week, Hon. Olivia Grange – the Minister with responsibility for Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport- disclosed that in anticipation of the sector reopening, several venues would be made available to entertainment players at subsidized costs.

The venues include Independence Park, Trelawny Stadium, the Port Royal Entertainment Zone and Seville Heritage Park and will also be retrofitted to comply with established COVID-19 protocols.

Poor Relief Department Continues to Nurture Promising Students -J$140m In Education Grants to Be Disbursed to Need Youths

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Poor Relief Department continues to nurture and support some of the nation’s brightest students who lack the resources to unleash their potential.

“The Poor Relief Department has nourished the dreams of many children from poor families, who have gone on to be shining examples of excellence,” said Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie.

“These students receive assistance for lunch and transportation, examination fees, books, uniforms, medication among other services. Since 2016, The Ministry started providing grants to the children served by Poor Relief who have excelled academically.”

Among the shining examples are Mr. Demar McKenzie, a medical doctor at the Kingston Public Hospital; Mr. Thorn Francis, a Mathematics Teacher at the Marcus Garvey Technical High School, St. Ann and Miss Sherry-Kay Purrier, a graduate of G.C. Foster College, who now teaches at Spot Valley High School. Mrs. Diana Sutherland, who was assisted by the St. Elizabeth Poor Relief Department, is now the Principal Financial Officer for the St. Elizabeth Municipal Corporation. There are also Miss Shonique Summerville, a student at Norman Manley Law School and Mr. Renaldo Facey from Denham Town in West Kingston who is now pursuing medicine at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2021/2022 Sectoral Debate, also highlighted the role of the Councillors and the respective Poor Relief Departments in advancing the nation’s children and young people in this positive way.

“I cannot end this discussion about the role of Local Government in education, without mentioning the Social and Economic Recovery and Vaccine (SERVE) Jamaica digital device component, for which J$140 million is being provided for purchasing tablets for students identified by the Councillors,” he stated.

“Madame Speaker, I must hail the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke. I am going to assign him a nickname that I hope he will accept. As far as I am concerned, Minister Clarke has been a godfather to Local Government. He has enabled this Ministry to widen and deepen its service in ways never done before, and I must express my deep gratitude for what he has done, and what he is going to do.”

The tablets initiative will be supplemented by the Ministry’s Education Grant to Councillors, which is also valued at J$140 million. It is administered by the Poor Relief Departments, which will assist needy students across Jamaica.

“Never in the history of Local Government has so much been done for our elected representatives, to achieve their representational targets in their parochial divisions. Things that have not happened in decades, are happening in these five short years since this Administration took office.”

Local Government to undertake $300m ‘Paint The City’ Initiative

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development will undertake the “Paint The City’ initiative aimed at generating employment as well as beautifying and upgrading town centres.

“This Ministry will take stewardship of this $300 million initiative. It will generate employment through beautification, mural painting, street sign installation and the improvements to selected markets. In Phase 1, the project will begin in Kingston and May Pen, and thereafter, it will be expanded to other parishes,” explained Minister Desmond McKenzie.

The Minister in his contribution to the 2021/2022 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives disclosed that the project will provide some 2,000 jobs across the targeted communities.

The ‘Paint The City’ initiative was announced by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke as part of the Government of Jamaica’s Social and Economic Recovery and Vaccine (SERVE) Jamaica Programme.

SERVE Jamaica is a J$60 billion programme that has been crafted for the country’s economic revival for this fiscal year following the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The activities under ‘Paint The City’ include:

  • painting murals in 21 communities in Kingston in areas of high historical and cultural value
  • beautifying rural town centres including installing perimeter fencing, cleaning up beaches, rehabilitation of sidewalks and cleaning drains
  • upgrading of community parks and other community improvement projects

“This project represents the effort of the Government to put our people to actual, productive work. It is about generating hope through increased employment as we pull free from the grip of the pandemic, and restore activity, life, and vigour to our towns and parish capitals,” added Minister McKenzie.

 

Rick’s Cafe Ordered Closed after Hosting Illegal Party

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has announced that well-known entertainment venue Rick’s Cafe in western Jamaica, has been closed after hosting a party

that breached the Orders under the Disaster Risk Management Act.

 

Under the powers available to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Rick’s Cafe is now closed for seven days. The police and the ODPEM monitoring team will ensure that

the closure Order is enforced, and the management of Rick’s Cafe has been summoned to a meeting with the Ministry and ODPEM for Monday. While we note the apologies offered by the entity. It is well

known that entertainment activities of this type have been banned by Order since March last year, when COVID-19 arrived in the country.

 

The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation did not permit this event to occur, and indeed, no Municipal Corporation has issued permits for events since last year.

 

“Other arms of Government are also taking action in response to this violation, which has caused outrage and evoked feeling of biased and differential application of the law.  I want to make it clear that no

preferential treatment is being given by the Government. This Administration does not and will not facilitate any form of inequity or division in the application of the law, and violators have been and will be

prosecuted. There are no two Jamaicas. The police are dealing with this incident, which has been captured on video, and I wish to remind everyone that these breaches carry significant fines, which include

the maximum $1 million and up to a year in prison on conviction. I want to thank all the people who continue to report the breaches as they occur and encourage them to keep informing us.”

 

Minister McKenzie said while the Government is resolute about protecting public health, it is not unmindful of the economic impact of the pandemic on all levels of the entertainment sector. “We do

understand the pain from the fallout. We are not indifferent to the sacrifices made by people in the sector and by those who depend on them. I have been meeting with representatives of the sector,

and very shortly, the Most Honourable Prime Minister will be having consultations with them as well. I call for good sense to prevail, as we must navigate this pandemic in a way that ensures our

collective survival and recovery.”