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LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER CALLS FOR END TO ILLEGAL POWER CONNECTIONS AFTER FIREFIGHTERS ELECTROCUTED IN GREENWICH TOWN

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, is calling for greater levels of compliance with the law and social responsibility, after six firefighters were injured, three more seriously, while responding to a fire at Greenwich Town in St. Andrew in the early hours of this morning.

“Firefighters from the Trench Town Fire Station responded to a call at 2:17 this morning, when one member of the team came into contact with a wire that was illegally connected to the main power grid, and was thrown to the ground. On seeing what was happening, other firefighters tried to assist him and were themselves electrocuted. Three of the firefighters have been admitted to Hospital, where they are being monitored for irregular heartbeat among other symptoms. I am extremely thankful that they were clad in their protective equipment including rubber boots, otherwise their injuries would have been severe or fatal. Our firefighters are critical to the protection and development of our communities, the wider society and economy, and the Government through the Ministry, will ensure that their welfare is secured.

“I must make a public appeal for the practice of illegal throw-ups to cease. It is a clear fire and electrocution risk to those who make these illegal connections, as well as to all the people who inhabit the structures that are attached to them. Our firefighters are doing a dangerous job, and we should not do anything to increase their risk of injury or death.”

MINISTER MCKENZIE HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL GOVERNANCE

MONTEGO BAY, (JIS):

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has underscored the pivotal role of local government in Jamaica and emphasised the urgent need to counter prevailing negative perceptions surrounding local governance.

Addressing the monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation on April 11, Minister McKenzie cited the low voter turnout in the recent local government elections as a barometer of public sentiment towards local governance.

He noted that while some criticisms may be warranted, others stem from misconceptions or skepticism about the efficacy of local government.

The Minister said that Jamaica is one of the few nations in the region with a local government system, which, he pointed out, is critical to the day-to-day lives of citizens.

“I challenge anybody … to show me one aspect of life in Jamaica that local government is not involved in – our roads, our markets, buildings, our fire services, poor relief,” he said.

“It is important that we speak volumes about our achievements in local government, about the things…that we have been able to accomplish,” Mr. McKenzie emphasised.

He urged councillors to reflect on their responsibilities and to work towards upholding the local government framework.

“The question must be asked of us as councillors…are we doing what we are supposed to do? We have to demonstrate a certain level of responsibility in executing our duties to the people, not just here in St James, but right across the country,” he pointed out.

Turning to the work underway to develop the Charles Gordon Market in the parish, Minister McKenzie urged the St James Municipal Corporation to engage with the various stakeholders to ensure that the facility is utilised as intended.

“The work has started already and when the expansion is completed, it can’t be that [the Government] spends … in excess of $100 million to renovate the Charles Gordon Market and at the end of the day the market is empty, and you can’t get access to the road because the vendors find it more convenient to sell on the road,” the Minister pointed out.

“So, I am urging councillors to engage the people in your divisions who are vendors and even urge the shoppers not to engage with those who are selling in areas that are not designated for vending,” he said.

 

CONTACT: NATALIA DIXON

JIS REGIONAL OFFICE

MONTEGO BAY

Local Government Public Education Campaign to be launched

FALMOUTH, Trelawny: The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development will spearhead a public education initiative to educate Jamaicans on the roles and functions of municipal corporations and its elected parochial representatives in short order.

“There are going to be extensive sensitization programmes with councillors which will happen in the next two weeks. The handbook for councillors will be ready shortly. We are revising the handbook,” explained Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie.

“We’re not only providing information to strengthen the Councillors, but we’re going to be providing information so that the country can know the role of local government.”

He was speaking at the March 7 swearing-in ceremony for newly elected councillors as well as the election of Mayor and Deputy Mayor at the Trelawny Municipal Corporation in Falmouth.

Councillor Collen Gager representing the Warsop Division was sworn in as chairman of the Corporation and Mayor of Falmouth. His deputy is Councillor Jonathan Bartley of the Wakefield Division.

The Trelawny Municipal Corporation is made up of nine councillors – six of which were elected on the Jamaica Labour Party ticket and three from the People’s National Party.

“…I will champion the cause for Councillors to become more accountable, for councillors to be transparent, for councillors to be seen, to be felt in their respective divisions,” Minister McKenzie added.

“A number of polls were conducted which indicate that persons in every parish say they don’t know the Mayor, they don’t know the Councillor, and for me that don’t sound good.”

The Minister also urged Mayor Gager – who is now serving a third-consecutive stint as Mayor – and his team to be mindful and take note of public sentiments.

The Mayor used the occasion to urge the Councillors to serve with integrity and distinction.

“As we turn to the future, I am ready to lead our town and parish’s recovery and renewal. That means leading the way [in terms] of accountability, and pride in the execution of duties,” said Mayor Gager.

“Each Councillor will be held accountable for his allocation. Remember, the residents are holding us to task. Whatever you do or say will affect the Trelawny Municipal Corporation.”

SDC revamps its Summer Camp Programme

-New-look initiative aims to improve youth engagement and development

 KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Social Development Commission (SDC) has redesigned its Summer Camp Initiative aimed at providing a vibrant platform for youth engagement and development between the months of July and August each year.

The new-look programme, which received a $22.1 million cash injection from the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, was rolled out last year with 87 camps across the fourteen parishes.

The camps were organized through the Community Centre Management Programme – a cornerstone initiative of the SDC – and had approximately 4,356 participants between the ages of 1 to 24 years.

“These Summer Camps go beyond the confines of traditional classroom settings, focusing on activities designed to inspire, educate, and motivate young individuals aged 4 to 21 years,” said SDC’s Public Relations Manager, Mr. Mandel McKulsky.

“The carefully curated lineup includes workshops on conflict resolution, educational enhancement, career guidance, and motivational talks. Additionally, activities promoting personal hygiene, teamwork, stress management, nutrition, fire prevention, and substance abuse prevention are also on the agenda. These camps intend to instill life skills, values, and an understanding of children’s rights and responsibilities, preparing participants for various stages of personal and societal development.”

The objectives of the Summer Camps include enhancing personal character; building confidence; and cultivating skills through cultural and sporting activities.

The camps also provide a comprehensive education component that imparts essential life skills, values, and attitudes for survival.

Added Mr. McKulsky: “by creating an environment that fosters positive relationships between parents and children across generations, the camps contribute to the strengthening of family bonds. Moreover, the camps serve as a platform to generate interest in participatory governance, further promoting the initiatives of the Social Development Commission”.

The success of the initiative is also hinged on the collaboration between the SDC, Community Development Committees (CDCs), Community Centre Management Committees (CCMCs), stakeholders, and political representatives.

There was participation from several agencies to include the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) as well as the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).

“Through participation in fun learning activities, attendees developed social and interpersonal skills, as well as improved conflict resolution abilities. These camps also contributed to increased knowledge about human rights education, particularly the Child Care and Protection Act,” Mr. McKulsky explained. “By engaging young people in volunteerism and reducing the number of youths in need of social interventions due to lack of engagement, the programme creates a positive ripple effect in the community.”

The SDC Summer Camp Programme proposes, to not only to create a memorable summer experience, but also to empower a generation to become active contributors to their communities and society at large.

 

 

PM opens new-look Black River Fire Station

BLACK RIVER, St. Elizabeth: The capacity of the Black River Fire Station has increased to respond to the needs of the 65 communities it serves in St. Elizabeth following the construction of a new stationhouse.

Capital works to the tune of $77 million was expended on the facility to improve its working conditions.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness cut ribbon on February 21 marking the official opening event that was also attended by Minister of Local Government, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, and Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), Mr. Stewart Beckford.

“An important element of public administration is that there are emergency services. If your Fire Brigade is not appropriately housed, your ability to respond will be limited, if at all,” shared PM Holness.

“The Black River Fire Station was established in 1934 and it went through a few phases of renovation, but it fell into a serious state of disrepair. The fire station is an important symbol of community in any country in the world.”

He also lauded the staff of the Black River Fire Station for their patience and professionalism exhibited during the project.

“I want to commend the men and women of the fire brigade because even though the circumstances a few months ago were less than ideal, I did not hear any complaints…the men and women still turned up and were always ready to render service when called,” added the Prime Minister.

“It is only fair that the Government compliments this genuine disposal to service within the ranks of the Jamaica Fire Brigade by giving you the appropriate facilities and equipment for you to effectively carry out your duties.”

In addition to the cost of the construction, $15m was spent on equipment and a further $7.8m on furnishing. The facility houses approximately 109 firefighters.

Minister McKenzie disclosed that approximately $1.1 billion have been sent to construct new fire stations at Barnett Street in Montego Bay; Old Harbour, Port Maria, and Yallahs.

“This newly constructed fire station will add to the list of facilities, Prime Minister, under your administration that have been completed since 2018. Presently work is advanced on the new Ulster Spring Fire Station being constructed at a cost of $153 million.”

According to the Minister, 19 fire stations have been renovated across the country. He also underscored the Government’s performance acquisition of two fire boats for the JFB.

“For years, the Brigade operated without, and I’m pleased to announce that in this new financial year, a third boat at a cost of US$7 million will be added to the capacity of the Brigade to respond on sea and even land if it becomes necessary.”

The scope of works for the new-look Black River Fire Station included the addition of female and male dormitories; offices for the ground command; paving of the compound; erection of perimeter fencing; and drainage improvement.

 

New Port Maria Market officially opened

New Port Maria Market officially opened

PORT MARIA, St. Mary: Vendors and shoppers now have improved operating  and shopping experience with the official opening of the Port Maria Market.

The $66 million facility was built through funds provided by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.

“This market represents the fourth new market that the government of Prime Minister Andrew Holness has built since 2016…The policy of this Government is to make our markets more friendly, to make it enticing for persons to come,” said Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie.

“I want to urge the vendors that it is important that they utilize the market and not just the vendors, but those who come to shop. Support those persons who are operating under orders and come into the market. It’s clean and spacious.”

He was speaking at the official opening ceremony in Port Maria on February 13.

The Minister also announced that phase two of Port Maria Market project is expected to go to tender during the 2024/2025 fiscal year.

“We’re going to go up one more floor with the market to have better shops and office space to attract more persons to come into the market. They are expecting

expecting to spend $70m on that project.”

The Ministry has responsibility for some 37 markets across the country- 31 of which are functioning.

“The government will be providing some $250m to repair and to clean sanitary facilities in all markets across Jamaica,” added Minister McKenzie.

He also used the occasion to commend the staff of the St. Mary Municipal Corporation for the efforts over the years to pursue the completion of the Port Maria Market.

The most recently constructed market was the Hopewell Market in Hanover. Meanwhile, the Annotto Bay Market in St. Mary is earmarked to receive a spend of some $70m to renovate the facility. The Highgate Market, also in the parish, was gutted by fire in July 2022.

An interim arrangement is in place for the vendors to operate from a temporary location until the replacement facility is constructed.

“I’ve spent close to some $800m in the parish of St. Mary since we became Government in 2016. All the works that we have done are living testimony to the performance of the Government,” the Minister shared.

“This is about peace, productivity, and prosperity. Productivity comes out of the market where the vendors can come and ply their trade, get more money in their pockets, and that will now create prosperity. Once the prosperity is evident, you will have peace and that is what we are all about- the productivity, the peace and prosperity St Mary.”

 

 

Ministry hands over more indigent houses

PAGEE, St. Mary: Three houses with a combined value of J$26 million have been handed over in the parishes of Hanover and St. Mary under the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development’s (MLGCD) Indigent Housing Programme since the start of the year.

Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, on February 12 presented the keys to a two-bedroom unit in the community of Pagee in Port Maria.

The proud beneficiary was Claudia Green, a 59-year-old physically challenged resident, who received the $10m housing solution.

Ms. Green joins 82-year-old Kathrine Miller and 60-year-old Carlton Kent who received their units from Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Chambers Pen, Hanover on January 19.

Ms. Miller was presented with a $10m two-bedroom home with solar water heaters, while Mr. Kent got a $6m studio unit. All three houses are fully furnished.

 

Prime Minister Holness said the presentation symbolised a brighter future for the individuals who have long faced housing challenges.

“I believe that two more houses are under construction,” he said at the time.

The MLGCD reintroduced the Indigent Housing Programme in 2017 under its Municipal Social Assistance Programme.

Through the Indigent Housing Programme, the Ministry has completed at least 65 units islandwide with work ongoing on others.

Applicants for the Indigent Housing Programme are screened through the Poor Relief Departments, where an investigation and verification procedure are carried out to establish the need.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said that the Government was addressing infrastructure and other needs in Chambers Pen- the pilot community under the Rural Development Programme launched in June 2022.

“The road, the water, electricity, this Administration has done it. You also wanted good schools and access to health care. We are paying attention to your needs.”

Minister McKenzie also congratulated the new homeowners, noting the sense of pride that comes with having safe and secure housing. He also said that the Hanover Municipal Corporation, through the Poor Relief Department, will continue to monitor and ensure that the houses remain in good condition.

“I’m proud to be back here. The turnout today is just an indication of the appreciation and the respect that the community of Chambers Pen has. We will still continue to work with you to improve conditions in your community,” he pledged.

Major facelift for Ocho Rios Transportation Centre

OCHO RIOS, St. Ann: In keeping with its responsibility to improve service offerings to the public; the Ocho Rios Transportation Centre will receive a $7 million overhaul through the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development’s Equalization Fund.

The funding will be made available to its operator, the St. Ann Municipal Corporation.

“The Ministry is also going to be engaging the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in expanding the work that is taking place at the transportation centre and to see how best we can improve the conditions,” explained Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenize.

Repairs have been effected to the roads inside the centre, as well as corrective works done on the sewage system, which recently experienced issues.

The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is also actively involved in repairing and installing streetlights to improve overall safety and visibility.

“I want to commend the people who operate inside here. They are the ones who came forward and offered to undertake some of the remedial work. In fact, this [road patching] work being done currently, is by people who saw the need and have responded in a very positive way,” the Minister said during a recent visit to the facility.

He also emphasized the significance of the centre, which serves transport operators, small business operators and the travelling public who rely on efficient public transportation services.

Meanwhile, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Honourable Matthew Samuda, emphasised the importance of a coordinated multi-agency effort to get lasting results.

“I thank the business community that assisted us to get the work started, while the proper governance processes are followed to (obtain the funds necessary to) repair the transportation centre,” he stated.

“Ultimately, the business people and transport operators need a functional facility to operate and feed their family. Equally important, the functioning of the town, at large, requires this facility to function so that traffic does not back up and disrupt public order.”

Institutional strengthening for SDC

MONTEGO BAY, S. James: An organizational restructuring exercise has been proposed for the Social Development Commission (SDC) in a bid to improve its effectiveness and relevance.

Honourable Desmond McKenzie says the SDC, which falls under the ambits of his Portfolio Ministry- Local Government and Community Development – stressed that the agency must be able to respond to new social challenges in communities and formulate strategies to successfully address them.

“There has to be a new way for the SDC. We will be looking at the structure of the organization to see where the weakness exists and how we can strengthen what we have,” he said during a meeting with SDC executives and parish managers on February 2 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

“It is clear that within the organization we have the capability and capacity to make things work… After the Local Government Election, I am going to arrange for training to be able to respond to some of the things to help us.”

The SDC is the principal community organization agency working with Jamaica’s 775 communities. Its legal mandate is to inter alia, “promote and control schemes for, and to do any act or thing which may directly or indirectly serve the advancement of sport, social, cultural & economic development – for the people of Jamaica and workers in particular”.

According to Minister McKenzie, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has echoed the intention of the government to take a different approach to stem incidents of domestic violence across the country.

“The Prime Minister indicates that the Government will create an entity that will be the hinge-pin for violent resolution. The organization needs to focus on lifestyle in the community. These are not areas outside of the reach of the SDC,” the Minister explained.

“The SDC must now move from the antiquated era and step into the modern era. The programmes need to reflect reality. There is a need for social intervention, and this is where the SDC comes in.”

Minister McKenzie also shared that the SDC will play a vital role in the recently-announced SPARK Programme.

The SPARK (Shared Prosperity through Accelerated Improvement to our Road Network) Programme is a $20 billion road-improvement project to modernise more than 2,000 roads islandwide.

“The programme is not for the elective representative to determine how the roads will be selected. The role of the SDC is to be the body that coordinates the consultation in various parishes,” added the Minister.

$22m contract signed for Trysee Road rehab

TRYSEE, ST. Ann: The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development has inked a contract FSC Construction Works Limited to undertake the rehabilitation of the Trysee Main Road in Brown’s Town, St. Ann.

Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie gave residents the assurance that the scope of work will include the installation of proper drainage to preserve the road.

“We have taken a conscious decision that you can’t construct a road without drains [or] sidewalks because all you would be doing is making a bad investment in something that will not last,” he said on Tuesday (February 6) during the ceremony for the contract signing.

“So, what we are doing on major roads is to ensure that we put in sewerage, we put in facilities for cable, so when we put down the road, we don’t have to dig it up again.”

Work is expected to begin on February 12, 2024 and last for six months.

Minister McKenzie also thanked the residents of Trysee for their patience, noting that consultations were done with the community a little over a year ago.

“When the work is completed, I will be coming back here to cut the ribbon and walk with you on the road,” the Minister added.

Miss Krystal Lee, Member of Parliament for St. Ann North Western, expressed gratitude to Minister McKenzie for the project.

“We are here today, not because of any promise, but because of a commitment that you gave a little over a year ago…we are happy to say commitment made and it’s been kept,” said MP Lee.

“On behalf of the constituency and the residents of the Trysee community, we want to thank you and the team for coming through with this for us, and we are looking forward for the project to be done in short order and to be built to the best standards.”