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Local Gov’t Minister hosts Youth Mayors’ Forum

RUNAWAY BAY, St. Ann: Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, has committed J$1 million each to the 14 Junior Councils to undertake their group projects during their one-year term.

The Minister hosted the new cohort of Youth Mayors, representing the respective Municipal Corporations and the Municipality of Portmore, at a forum in Runaway Bay, St. Ann on November 16.

The Youth Mayor presented their proposed group projects and their impact on their communities. The initiatives ranged from the provision of water tanks to schools as well as the renovation of football fields, bus stops and infirmaries to catering to the mentally ill.

“As I listened to all of your presentations they were of high quality, well put together, and most importantly, they were excellently delivered, and I must commend you,” stated Minister McKenzie.

“Local Government is the stable for producing outstanding political leaders.”

He used the Youth Mayors’ Forum to highlight the role of local government in nurturing future political leaders, as he encouraged the young leaders to view their roles as “stepping stones” into the complex world of politics.

“I want to encourage you, because a lot of people feel that if you’re going into politics, you must walk in and become a Member of Parliament. While it is good to have ambition, it is also good to experience what it is all about by being a [Local Government] Councillor,” the Minister added.

He urged the Youth Mayors to recognise the importance of gaining experience as a parochial representative (Councillor) before pursuing higher political ambitions, as he alluded to the challenges and the responsibilities of the role.

Minister McKenzie also acknowledged the efforts of the Youth Mayors on the brilliance exhibited during their presentations. He noted the continuous improvement in the forum’s quality since its introduction in 2016.

He also encouraged them to remain engaged in politics even after their term has ended.

The Minister expressed gratitude to the youth leaders for their participation in the programme and challenged them to ensure the successful execution of their projects.

The Youth Mayors’ Forum form part of the activities of Local Government and Community Month, which is observed in November each year.

Ocho Rios gets $22m night shelter

OCHO RIOS, St. Ann: A $22 million night shelter to serve the resort town of Ocho Rios, St. Ann and its environs is officially opened for operations.

The building, which is sited in Bucksfield, Ocho Rios, was opened by Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie on August 18.

The homeless shelter was constructed to the adjoining Ocho Rios Drop-in Centre and can sleep 13 men and seven women at a time. It will provide temporary shelter, meals, and bathroom amenities.

“The drop-in centre since it was established, we not only take them in and give them medical care and look after their needs, but we also try to rehabilitate them,” said Minister McKenzie.

Data from the Poor Relief Department points to the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of five homeless individuals into permanent employment. One of the Ocho Rios Drop-In Centre residents is pursuing a certificate in agriculture at Ebony Park Heart Academy.

According to Byron Gilzene, the homeless shelter will help him escape the violence on the streets.

“To contribute to homeless persons is a blessing. I was hospitalized two weeks ago and almost died from wounds inflicted by being homeless sleeping in the bus park. It gives me great enthusiasm that this place, that is now my home, will be protecting me,” he shared.

Mr. Gilzene also assists with the landscaping works at the new facility.

The Minister also disclosed that the town of Brown’s Town, St. Ann, which has a growing number of homeless individuals, is on the Ministry’s radar.

“Our next port of call will be the Brown’s Town area to see if we could put in something…that would deal with the issues there.”

Additionally, Minister McKenzie shared that the Government has allocated over $100 million in social security for the poor and destitute in St. Ann for the 2023/2024 fiscal year to deal with homelessness and improving the lives of vulnerable citizens.



Ground broken for house in Kendal, Manchester -project part of $300m spend by Local Gov’t in the parish

KENDAL, Manchester: Ground has been broken for the construction of an indigent house for a family in Kendal, Manchester under the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development’s Municipal Social Assistance Programme (MSAP).

Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, at the groundbreaking ceremony on August 2, said the parish of Manchester has benefited from $300 million in social programmes by the Ministry.

“We have not only built water shops, but we have also repaired roads. We have spent more money in the parish on building new infrastructure and carrying out repairs at the infirmary, than we have spent in any other parish.”

Four water shops were built in the parish and more than $70m invested in summer employment programmes for young people.

The Minister also shared that the Ministry recently provided funds to upgrade the Mandeville Tax Office in a move to bolster the capacity of the Manchester Municipal Corporation to generate more revenue.

There are also ongoing discussions about the rehabilitation of the Mandeville Market.

Mayor of Mandeville, Councillor Donovan Mitchell and Member of Parliament for Manchester Central, Rhoda Moy Crawford, also attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

The Indigent Housing Programme was introduced under MSAP in 2017 and is designed to address the housing difficulties faced by the poor and most vulnerable.

The Ministry has completed at least 60 units islandwide, with work ongoing on several others. Three types of solutions have been developed – studio units, one-bedroom units and two-bedroom family units. The houses are made of concrete and feature sloped roofs that enable rainwater harvesting.

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

Potential beneficiaries must also demonstrate ownership of the property on which the house is to be built or provide documentation that they are lawfully entitled to tenure on such property.

Multimillion-dollar Park to bring pride to Maverley

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Jamaica Observer): RESIDENTS of Maverley in St Andrew on Tuesday (August 23) watched with excitement as Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other members of central and local government broke ground for a multimillion-dollar park in the community.


PM Holness and Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke, who is the Member of Parliament for St Andrew North Western in which Maverley is located, as well as Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Desmond McKenzie, were tight-lipped about the cost of the project, but they declared that they were sure it will be a source of pride for residents and the people of surrounding communities.


The park will be constructed on an open lot at the corner of Molynes Road and West Main Drive. This run-down lot, owned by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), has been used over many years to host church services and other activities or as a bypass for pedestrians heading into or leaving Maverley via Molynes Road.


Minister McKenzie told the Jamaica Observer that the project is part of the Government’s community renewal programme that started in 2016. He said the Maverley Park will be one of the largest public parks built by the Government.


“We have done about 11 parks already across the country, and we have about 16 that are lined up to be done. This is one of the largest that we will be undertaking. What it will do is restore community pride and allow the people to have a place they can go hang out and feel free. The park will be equipped with Internet, bathroom, and toilet facilities. It is going to be a comprehensive facility with canteen facilities and a walking trail. It will be outstanding and should be finished hopefully in the next 12 months. The procurement process is almost complete, so once that is completed, we are going to move to the next phase,” said McKenzie.


In the meantime, PM Holness pointed to the importance of the project as he highlighted that not many safe spaces exist for residents of Corporate Area communities to express themselves and exercise. He encouraged the residents of Maverley to help maintain the facilities and appealed to the KSAMC to ensure adequate security is in place at all times.


Top Aberdeen gets water supply project

The community of Top Aberdeen and in North East St. Elizabeth now boast its own reliable supply of piped, potable water.

The J$111 million water supply project was handed over to the community by the Rural Water Supply Limited – an agency of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development – during a ceremony on February 3.

Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie described the initiative as another tangible marker of the Government’s commitment to improve living standards by ensuring access to basic utilities.

“It reflects our recognition that all Jamaicans, not only those in our two cities and town centres, need this access to improve their own lives in the pursuit of prosperity. It is also one of the major projects implemented since the Ministry was reshaped as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in the last financial year,” he said during the commissioning of the Top Aberdeen Water Supply Project.

“A pumping station has been built. New distribution and transmission pipelines have been installed. A new water storage tank has been constructed. To reduce operational costs and improve efficiency, a solar pumping system has been installed. All of this has been done at a cost of J$111 million, and over 1,600 residents of Top Aberdeen will benefit from this project.”

The St. Elizabeth Municipal Corporation will be the custodian of the facility. Residents must apply to the National Water Commission (NWC) for the connection of the water supply to their homes.

Member of Parliament for North East St. Elizabeth, Delroy Sloley, has encouraged residents to sign up for their supply in short order with the NWC, which will grant a 50 per cent discount on connection fees to the first 50 residents who apply.

Minister McKenzie also stated that his Ministry is committed to the implementation of projects and programmes to expand minor water supply across Jamaica, in keeping with its responsibilities under the National Water Sector Policy and Implementation Plan.

“The Top Aberdeen Water Supply project is one important component of the work scheduled for this financial year under the Rural Development Programme. A total of $325 million was allocated to provide water solutions, including water shops, for a range of communities across six parishes (St. Catherine, St. Ann, Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, Portland, and St. James), and while the pace of work has been affected by COVID-19, we are determined to deliver.”

Homeless Shelter to Be Constructed in Falmouth

JIS NEWS- Falmouth, Trelawny: Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, broke ground for the construction of a state-of-the art homeless shelter in Falmouth, Trelawny, on July 8.

The facility, which will be built at a cost of $25 million, will have the capacity to house 20 persons.

The shelter, the first of its kind outside the Corporate Area, will provide temporary shelter, meals, and bathroom amenities for the approximately 25 homeless persons in the parish. It is slated for completion by the end of 2021.

In his address, Mr. McKenzie reaffirmed Government’s commitment to the homeless population, through the continued provision of holistic care and development of appropriate infrastructure to accommodate them.

“We are doing this because it is our responsibility. Many of these persons have contributed significantly to the growth and development of Jamaica, but something went wrong along the way,” he said.

“Our response to the homeless population has been wide. We have partnered with Red Stripe, Lasco, GraceKennedy and we will continue to partner with the churches and the private sector to provide a basis for these people to survive.”

He announced that an additional eight homeless shelters will be built across the island within the next two years.

There are more than 3,000 homeless persons across the island.

For her part, Member of Parliament for Trelawny South and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, welcomed the move to build the facility in the parish.

“The Government continues to place emphasis on the less fortunate in the population – the people who cannot afford to make the plans they need to. We thank the Government for caring and for putting their words into action and demonstrating that we do care for all Jamaicans, particularly those of us who are less fortunate,” she said.


Ulster Spring, South Trelawny to get fire station

FALMOUTH, Jamaica: Ground will be broken next month for the construction of a new fire station in Ulster Spring, South Trelawny in keeping with the thrust to improve the equipment and infrastructure of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB).

“I am pleased to advise that, hopefully, by the end of August I will be breaking ground for the construction of a brand-new fire station in Ulster Spring,” said Honourable Desmond McKenzie, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development.

He made the announcement during a special meeting of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation on July 8.

Minister McKenzie stressed the need for a facility in South Trelawny given its geographical outlay and distance from the Falmouth Fire Station. Often times, assistance is sought from fire stations in the neighbouring parish of Manchester when a blaze starts in some South Trelawny communities.

He also pledged to boost the capacity of the fire units at the Falmouth Fire Station with the increased infrastructural developments in North Trelawny.

The parish of Trelawny is to benefit from a fleet of 30 trucks that has been purchased by the Ministry. Fifteen of the new units are already in the island and the remainder is expected to arrive on the island before September.

In May, the Minister also shared with Parliament that the cost of house fires, industrial fires, and other types of fires to the Jamaican economy and society remains very high. Some 10,826 persons have been displaced due to fires since 2016.

“Last year, the Fire Brigade responded to 13,784 fire calls across the island. Data shows that 31 people died as a result of fires, 89 were injured and 1,676 lost their homes or were otherwise displaced,” he explained.  “To put this in greater context Madame Speaker, over the last five years, there were 62,887 fire calls. One hundred and sixty-eight people were killed because of fires and 411 people, including 94 firefighters, injured.”

He also noted that while the JFB is making steady progress in addressing public attitudes to fire safety through the Fire and Life Safety Programme; he wanted every Jamaican to make fire prevention a way of life.


Ministry spends big on fire stations Four new facilities to be handed over by year-end

PORT MARIA, St. Mary: The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is making a J$924.7 million investment in the infrastructure of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) with the construction of four new facilities.

The new fire stations, which are slated to be handed over by year-end, are being constructed in Montego Bay, St. James; Port Maria, St. Mary; Yallahs, St. Thomas and Old Harbour in St. Catherine.

“Firefighters are always nearby, ready to respond,” said Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie during a tour of the Port Maria Fire Station work site on July 1.

The Minister emphasised that the JFB undertakes essential functions for the safety of lives and properties as well as in times of disaster at a moment’s call.

Commissioner Stewart Beckford said that the new facilities will improve the morale of the firefighters and provide areas for physical and recreational activities for its members.

Three of the new stations are being erected under the World Bank Project. They are the J$535m Barnett Street Fire Station in Montego Bay; the Yallahs Fire Station is being done at a cost of J$113m and the J$217m Port Maria Fire Station.

The Old Harbour Fire Station is being built at a cost of J$59.7m.

During the 2021/2022 Sectoral Presentations, Minister McKenzie announced that the acquisition of new equipment for the JFB will enter a new technological dimension.

“The Fire Brigade will launch the Unmanned Arial Vehicle Programme, and this programme will purchase two drones,” he stated. “The drones will assist with surveillance for search and rescue exercises, as well as fires and other emergency situations. This programme, which is the first of its kind for the JFB, will help our firefighters to far better manage emergency situations.”

The Minister also shared that the plan to build the Papine Fire Station is advancing as the University of the West Indies Mona has formally agreed for a section of its property to be used as the base for the station.

Additionally, land has also been identified in Ulster Spring, Southern Trelawny to build a fire station.

New Montego Bay Fire Station slated for completion within two months

MONTEGO BAY, St. James (JIS NEWS): Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, says the J$574 million fire station being built on Barnett Street in Montego Bay, St. James is on track for completion within the next two months.
The Minister, who toured the project on June 25 along with Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Managing Director, Omar Sweeney, and members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), told journalists that on completion, the new station will be the “most modern” in the Caribbean.
Mr. McKenzie said despite construction delays due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, “the contractors have been able to keep the project within budget.”
“So there is no overrun… and we will complete the project in a timely manner,” he stated adding that “the people of Montego Bay and the wider Jamaica will be proud of this investment.”
The facility’s construction, which commenced in June 2019, is being spearheaded by JSIF under its Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Programme.
When completed, the station will boast dormitory facilities to facilitate the seamless deployment of fire fighters across various shifts, and adequate administrative facilities and parking bays for trucks and other emergency vehicles.
Minister McKenzie said the Government remains committed to improving the conditions under which the JFB’s members work, through the upgrading of station facilities and provision of vital equipment.
“If we are asking the members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade to put their lives on the line, at least what the Government can do is to provide the proper environment for them to work in,” he maintained, while indicating that the Administration has spent close to J$1.7 billion on new facilities for the JFB since 2016.
For his part, JFB Deputy Commissioner in charge of Operations, Kevin Haughton, said the Brigade was satisfied with the progress of the project, noting that it would improve staff morale and enhance the efficiency of the fire service.
Deputy Commissioner Haughton further indicated that the new station had the capacity to accommodate some 250 firefighters and will “enable us to increase our female to male [ratio]… and that is something that we are very excited about.”
“We will also… be introducing a new service delivery… from the facility… which is the emergency medical service and that certainly will [bolster] the fire brigade’s operations,” he added.
Montego Bay Mayor, Councillor Leeroy Williams, who also toured the project, commended JSIF for its commitment to the resort city’s development, adding that “this structure will [further] enhance [that].”

Indigent House for West Rural St, Andrew mother

Ground was officially broken for the construction of the first in 100 indigent housing solutions over the next 12 months by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.

The houses are being built under the Ministry’s Municipal Social Assistance Programme (MSAP) which was conceptualized during the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

“The Andrew Holness administration has committed to do as much as we can to help to ease the sufferings of persons who fall within the category of poor and destitute,” said Portfolio Minister Desmond McKenzie.

“We put a new feature in it now, we added a water tank so if there’s no water, you have a tank to catch water.’

He was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for an indigent house at Grant Hill in Lawrence Tavern, St. Andrew on July 29. The one-bedroom residence will be built at a cost of J$2.5 million. The beneficiary is 47-year-old Michelle Cookhorn.

“I’m very glad. Whether it’s one or two, I will be a very happy woman,” the single mother of five said between tears. “I feel very happy to be selected for this indigent house, I will take care of it. I prayed hard for this house and now victory is mine.”

To date, J$63M have been spent to construct 32 units for beneficiaries with four more targeted for construction during the new financial year.

Minister McKenzie was also joined by Mayor of Kingston, Senator Delroy Williams, Member of Parliament for West Rural St. Andrew Juliet Cuthbert Flynn and Councillor John Myers.