Wed | Aug 16, 2017

JPS customers losing Hope

Published:Monday | November 16, 2015 | 11:00 AM

Hope Pastures was conceived as a residential community for middle-class Jamaicans. Nestled at the foot of nearby mountains, within salubrious climes and lush vegetation, the fertile soil once supported a sugar-cane plantation, and eventually provided nurturing for bountiful and large fruit trees and varied beautiful plants.

About 1962, it was transformed into a well-laid-out, ultra-modern residential community. A significant part of the attraction and selling point of Hope Pastures was the absence of overhead power lines, cables and wires. There were to be no unsightly, obstructing poles on the sidewalks, no poles to lean or fall in a storm, no web of wires stretched across yards, no wires to break lose and whip during hurricanes, and no dangerous electrical apparatus to electrocute pedestrians.

Historical documents reveal that the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd (JPS) estimated that, at that time, the underground system would cost the community £51,010 more than the less-expensive overhead system (£16,800). Further documentation spoke to the costs of electrical transformers and trenching.

 

GRANT OF EASEMENT

 

Another document was in reference to the grant of easement, in which the JPS spoke to " ... 'its' underground cables" and causing " ... 'its' underground cable to run only along the driveways". It also spoke to the ... "full and free right and liberty to the company now and at all times hereafter of installing establishing erecting, constructing, maintaining and operating its systems and undertakings, including underground electrical transmission and/or distribution lines ... and ... electricity stations belonging to or used by the company by means of an underground system..."

Then, in 1970, there was an apologetic/explanatory letter from the JPS to its Hope Pastures customers. In it, JPS told the community that it was about to lay additional cables that "would almost completely eliminate outages due to cable faults". It closes with, "Your patience and understanding will be highly appreciated while we carry out this very necessary work. It is the only way to assure the maximum reliability of service from an underground distribution system". Clearly, JPS has been fully aware that it is solely responsible for maintaining, repairing and upgrading the underground system in Hope Pastures.

Now that the system is nearly 50 years old and there are expensive maintenance problems, JPS is nitpicking about who installed

the underground system (even though they were very obviously responsible for it all this time), and is refusing to rehabilitate and maintain said underground system.

I understand that JPS is forcing residents to incur costs of between $50,000 to $300,000 to upgrade their homes and $35,000 per metre, plus a possible 9.5 per cent interest to connect and convert to ugly, sidewalk-obstructing poles, overhead cables and lines and webs of all manner of wires.

So much for fair play, so much for documented promises/agreements, so much for aesthetics, so much for prime property values, so much for justice.

 

ABSURDITY

 

Naturally, disenfranchised and intimidated residents are baulking at this unexpected turn of events. The monopolistic JPS has unilaterally decided to abandon the underground system and is acting as if all these years it was doing Hope Pastures residents huge favours in maintaining it. Some residents have already caved under the pressure.

This absurdity culminated in a sectional power outage and the incursion of JPS crews that announced that the underground fault will not be repaired, that they would run temporary surface power wires (even though affected homes were not prepared) and that the affected residents must undertake the necessary permanent conversion to accept surface wiring.

The crews left untidy/dangerous power cables slung from gate columns, low across driveways and even entwined on window grilles. Of course, CVM was alerted and broadcast the dangerous work done by the JPS.

Since then (Heroes Day weekend), select members of the community have been without power as the JPS crews adamantly stand by their decision not to supply underground power to them. Really, JPS, really?

Where are our government officials, members of parliament, caretakers, and various oversight and consumer-rights organisations when we need them the most?

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.