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Street-light stress - Billions of dollars burnt by malfunctioning lamps

Published:Sunday | April 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMTyrone Thompson

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is denying claims by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) that more than 11,000 street lights across the island are staying on 24 hours each day for up to six months, leaving taxpayers with a multimillion-dollar bill.

In its determination on the tariff request from the JPS released in January, the OUR stated that more than 12 per cent of street lights across the country, which are supposed to automatically switch on at dusk and switch off at dawn, are instead remaining on throughout the entire day, adding to the hefty $3 billion paid yearly by the local government ministry for the service.

The report pointed to 38 street lamps in a 10-mile radius in the Corporate Area which stayed on all day and more than 70 others in sections of St Catherine and St Thomas.

Checks by The Sunday Gleaner found that of the 38 lights in the Corporate Area mentioned in the OUR report, at least 30 of these remained on during the daytime, three months after they were pointed out.

These included lights at Oxford Road, Jarrett Lane, Upper Elletson Road and Windward Road. Alongside these, The Sunday Gleaner spotted more than 27 other street lights clearly lit during the day. These include five such on Half-Way Tree Road, and three in a virtual circle at the intersection of Constant Spring Road and Hope Road.

"That light on from as long as I've been out here," said one street vendor who operates her small stall metres away from a well-lit street light on Upper Elletson Road.

The OUR's report noted that the worrying trend for most of these 24-hour street lights is that they stay in a malfunctioning state up to six months at times, wasting more than $104 million in property tax revenues and thousands of kilowatt-hours of energy.

 

unpaid bills

 

But responding to questions from The Sunday Gleaner, the JPS said it is still in discussion with the OUR regarding the street light survey results and the methodology used to arrive at the sample locations selected for the audit.

The company said while it repaired 27,698 malfunctioning street lights across the island in 2014 - including day-burning lights - it is constrained in its ability to carry out repairs because of limited resources resulting from significant arrears in street light payments.

"Although the Government has been making an effort to honour its commitment for street light repairs, the arrears are now equivalent to approximately one year's billing," the company said in a written response to questions from The Sunday Gleaner.