Living free - Most Tivoli Gardens residents not paying electricity or water bills
Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer
The west Kingston enclave of Tivoli Gardens and seven neighbouring communities are robbing the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) of an estimated $271 million in revenue each year.
Hundreds of residents of these communities pay no utility bills and the JPS is feeling the heat.
There are some residents of west Kingston who have never paid a JPS bill in their lives, even though their houses contain the most elaborate electrical appliances.
"Some residents have air-condition units installed in their homes which they run all year round and, as far as I know, they've never paid a light bill," a source told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I can't even afford an AC unit, yet there are some persons there who are beating the system," the source said.
Most do not pay
Representatives of the JPS told The Sunday Gleaner that most residents of Tivoli Gardens do not pay for the electricity they use.
According to JPS records, fewer than 30 of the more than 4,000 residents in the the community are registered as customers.
The JPS says while some meter readers have ventured into the community, most stay away out of fear.
The company has, on several occasions, disconnected the illegal power lines in the community, but these are usually restored almost as soon as the disconnection teams have left.
In the late 1990s, the JPS - as part of its effort to get non-paying persons in inner-city communities to register as legitimate customers - introduced a flat rate pilot project in Tivoli Gardens, Central Court, Denham Town, Seaview Gardens and Torrington Park.
However, the project was short-lived, as it did not produce the desired results.
Now, Tivoli is among several inner-city communities where the JPS is considering the implementation of a residential advanced metering infrastructure (RAMI).
This is being designed to prevent illegal access to JPS power lines.
RAMI in communities
The RAMI project, which significantly reduces opportunities for throw-ups and meter tampering, was recently implemented in Seaview Gardens, St Andrew, and is currently being introduced to some communities in St James and St Catherine where electricity theft is rampant.
In the meantime, the National Water Commission (NWC) is also looking at measures to improve its collection in Tivoli Gardens and adjoining communities.
Although the NWC was unable to say how much money was going down the drain in Tivoli, the company indicated that it could be losing millions of dollars.
According to the NWC, only 10 per cent of its customers in Tivoli paid their water bills regularly.