Thu | Dec 8, 2016

The facts about JPS's role in Hope Pastures

Published:Monday | November 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The letter published in your Saturday, October 25, 2014 edition signed by 'Hope Pastures Citizens' Group' contains several inaccuracies, which the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is obliged to correct.

First, JPS has been in extensive dialogue with residents of Hope Pastures for more than two years regarding the underground network placed by a private developer more than 50 years ago, which now needs to be replaced. There has been nothing clandestine or coercive about our actions.

Second, it is not true that the JPS was demanding a payment of $35,000 per metre, plus interest, from all customers to help the company with the major investment of its $41 million (not $51 million as stated in the letter) pole line infrastructure project. At no time were customers in Hope Pastures asked to contribute to the overhead infrastructure.

On the contrary, customers were informed of the normal procedure that applies to anyone who is coming on to the JPS network. Customers must wire their homes in keeping with industry standards for the overhead network. If their present wiring falls below par or does not comply with the system - as with all customers - they would have to upgrade their wiring. This is a cost undertaken by the customer, in much the same way that customers undertake their own plumbing to receive public water supply.

JPS actually extended assistance to these Hope Pastures customers to do their wiring - something the company is not legally obliged to do. On an average, the estimates to modify wiring of the homes through private contractors ranged from $35,000 to upwards of $300,000. After reviews of different proposals from several independent electrical contractors, the Rural Electrification Programme (REP) was chosen as the most cost effective contractor.

After extensive consultation between JPS and the Hope Pastures Citizens' Association, as a gesture of goodwill, JPS offered a standard subsidised rate of $35,000 per customer. This $35,000, with interest, can be paid back over 12 months on their light bills. This payment is to be passed on to the REP. JPS will not benefit from this payment.

Not all customers in Hope Pastures are required to make this payment, as some have already done their own upgrading by their own licensed electricians.

The letter writer/s also accused JPS of coercing residents into signing an agreement. This, again, is not true. The new infrastructure was introduced as a more reliable and safe supply of electricity because the underground system, which was installed by a private developer and not JPS, continues to fail. Several discussions were held with the residents, in groups through community meetings at homes and community halls. There was also communication with their elected street representatives and the Hope Pastures Citizens' Association.

Incidents during construction and testing

Saturday's letter also stated "since the beginning of the upgrade, at least one utility pole was erected, causing damage to the National Water Company (NWC) main supply, and despite reports to the JPS, no one came. Other roads had similar problems."

The fact is, initially, JPS met with all utility companies (namely, the NWC and cable companies) who provide underground service in the area. There was a joint operation with these companies, including a walk-through, and each peg that was placed at locations to be worked on was ratified by all the utility companies.

Apparently, the information received by JPS for one location was incorrect, resulting in damage to a water line. A report was made by JPS to NWC and the same was corrected by NWC.

The letter writer also stated that "during the second week in October ... , one of the new metre boxes on Hope Boulevard exploded and blazed." The fact is that during the testing and commissioning phase of the equipment, there was a failure in one aspect of JPS's equipment. At no time was this a threat to any resident's life or property. No customer was connected to the system at that time.

Continued work needed

The public should note, too, that since the original design and implementation of the underground system in the community, there have been several modifications and upgrades by residents. This has resulted in breaches of accessibility requirements to enable JPS to continue maintaining the underground system to houses, driveways and perimeter walls. This has made it almost impossible to replace some of these cables that are directly buried almost eight feet underground.

Fortunately, we have begun to roll out the new overhead system and are able to transfer customers to the new system without extended interruptions in their supply. Residents have reported satisfaction with the process so far.

We trust that the facts as set out here will allay the fears of residents of Hope Pastures, as JPS continues to work on upgrading the infrastructure to serve them better.

Winsome Callum is director - communications at JPS. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and wcallum@jpsco.com.