Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Misinformation clouds JPS-Hope Pastures Saga

Published:Saturday | January 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The agreement for the installation of an overhead wiring system to replace the current underground system has been a long and painful process. The current underground system was installed by the initial developer and is close to 50 years old.

Several of the transformers are only partially functional and there have been problems with some of the high-voltage and low-voltage sections of the underground distribution system. Many persons wished the underground system to be replaced. Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) provided the costing for three replacement options - underground, an overhead pole mounted system and a high technology RAMI meter on overhead poles. The latter was the cheapest option and the Hope Pastures Citizens' Association (HPCA) voted to accept this option.

Further ongoing discussions have taken place over several years and with at least three different HPCA executives on the question of costing to residents. The discussions involved the Ministry of Energy, the Office of Utilities Regulation, the HPCA and the JPS. Finally, it was agreed that residents would make a contribution of $35,000, which would cover the cost of the installation of a new stanchion and pothead on to their house to receive the overhead supply wiring from the JPS pole (with RAMI meter) and the associated wiring from the stanchion into the house and to the site of the existing main breaker panel. Any internal wiring improvements would be for the expense of the householder.

This was finally voted on at a special HPCA annual general meeting on Sunday, May 4, 2014. The JPS has completed the installation in two pilot areas - Keble Crescent (a majority of the 38 residents) and Glendon Circle (all 12 houses in the group). JPS is now planning to continue the installation in Hope Pastures by continuing with the rest of Glendon Circle. In the meantime, a group of 71 homes - the HPC Group (The HPCG Rebel Group) - is objecting to the contribution noted above and insisting that the installation should be free. They have paid a lawyer to write to the JPS on the matter. The letter is dated November 20, 2014. It remains to be seen how this dispute carried on in the media and with local circulars will be resolved.

Serious implications

I write as one who has been intimately involved in the Glendon Circle pilot project and one who is concerned that the existing delays in the main project will have serious implications for cost overruns and problems for residents as the system deteriorates further. Some concerns:

The action of the HPC Group goes in principle against agreements hammered out by respective HP executives on behalf of the residents.

The action group has used the case of Manor Park to buttress its argument in a CVM TV interview with Simon Crosskill on November 4, 2014. In that example, it was stated that Manor Park was converted from an underground power supply to an overhead supply, without any cost to those residents."

This is not an example that can be used. Why? What JPS has done in Manor Park is to replace the underground high-voltage line with an overhead line, at no cost to the householders. The fundamental difference is the fact that there has not been any change in the current working underground system for the customers. Discussions are taking place on what might be expected if the underground system fails. It must be understood that the delivery of power to a community has three components: the high-voltage system, transformers and distribution voltage lines. The reason for a charge in Hope Pastures is that a new system - from underground to overhead - is being installed. A parallel example is the case of the Flow cables installed in Hope Pastures some years ago. Householders wishing to attach to Flow for, say, Internet use, have to pay for the connection.

One of the group's members, in a letter to The Gleaner published October 26, 2014, posted a picture of a pole being installed and surrounded by a pool of water because of a broken water main. It was, no doubt, intended to show sloppy work on the part of the JPS. The error was acknowledged and the damage fixed long before the installation process mentioned above had begun. So much so that the fixed area now has a pile of dirt with weeds growing over it (See photo). There has also been a series of articles attacking the JPS researched in the Gleaner archives. The action taken by the Hope Pastures group member is, at best, unfortunate.

The HPC executive has been accused by innuendo of not supporting the rebel cause. In a circular to residents, the statement is made: "Have we been sold out by our own residents? Who can be trusted?"

The JPS Hope Pastures rewiring project - with the installation of storm-resistant concrete poles; the eventual replacement of ageing transformers; the replacement of decaying underground cables - is a major technological project. There have been delays and both management and operational errors identified with the pilot projects. These have been important learning experiences to all.

It is important, however, that the work proceed apace. Any further delays will, in the long run, be detrimental for the residents, particularly those who are sitting on the fence. I urge both the JPS and the residents to go forward in a positive way. I predict that the recently proposed legal stumbling block will be an unfortunate and misguided diversion from what, up to now, has been an important collaborative effort.

ALFRED W. SANGSTER

alfredwsangster@gmail.com

Hope Pastures, St Andrew