MoBay may need expansion, says Holness
New fire station opened in Second City
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated that plans may need to be put in place for the expansion of Montego Bay, St James, the western city for which a drainage programme is now being considered to address a perpetual issue of flooding during heavy rains.
He was speaking during Friday’s official handover ceremony for the new Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) Area Four Regional Headquarters in the Second City yesterday.
“I could not come to Montego Bay and not acknowledge the gridlock that exists here, especially when it rains; traffic just cannot move. This is a consequence of the growth of Montego Bay … . We may have to look at expanding the city and expanding how we provide mass transport,” Holness said during his address.
“We are doing a comprehensive programme, including drainage, which we are seeing now is critical, because it appears that you now have a two-year cycle of heavy rainfall which falls suddenly. It can only be resolved by putting in place drains that are properly designed to take water off the main roads that are in the Montego Bay area,” Holness added.
His comments follow Thursday night’s operation by the JFB and the Jamaica Defence Force to rescue seven residents who were stranded in a section of Porto Bello after flooding occurred in the area due to rains.
Last month, 12-year-old Jennel Walters lost her life after the family car in which she was travelling, along with her grandfather, an aunt, and her 68-year-old grandmother Beryl Walters, was swept away by floodwaters.
The elderly woman, who has been feared dead, has not been seen since. The other two persons were rescued.
Last November, several roads and pipelines were damaged by flood rains across St James.
Holness, however, noted that citizens often cause the very issues for which they inevitably require help from emergency response services.
“The infrastructure of emergency response needs critical investment because our citizens, by virtue of their own actions, are creating shocks to our system, and that is just the reality. It is careless acts that impose on all Jamaicans a cost in taxpayers’ money, but we will have to make these kinds of investments to be able to send an ambulance to pick you up and carry you to the hospital for the doctors to be able to treat you,” said Holness.
St James Central Member of Parliament Heroy Clarke lauded the JFB for its contribution to the rescue missions.
“Not so long ago, we had a tragic situation where the fire service was called into play, where we lost lives in Montego Bay because of flooding. But as late as last night, the fire service was called upon to rescue seven members of the community of St James,” said Clarke.
“So we ask, isn’t this what is needed for Montego Bay? Today we say to you that you have a home to make you comfortable after going out to carry out your duties, that you can come back and rest well,” Clarke added, referencing the new fire station, which can house 140 firefighters and will serve up to 200,000 residents in Montego Bay and surrounding areas.
The $580-million facility replaced the 50-year-old former station at the corner of Barnett Street and Howard Cooke Boulevard, which was demolished in 2006 after being deemed structurally unsound.
“ ... This new building will transport our fire brigade into the 21st century. It has been a long time in coming, and I am certain that our fine men and women [of the JFB] as well as the residents are very happy with this. This building, I am certain, will last for 100 years. It is well built and it is properly designed, Holness said of the four-storey building, which also boasts a communal space, a gymnasium, an underground water tank and an officers’ lounge, along with other facilities.
JFB Commissioner Stewart Beckford vowed to see to the facility’s care and upkeep.
“We will be offering value-added service from this facility, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that this facility is maintained,” Beckford said, while noting that the St James Division has responded to 6,970 emergency calls in the past five years.
Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams said the fire station was crucial to the western city’s overall development.
“ ... The opening of this wonderful edifice has given our hard-working firefighters a morale boost. Having a facility such as this one is a necessary step in the community development process, and our city is on the rise again,” said Williams.