Tue | Aug 3, 2021

Chambers Pen upgrade project ready to roll – McKenzie

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2021 | 12:06 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.


The much-talked-about planned to upgrade the overall infrastructure of the Chambers Pen community in western Hanover, as part of an ambitious, multimillion-dollar plan by the Government to invest in the redevelopment of rural communities with good potential for growth, is set to begin towards the end of July or early August this year.

“Chamber Pen will be what I want to make reference to as the guinea pig, so we are using Chambers Pen as the pilot for this project,” said Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie during a tour of the community last year.

The project, which falls under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), was earlier this year described by Lucea Mayor Sheridan Samuels as a project aimed at alleviating the problematic rural-urban drift.

Chambers Pen, a farming community located some nine kilometres east of Lucea, has a population of approximately 11,000 residents. The community’s population has been dwindling over recent years due to issues such as poor road conditions, lack of water and other infrastructure.

During his visit to the community, McKenzie said the Government, through its rural development thrust, will be spending close to $700 million to upgrade five communities across Jamaica during the current financial year.

“This project is intended to upgrade the community in the best way we can – roads, water, light, indigent housing support, community open space, Internet access, and most importantly, having social programmes that will allow the community members to feel like they are a part of anywhere else in Jamaica,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie emphasised that job opportunities will open up in the community as a result of the implementation of the programme, especially the construction phase, as there will not only be an aspect for the implementation of infrastructure, but there will also be a maintenance facet to the project.

According to McKenzie, the Hanover Municipal Corporation will be the implementing agency for the project, with assistance from the MLGRD through its technical team.

In an interview with The Gleaner subsequent to his tour, McKenzie said the estimate for the Chambers Pen project is in the region of $100 million.

“It does not necessarily mean that we will spend that amount, or it can also take more. As we go along, we will have to do assessments,” explained McKenzie. “We are hoping that once we have done the final assessments, we will be able to commence the project. Remember, we have to go through the procurement process for certain things, so hopefully we can commence by the end of July or early August.”

However, McKenzie refused to commit to a completion date for the project, saying that it will be predicated on the starting date of the project.

Following a recent visit to Chambers Pen, Samuels described the primary school as a disaster waiting to happen.

“We have gone there to look at the school and when we went inside, to our dismay, probably it is a lucky thing that COVID-19 is around, because the roof might have collapsed on the students while they are in class,” Samuel said.