Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, has called on Parish Councils to ensure that comprehensive audits are carried out on street lights, in order for the Ministry to make submissions to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) Limited for a reduction of the tariff on electricity.
“The prevailing charges from street lights cannot be borne by its main funding source, which is property tax …and we all know the financial constraints that Central Government face at this time. It is estimated that for this fiscal year, street light expenditure will be in the region of $2.6 billion. I am therefore asking each council to ensure that an audit is done for street lights in your area,” the Minister said.
Mr. Arscott made the request when he visited the Trelawny and St. James Parish Councils on February 15.
The visits formed part of planned islandwide meetings with parish councils by the Minister, to familiarise himself with the operational challenges of these local authorities and how some of these can be addressed.
Mr. Arscott pointed out that the JPSCo charges the parish councils for street lights, whether they are working or not, hence the councils must develop an audit to ensure that they are working and that they get value for money spent.
Addressing the Trelawny Parish Council, he said the Ministry is preparing to approach the JPSCo for a reduction of the tariff on electricity in order to reduce the high cost being paid by the councils. He also cited plans to explore using energy efficient bulbs for street lights.
“We will be looking at the matter of retro-fitting the street lights, so that they are more energy efficient, and also at the possibility of using renewable energy, primarily solar, for many of our street lights. We also want to look at what is called ‘net metering’, where your panel would be generating electricity during the day and you could sell the energy collected to the JPSCo, and at nights you buy it back,” the Minister said.
Mr. Arscott said he has set up a Committee, which would be looking at the issues and reporting to him in 30 days, “so that we can begin to effectively address, and seek to ease the burden of the tax payers on the cost of these street lights."
The Minister gave a commitment to the Trelawny Parish Council to fund a drive to clean up the town of Falmouth, especially now that the cruise industry is “booming” in the area.
“I am going to find a way to see how best we can fund what is required to at least maintain and clean the town. Hopefully, we can get the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to come on board and we are also going to make a request of the Minister of Tourism, to see how quickly he can make some funds available for Falmouth,” Mr. Arscott said.
In St. James, the Minister addressed many of the issues put forward by the council, and toured sections of the Retirement Land Fill and the St. James Fire Station.
"We intend to ensure that we are able to bring a modern sanitary land fill to western Jamaica. It is also clear that Montego Bay needs a new fire station, but the Government is challenged at this time. We are committed to making the firemen as comfortable as possible, and to, as quickly as possible, build a new station,” Mr. Arscott told JIS News.
By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter