Plumwood Residents Welcome Light

Photo: JIS Photographer Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell (2nd right), is assisted by Speaker of the House of Representatives, and South Manchester Member of Parliament, Michael Peart (right), and resident of New Forest/Plumwood, Keesha Barnes (centre), to perform the ceremonial switching on of lights in the community, during the recent commissioning ceremony. Looking on is Chairman, Rural Electrification Programme Limited (REP), which undertook the project at a cost of just over $3 million, Rev. Dr. Garnett Roper (left). Over 50 residents are currently benefitting from the service.

Story Highlights

  • Residents of Plumwood in New Forest, Manchester, now have electricity in their homes
  • The service was installed at a cost of just over $3 million by REP
  • The REP has the specific mandate of expanding electricity supply to rural parishes

After years of dependence on candles and kerosene lamps as their main source of light, residents of Plumwood in New Forest, Manchester, now have electricity in their homes.

Upwards of 50 residents are benefitting from the service, which was installed under a six-month project implemented at a cost of just over $3 million by the Rural Electrification Programme Limited (REP), an agency of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM).

Residents, who turned out for the recent commissioning ceremony, erupted into tumultuous applause and cheering as portfolio Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, symbolically switched on the lights.

They are welcoming the arrival of the service, comparing it to the dawning of a new day in the community. For 80-year old senior citizen, Adina McKenzie, life without light was “very rough.”

“When we had to buy ice, we had to dig a hole, place grass in it and put the ice in it and cover it down. When you put 50 pounds of ice in, the next day you might end up 20 pounds of ice,” she told JIS News.

“We give God thanks. Now we have light, we have our refrigerators, we can buy meat and put it down in there. First time, we had to salt the meat we bought so that it could last for some days. When we buy the fish, we have to eat it one time or we put salt on it as well. But we have life good, now that we have electricity,’ Ms. McKenzie indicated.

One of Plumwood’s young people, Keesha Barnes, who has lived in the district for some seven years, highlighted the challenges associated with the lack of light, particularly on the street.

She pointed out that “for me who works and has to come home in the night”, not being able to see the roadway clearly in the dark, “was very dangerous”, because “it was very dark around here.”

“So with the street light and the light in our homes we are very grateful. Now that it is on our doorsteps, now that the light is here, we are glad because it is a blessing,” Ms. Barnes stated.

Seventy-one year old Marshall Bent said he has been elated since news surfaced that Plumwood would finally be getting electricity. “We have to give the Lord thanks and praise for enabling us to see that we have received the light, and the feeling can’t be any better,” he said.

Another of Plumwood’s young adults, Patrick Bent, noted the challenges, which students experienced in studying and completing assignments without electricity, and also the poultry farmers in preserving their meat for sale.

“You have some bright scholars over here and they have to study at night with the lamp or candle light. You have people who rear chicken inside here, who were (previously) unable to store their chicken after they process it. They had to transport the chickens (elsewhere) where they have relatives and friends who have the facilities that they could actually store their product until they are ready for it. So we are happy, we are grateful for this, and it’s a wonderful success,” Mr. Bent said.

Plumwood is one of six communities in South Manchester, which did not previously have electricity, where the REP undertook work to institute the service at a cost of some $12 million. The others are Duff House/Eliot Lane; Rowes Corner/Logwood; Rose Hill/Grants Green; Green Pond/Back-a-Wall; and Green Pond/Baratt.

In expressing satisfaction with the work undertaken in Plumwood, Mr. Paulwell said it is in keeping with Government’s focus of providing electricity in communities which have never had any.

“We shouldn’t have communities in the year 2013 where people don’t have electricity; and the mission to address this has to be undertaken as quickly as possible. The Prime Minister (the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller) has mandated me to bring light to people right across every nook and cranny of this country, and I am going to do it,” he stated.

The Minister urged the residents of Plumwood to be “responsible” in using the electricity, such as turning off lights and keeping the refrigerator closed, when not in use.

He is also encouraging the use of energy saving devices.  “Buy the…LED bulbs they may be a little more expensive…they will last you much longer and the electricity bill will be that much lower,” he stated.

The REP’s General Manager, Garfield Daley, informed that extensive groundwork preceded the installation of electricity in Plumwood. This, he outlined, included analyzing the terrain and drafting designs, before dispatching work crews to erect utility poles, and installing electricity conductors and transformers “so that we (could be) in a position to connect to the national grid and take the power all the way in to the residents.”

Mr. Daley advised that the electrification projects in all six targeted communities, to benefit over 1,000 residents, were undertaken simultaneously, pointing out that “the others are up and ready already.”

“This (Plumwood) was the last of the six and one of the reasons for this is that the terrain is very rocky and the ‘earthing’, which is a critical requirement when electricity is being installed, was very poor. So we had to introduce some interventions to get the grounding levels to a particular point,” he explained.

The REP General Manager said while the $12 million expenditure in the six areas “might seem a large investment for a relatively small area,” based on the extent of the work required, “we think it was value for money and a reasonable investment.”

In his remarks, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Member of Parliament for South Manchester, Hon. Michael Peart, noted that the commissioning of the community’s electricity service “marks the beginning of a new era for Plumwood.”

“I don’t think anybody here understands how I feel. So I want to thank the Minister for his assistance in getting this project to its completion. Thanks to the Board and members of management and staff of REP. Thank you very much on behalf of the people of Plumwood,” Mr. Peart said.

REP Board Chairman, Rev. Dr. Garnett Roper, noted that bringing light to a community represents a significant step in advancing the residents’ welfare. He contended that it entails beneficiaries determining whether “they are just going to be consumers” or are going to use the electricity to enhance their lives and their community.

“The choice you make is important and the choice is up to you. We have done our part by bringing the electricity to you. You must do the rest,” Rev. Roper said.

Principal of Porus High School, Michael Stewart, described the arrival of electricity as a milestone achievement for Plumwood. He noted that the community’s access to electricity will greatly benefit its students attending institutions in Manchester and the adjoining parish of St. Elizabeth.

“Now they will be able to do their assignments (especially at night). I want to commend and thank the REP Board members here for having gone the extra mile. It has been long in coming and we are very happy that we have achieved this significant milestone,” he said.

The REP was incorporated in 1975 with the specific mandate of expanding the reach of electricity supply to rural parishes, the majority of whose residents did not have access to any, at the time. Over the years the entity has successfully wired over 80,000 rural households, representing approximately 96 per cent coverage.

 

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