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Street light theft a headache for JPS in Manchester

Councillors demand better service from utility company

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2022 | 12:06 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
A street light on a pole in Craighead, Manchester
A street light on a pole in Craighead, Manchester
Oliphant addressing the monthly meeting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation last Thursday.
Oliphant addressing the monthly meeting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation last Thursday.

A total of 17 street lights have been stolen across Manchester since June.

The disclosure was made by Devon Willis, operations manager at the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), who was speaking last Thursday during the monthly sitting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation. He cited street light theft as a great challenge across the parish.

Willis’ presence was commended by councillors, who had expressed displeasure at the JPS representative’s virtual attendance at the meeting in June.

The JPS manager, during his presentation, also implored councillors to report missing lights across their divisions.

“JPS also encourages our community to be on the lookout for these individuals who are removing these lights. Councillors, you need to help us [with managing] some of these street lights, because we know from time to time, persons move some of these street lights from one area to another,” he urged.

According to Willis, of the approximately 82 street light requests made, 21 installations had been completed up to July 14.

But Omar Miller, councillor for the Craig Head Division, objected to the report on the basis that the figures are inaccurate. Responding to the report, Miller said: “Let me first say, Mr Willis, I don’t know what you have on your system, but the officers or persons who do their monitoring are quite inaccurate at this time.”

Councillor Jones Oliphant of the Mandeville Division shared similar concerns, stating that he had not seen any installation or repair across his division.

When The Gleaner asked Willis for a response to the councillors’ remarks about the figures in the report, he said he will be consulting with the team responsible for the street light portfolio and requesting a reassessment.

Miller said there are still a number of street lights across his division in need of repair, and demanded better service from the utility company.

“I want the JPSCo to step up to the plate. We [are] talking about centralising everything through technology, so if we cannot walk over to the office or take up our phone and make a report anymore, it also means there’s some level of work to be done on the ground,” Miller argued.

Similar sentiments were echoed by councillor for the Porus Division, Claudia Morant-Baker, who contended, too, that the lack thereof or limited access to ellectricity could be a contributing factor to electricity theft. Morant-Baker argued that some people within her division had expressed a desire to become regularised but are being hindered by hefty costs, or claims by JPS that the commodity was not available in their area.

“For example, I have light in Harmons, and it stops there. But the people are building [beyond] there now, and they need [electricity], but the company had told them over the years that, ‘For us to go from here to here it takes this amount.’ But is it more feasible for people to steal the commodity than for you to provide it to them?” questioned Morant-Baker.

She added: “They are willing to pay, but because they (JPS) are not willing to extend it to a point where they can access it, they have to look at other ways ... which we don’t want, because we don’t want the fires, the loss of lives or the loss of our animals.”

Leroy Mitchell, councillor for the Walderston Division, urged the JPS to install and repair lights across the parish in time for the August 6 Independence celebrations.