Are my eyes going dark or is it Portmore ?
Just wondering aloud. Portmore these nights reminds me of scenes from Oliver Twist’s illustrations of dark London way back when. Has anyone else noticed the dimness of the street lights in certain sections of Portmore, like Greater Portmore? And is the quality of street-lighting these days a reflection of how its residents pay property taxes?
It seems that gone are the days when people could sit under a light post and read. And I don’t think it’s my eyes getting dark. Or is it?
I do not owe the Jamaica Public Service a penny and I have a property tax receipt from the Tax Office in Portmore indicating that I’m not in arrears. So this darkness I’m seeing on more streets of late can’t be fair to those paying citizens like myself who are now exposed to criminal elements who like to lurk in shadows. My hairdresser shared with me recently (she operates along the Independence City area main road (in the vicinity of the stop light) before the turn off to Gregory Park, that there has been a spate of robberies on that street lately with armed robbers holding persons, mostly ladies, at gun and knife point and taking their cellphones and money from them.And try walking along that stretch of road at nights. It’s dark.
It’s the same in Cumberland and Greater Portmore I have now noticed.
$2.6 billion Streetlight Bill?
In my search for answers, I found my way to the Portmore Municipal Council’s website where I found an article stating that a streetlight audit was done in 2013-2014. According to the article, the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development plans to introduce LED street lighting as one of a number of “strategies to arrest the apparent haemorrhage of government money for the payment of streetlights, several of which are non-functional or sub-performing.” There are no figures for Streetlight in Portmore or St Catherine, but apparently, the $2.6 billion bill for street lighting across the island is giving the government tension headaches, hence the desperate measure to go solar.
Portmore to get LED streetlights
According to the article (which frustratingly was not dated) these measures include:
- Financing and implementing a full replacement programme of the existing streetlights with more efficient lights (LED or solar LED);
- Replacement of streetlights with LED (solar or LED): The main principle is that solar panel generates the sunlight in daytime and store the transferred electricity in battery, and during night it releases the power to LED lamp for working.
You can read more about the proposed advantages of using these LED street lights here.
I’m a big advocate for saving money and green energy, granted that our conservative efforts do not not create or exacerbate crime profile of the community. In light of the poor lighting being observed in the communities previously mentioned, and I haven’t done any survey to really know the true scope or extent of the problem in Portmore, I note with interest that one of the stated advantages attributed to LED lighting in the article postulated by the Council article states, ” Unlike compact fluorescent lamps, they can be dimmed, allowing for more flexibility in controlling light levels.”
So, question: Has the LED street lighting already been implemented? If so, when? Part of the plan was to get these lights passed by the Bureau of Standards. Were they? If this plan was in fact implemented and I’m just in the dark about it, were any considerations given to security risks presented by increase in shadows with the dimming of our lights? Will there citizen consultations to apprise them of the programme?
Special Consideration for Taxpaying Portmore
A report on Minister Noel Arscott’s Contribution to the Sectoral Debate for the financial year 2015-2016 back in April found on the Ministry of Local Government website, informs me that he had announced that 500 LED-powered streetlights would be installed in various communities islandwide, with special consideration to be given to the six parishes with the best rate of Property Tax compliance. Portmore Municipality was listed as one of six parishes earmarked for the piloting of this new technology, according to a report on the Minister’s speech found on the Ministry of Local Government website.
In his April speech, the minister had told the House that a Request for Proposal (RFP) to retrofit the streetlights with efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) had been delayed to enable legal review and assessment options for structuring and financing the LED street lighting project. He also said that the IDB were to have finalized the consultant’s report by the end of April. Eight months later, the questions I have for Mr Arscott are: Is this report now ready? What does it say? Mr Arscott had said that as a result of the delays, the ministry had turned over the programme to the Energy Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) “to assist in finding an amicable solution”.
Is JPS proposal and RFP ready?
The last information we have on the status of the project resonates in this report on the Ministry’s website which quotes Mr Arscott as saying (highlights are mine), “We are in the final stage of determining the approach for the replacement programme with the Energy Sector Enterprise Team (ESET), Jamaica Public Service and the Ministry of Finance. Our objective is to have the existing streetlights replaced over a period of 12 months once the service provider is chosen. Arising from this, the JPS has four weeks, commencing April 15, 2015, to prepare and submit a proposal for the replacement of the existing streetlights.”
So, it’s November, this proposal from JPS is now well overdue. Has a service provider been chosen and an implementation date set? In my cursory search of our online local news providers, I have not seen any announcements of such in the news reports. .
So what accounts for the dimmed lighting in Portmore currently? Is the dark streets a result of too many “non-functional or sub-performing” street lamps or LED lamps that were installed and dimmed to reduce the power consumption and cost of service by over 60%?
Upgrade or Downgrade?
With the Municipal Council’s report that the provision of streetlights across the island presently costs the government approximately $2.6 Billion at today’s rate and is projected to move beyond three (3) billion mark, I wholeheartedly agree that there is a need to reduce this hefty expense, but with the move to cut budget and light intensity, are dark times imminent for residents of Portmore, or will the municipality’s good tax paying scorecard give us an upgrade? Right now, the answers are still out there in the dark.
These are questions that need to be asked, so I’ll ask the people who should know and be happy to report on what answers I find. Why don’t you check back for an update next week this time?
Karen Taylor is a Portmore-based blogger. She is available as a contract writer and blogger.