Barrington Flemming – Staff Reporter
With residents and city officials clamouring for more than a decade for a new fire station, government finally heeded to their call, as ground was broken yesterday at Barnett Street, Montego Bay, for the construction of a $534 million new state-of-the-art facility.
Local Government Minister, Desmond McKenzie, in the meantime, has warned construction company, Pave-Con Limited of Mandeville, to be swift and efficient in constructing the long-awaited facility.
The construction company has been awarded the contract to build the new facility which will replace the former fire brigade building that was demolished in 2006 on the instruction of the St. James Health Department, after it was deemed unfit for human habitation.
Rawle Dias, Project Manager of Pave–Con, in explaining the scope of work, said the building would be four storey and would require the use of piles (A pile is basically a long cylinder of a strong material such as concrete that is pushed into the ground to act as a steady support for structures built on top of it), based on its proximity to the sea.
“The building will have a truck bay on the ground floor in the centre; it will have accommodations, offices, water storage facility for the fire trucks, as all other structures. It is a 12-month project and once we keep on schedule, we should be on time, but we aim to beat the schedule and to remain within budget,” he said.
TRANSFORMATION OF MONTEGO BAY
Rupert Pryce, Senior Director of Parochial Revenue Fund Branch in the Local Government Ministry, who delivered Minister McKenzie’s message, indicated that ground-breaking for the construction of the new facility represents another step in the transformation of Montego Bay as a contemporary city with amenities that befit its city status.
“The elected representatives are watching keenly and the electors themselves are observing the execution of this project,” he said.
Citing that 65 percent of all fire stations across the island were in need of rehabilitation, Mr. Pryce said that while the Montego Bay fire station would be under construction, the Falmouth fire station would be rehabilitated at a cost of 10 million dollars, while 8 million dollars would be used to rehabilitate the Negril fire station.
For his part, Mike Henry, Minister without Portfolio in the office of Prime Minister, while charging Pave-Con to deliver the project on time and within budget, said the new fire station was important as it would house 145 fire fighters and grant them the ability to effectively fulfill their mandate to protect and save citizens within the 78 communities they serve.
The fire fighters are being housed at a temporary facility at Freeport and premises at Fort Street.
Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis, in expressing his happiness that at long last the city was getting its new Fire Brigade building, reiterated his call for three satellite stations to be constructed in rural Jamaica to facility rapid response from the fire service.
He called for the multi-agency stations to be established at Maroon Town, Cambridge and Adelphi, arguing that 40 percent of the population of St. James resides in rural communities, who are too far away for effective response from the Barnett Street and Ironshore locations.
The Barnett Street Fire Station project is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project, DVRP, which is being funded by a $30 million US loan from the World Bank.