Regional

'Overloaded'

Bike-taxis hampering delivery of service at Negril Fire Station

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland — A firefighter assigned to the Negril Fire Station in Westmoreland, has called on the authorities and stakeholders in the resort town for help in addressing a number of issues that are having a negative impact on the professional men and women and the service they offer to the public.

Among the problems is the large number of motorcycle taxis that are parked on Archer Road leading up to the entrance to the fire station, preventing the fire truck and the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) ambulance from responding to any emergency promptly.

Firefighter Orette McKenzie brought the issue to the fore during a Ministry of Local Government and Community Development town hall meeting at the Negril Community Centre last Thursday.

The firefighter, who is leaving the brigade next month, pointed out that while he is not against individuals making a living, the bike taxi operations near the station is having a negative impact on the timely response of firefighters to emergencies.

“The minute that we get a call that somewhere is on fire, when responsive mode takes over it is to reach as quick as possible, and if we are going to have delays at the start of the fire station, right there, how is it that we are supposed to respond effectively if they are right there continuously, 24/7 of the day?” he questioned.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Joseph Caine, the commanding officer at the Negril Police Station, in response, disclosed the police's hands are tied as they have run out of storage space for the seized motorcycles.

“At the Transport Authority Pound [in Savanna-la-Mar] Mr Minister, there are 776 motorcycles that were seized from the streets of Negril and other areas of Westmoreland. The pound is now full to capacity and they

are not taking any more motorcycles,” DSP Caine explained.

He added, “last week Negril alone wrote 449 traffic tickets largely to these motorcyclists. Our hands are tied and there is nothing else that we can do.”

Last Friday, when the Jamaica Observer West visited the Negril Police Station a large number of motorcycles were observed stored in the hallway of a building that houses the police conference room and living quarters.

Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, in his remarks at the town hall meeting, inquired of Chairman of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation Mayor Bertel Moore, if there is any underutilised property in the corporation's possession that could be used as a storage area.

However, Mayor Moore told the Observer West on Monday that the corporation doesn't have any suitable lands that could be used for that purpose. He said “other options” are being considered.

The firefighter also pointed to the poor working conditions at the 33-year-old building that houses the Negril Fire Station, which he stressed is currently in a state of disrepair.

“I would love for the members of the Negril community, the stakeholders and everybody to come together and try to refurbish that fire station.

It has been built from in the 1980's and no major refurbishing has been done to the fire station that serves the public, and we there as employees of the people would love to be in a more comfortable situation. As it is right now, we don't have a urinal that is functional there right now,” he said.

The Local Government Minister later disclosed that the Negril, Black River, in St Elizabeth and Frankfield, Clarendon fire stations have been earmarked for extensive repairs in the next financial year.

However, in the short term, the minister asked Mayor Moore to send a technical officer from the municipal corporation to undertake an estimate of the “short-term repairs” that can be done at the facility.

“I have asked them to come and do an assessment to fix the urinal and whatever remedial work that can be done for the fire station until we are able to deal with the wider problems of the station,” McKenzie stated.

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