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Residents of Cheswick, St. Thomas, to Benefit from Infrastructural Projects

Residents of the community of Cheswick in St. Thomas will soon benefit from several infrastructural projects being undertaken by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.

These projects are estimated to cost approximately $120 million and aim to improve the infrastructure and facilities in the Cheswick community.

The infrastructural improvements fall under the Rural Development Programme, which is spearheaded by the Ministry.

The Rural Development Programme was introduced last year and aims to give new life to rural communities.

Cheswick, with more than 900 residents, is the second of six communities identified for the programme. The first beneficiary was the Chambers Pen community in Hanover, which is currently experiencing upgrades under the initiative.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said the programme of development being undertaken in Cheswick include road upgrade, improved water supply, provision of electricity to approximately 100 homes, construction of indigent housing solutions for eight individuals, and completing the construction of a community centre.

He informed that a total of $12.8 million will be spent to improve the Hill Sixty Road in the community. The project, which is slated to begin in August, will last for three months.

The roadwork will include scarifying of the existing surface, laying a new base for the roadway, construction of concrete drains along the roadway, and paving of the roadway with asphaltic concrete.

Minister McKenzie gave an update on the projects during the contract-signing ceremony for the rehabilitation of the Hill Sixty Road in Cheswick, St. Thomas, on July 18.

He said the road project is one aspect of the infrastructure improvements being undertaken in the community. “I drove on this road… . It really needs upgrading and we are spending this money to upgrade [it],” he said.

Mr. McKenzie informed that the community was selected following a survey of communities.

“We did an extensive survey on communities, population, infrastructure, what the needs are, and once we would have done that, we [did] an assessment of the information that was provided. Out of that assessment, the community of Cheswick was selected,” he said.

Another upgrade for the community is improving the water supply. “I remember visiting the community and there was a constant cry – two things the community was lamenting over, the lack of water and the condition of the main road,” he said.

The Minister informed that $15 million has been spent on improving the water supply in the community.

“The tanks and the necessary equipment to pump water to the various households in that section of Cheswick is almost completed,” Mr. McKenzie disclosed.

Turning to the provision of electricity, he said over 100 houses were wired. “Persons have already signed up to become legitimate customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company. I think 49 persons are left to sign up,” the Minister said.

He explained that one of the main features of the Rural Development Programme is to install electricity so that communities can have access to electricity from the main service provider.

“We spent some $12 million in house wiring in the communities. Now the purpose of that is to encourage people to stay away from illegal connections,” Mr. McKenzie said.

The Minister informed that a significant number of fires that take place in homes result from illegal connection. “A part of the rural development is to steer communities away from illegal electrical connection,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Mr. McKenzie said that more than $20 million has been earmarked to complete the construction of the community centre in the area. He said it is his hope to open the facility before the end of the calendar year.

He pointed out that the foundation for the facility already exists and that the allocation is to complete the works that have already commenced.

Another feature that the community will benefit from is the construction of indigent housing solutions.

The Minister said approximately $60 million will be spent to construct the houses, adding that the individuals have already been identified.

“In the assessment that was done, we found that there were a number of persons who were registered in the poor relief system of local government that were actually living in a state of poverty, even below the poverty level, and so in this round of social housing, under the indigent housing programme, eight individuals have been identified and the interviews have been done,” he noted.

Mr. McKenzie said that the programme of works that is being undertaken “has no political colours, because the persons who are benefiting from these programmes are persons who are in need, and that is the purpose of our existence”.

He said the infrastructural improvement works are possible as the Administration has “created a stable economy and has put the country on a path that we have money that we can spend on development”.