Pay for water to fight fires

Jamaica’s water provider wants fire brigade to pay for water used to fight fires.
Jamaica’s water provider wants fire brigade to pay for water used to fight fires.

KINGSTON — The National Water Commission says that the Jamaica Fire Brigade should start paying for the water it uses to fight fires.

According to the NWC, which is seeking to improve its collection systems to convince the Office of Utilities Regulation that it deserves a 19 per cent hike in water rates, the fire brigade should “agree on a method for estimating the water accessed from fire hydrants and to establish payment terms for water used”.

The fire brigade owns, operates and is responsible for approximately 13,000 hydrants island wide. However, the NWC connects the hydrants to its water supply systems, on behalf of the Fire Brigade and the respective municipal authorities, and is responsible for the supply of water.

The proposal is among several partnership agreements the NWC proposes to establish with key stakeholders to assist in, or to complement its efforts at reducing its receivables. The proposed partnership agreements are included in the commission’s Tariff Submission to the OUR for the period 2013 to 2018 which is being discussed at town meetings scheduled by the OUR to get public reaction to the request for the water rate increase.

The NWC will also be seeking to establish partnership agreements with the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited, the Ministry of Health, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, which is in charge of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, to assist persons unable to pay their water bills.

The partnership with the JPS would be to combine the efforts of their revenue recovery teams and exchange information regarding customers, especially those who are difficult to locate or are located in areas with a history of poor collections.

The collaboration with the Ministry of Health would assist in recovering delinquent amounts owed by small businesses, such as restaurants, hairdressing establishments and private day care facilities which continue to operate despite being disconnected.

“It is proposed that a formal report should be submitted by the NWC to the Public Health Department, so that appropriate action can be taken to shut down such operations which may be a danger to public health,” the NWC says.

In terms of its partnership with the police, the NWC is proposing a contractual arrangement through the Ministry of National Security which, the commission thinks, will assist in the prevention of delinquency and the recovery of amounts owed.

“Currently, the NWC does not have a formal agreement with the JCF regarding how that agency might be able to assist the NWC to collect its revenue. In the main, the approach has been piecemeal, with each division making its own arrangements, depending on the relationship that the NWC has with the police in that particular parish. The NWC will seek to enter into a contractual arrangement with the JCF, through the Ministry of National Security, to assist with both the civil and criminal matters,” the commission says. (Observer)

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