Mon | Aug 2, 2021

Editors' Forum | City building officers at breaking point as construction booms

Published:Friday | June 25, 2021 | 12:13 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter

The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) receives as many as 1,200 construction applications for approval annually, but with only six building officers employed, one senior official at the entity said these workers are experiencing burnout from undertaking the triple function of processing applications, doing site inspection and receiving complaints.

Senior building inspector at the corporation, Jeremy Lawrence, said that the officers process applications for multi-family, single-family and commercial developments across the six regions in Kingston and St Andrew.

“That does not include the enforcement actions that we have to do; that does not include inspection. Remember that each of those applications, once approved, is valid for two years, which means that we have to monitor those consistently for two years,” he said.

The construction of several multi-storey apartments in the municipality in recent months has raised eyebrows and, in some instances, the ire of residents in some of the communities who often point to breaches and question the role of KSAMC in granting approvals and conducting inspections.

Lawrence said ideally, about 18 officers are needed to meet the current demand for the services of the KSAMC, but he is mindful that resources are not available to employ that many.

“We have several constructions happening throughout the city. We try to stretch our resources to ensure that we cover all of them, but you have to also bear in mind that we cannot post an officer at every single site eight hours a day; that is just not possible,” he said.

Lawrence, who was among several guests at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum hosted virtually yesterday, urged citizens to also contact the police when they observe construction breaches.

OVERWORKED

Revealing that his colleagues were overworked, the senior building inspector stated, “I will be honest, I have pushed them to their utter limits in covering the entire Kingston and St Andrew right now.”

He continued, “They are at a breaking point, and we also have to remember the same officer that does inspection is the same officer that does application processing, where even some of the single-family homeowners, when they submit their plans, they want them out of KSAMC within two weeks. The same officer that does that is also the same officer that does the complaints when they come in on the phone. It’s one officer per zone that covers all the enforcement and actions under the Building Act and some other acts that cover the KSAMC.”

Lawrence said two new officers were added to the team recently, but then two left. He is hoping that at least three more officers can be added in the short term, but he is not very optimistic, considering that a number of other government agencies also have posts that they are hoping to fill.

“I am almost certain that if you go to the Ministry of Health right now, they would say that they need the same number of persons just the same; everybody is fighting over the same exact resources. We need to realise, it is not infinite resources, the resources are finite, especially coming out of the pandemic, it is even so more finite,” he stressed.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com