Tue | May 30, 2023

‘No more undue risks’

No shortcuts, says Chang, as MP calls for quick occupation of Green Acres station

Published:Friday | March 3, 2023 | 1:18 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
The Green Acres Police Station in St Catherine was immersed in several feet of water as a result of Hurricane Ian.
The Green Acres Police Station in St Catherine was immersed in several feet of water as a result of Hurricane Ian.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang.

The long-expected opening of a new multimillion-dollar Green Acres Police Station in St Catherine will see further delay as the Government seeks to execute a medium-term plan to correct a drainage problem over the next six months.

During a sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament on Wednesday, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said that some $60-million more would be spent to put in a drain that runs east to west of the station and another $10 million to prepare the building for occupancy.

This is in addition to the $73 million already spent to construct the building on lands donated by the citizens’ association.

The area’s flood risk stirred controversy again last September after heavy rains whipped up by Hurricane Ian swamped acres of land where the building is sited, raising questions about the decision to complete construction without the requisite drainage infrastructure being installed.

Chang told his fellow legislators on Wednesday that the community members and the planners in the municipal corporation who approved the plan for the facility had indicated that while there would be flooding on Green Acres Boulevard, which leads to the station, and the St Johns Road main road, the station itself would not be at risk of flooding.

St Catherine West Central Member of Parliament Dr Christopher Tufton, in whose constituency the station falls, argued that the immediate security concerns of the residents of the area necessitate a short-term solution, while a long-term redesign of the area that the National Works Agency (NWA) is currently leading can be undertaken.

Two years ago, the Government had estimated that some $260 million would be needed to redesign the drainage network for the entire area.

Tufton suggested that such a cost would have escalated to about $300 million by now.

“The challenge we face is that it is a medium-term endeavour that requires a lot of pre-planning, but in the meantime, the station is there, and it was built with the agreement of all parties, so we need to engage and occupy the facility. Otherwise, it is going to be vandalised, which has started with some windows already missing,” Tufton said on Wednesday.

“It was the thinking that the building could be occupied, and we deal with any excess flooding while we wait on the comprehensive overhaul of the process. It doesn’t make sense to build a structure and leave it there when deviants are breaking into people’s homes on a weekly basis,” he added,

But Chang was unmoved.

“I note your concerns, but this minister is not going to take undue risks any more,” the national security minister responded.

“We have had discussions, we have done some examination, and we will not take a shortcut to it. We will have a design and the work completed in six months,” Chang said, a far cry from the December 2020 opening deadline he floated when he broke ground for construction in January 2020.

Opposition Spokesman on Works Mikael Phillips expressed concern over the millions being spent on construction before a proper technical assessment of the area was done.

“Somebody has to be held accountable. This is truly a waste of taxpayers’ money. The drain should have been put in prior to the structure being built,” he said.

Chang agreed, pointing out that someone in the technical team at the ministry should, in fact, be held accountable.