Wednesday 23 October, 2019

Fire brigade employee stabbed at old Local Gov't Ministry location

The employee of the Jamaica Fire Brigade who was recently attacked and stabbed at his workplace at The Domes at 85 Hagley Park in St Andrew, was occupying the same building that was vacated by the Ministry of Local Government for, among other reasons, safety concerns.

The staff of the Desmond McKenzie-led ministry is now occupying premises at 61 Hagley Park Road that formerly housed Mitchell’s Auto Supplies. They relocated there at the end of 2018.

On Thursday McKenzie strongly condemned the stabbing of the employee while noting in a statement to the media, that the employee was being treated at a hospital.

McKenzie said he has since spoken to Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, who assured him that steps will be taken to secure the area where the ministry was previously located.

“This plaza (The Domes) contains the current headquarters of our agency, the Jamaica Fire Brigade. I want to assure our firefighters and fire brigade staff there, as well as the decent men and women who do business at the various stores within the complex every day, that the police are working to capture the person behind this attack, and to create a greater sense of safety at the premises,” McKenzie said.

The minister also wished the injured fire brigade employee a speedy recovery.

When McKenzie defended the decision of the Government to relocate his ministry while addressing the House of Representatives last month, he cited employees being robbed at gunpoint at old location, cramped and unhealthy office space, along with noise from a nearby betting shop and a nightclub that are situated on the same plaza in which the ministry was located, as reasons for the move. This was after more than 15 years at the location.

The relocation came with a hefty and controversial price-tag that has been attacked by the parliamentary Opposition. The Government will be spending $76 million per year, or $380 million over five years, effective December 2016, for the ministry to occupy the leased premises at 61 Hagley Park Road. In addition to the $380 million, some $200 million was spent to renovate the leased building.

McKenzie also indicated, while answering questions posed by the Opposition Spokesperson on Local Government, Dr Angela Brown-Burke, that employees were frequently robbed, including at gunpoint, thus creating a security issue at The Domes.

The minister told the House that following observations, security checks and recommendations, it was determined that the location was not suited for the ministry’s operation and that the operation had outgrown the location.

When asked by former Local Government Minister, Noel Arscott, whether the location that was deemed unsafe for the ministry's staff is now safe for fire brigade personnel to occupy, McKenzie said the firefighters were not forced to occupy the premises. He said they had conducted their own inspection of the premises before moving in.

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