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NWC pushing to repair 'dug-up' roads faster

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 25, 2014    

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TEN months ago, the National Works Agency (NWA) suggested that a protocol developed between itself and the National Water Commission (NWC) would have had roads damaged by the commission repaired within weeks.

In fact, NWA Chief Executive Officer E G Hunter made a commitment to Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee last October that: "after a (road) is cut, we will carry out the permanent reinstatement within a maximum of two weeks."

But, while the commitment was music to the ears of the members of Parliament — who often take the blame for roads left in disrepair for months and sometimes years after being dug up by the NWC to lay pipes — it didn't work.

However, newly appointed president of the National Water Commission, Kingsley Thomas, said that the protocol which inspired it is very much alive, and commuters should be able to enjoy the results soon.

"It had a little hitch, and we are trying to clear up that hitch," Thomas told a Press Club briefing at the Jamaica Observer last Thursday.

The NWC president was particularly upset that Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston, which was dug up as part of a $72-million project to improve the sewerage network in the Corporate Area, had still not been repaired several months later.

"I am saying that it is a disgrace that the sewer has been laid for so long, and the road has not been fixed," he commented.

But, NWC's regional manager for eastern Jamaica and acting Vice-President Richard Meggoo explained that other issues can arise which may lead to a delay in repairing them.

"We encountered asbestos pipes and so on, and if we had gone ahead and reinstated them, what happens is that the compaction would damage the asbestos pipes and they would start to leak. We also have other pipes that we want to change and replace them with bigger pipes. So it is better for us to change those pipes first," he explained.

"What we are considering, and we have used the model before, is that the NWA will undertake to fix the road, but it is going to be costed for the laying of pipes. [This way] the road is not reinstated and you have to dig it up again in another couple on months," he said.

He added that the budgets of the NWC and the NWA do not necessarily coincide. Therefore, going forward, under more significant infrastructural programmes like the $34 billion Major Infrastructure for Development Programme, there should be a joint effort between the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, under which the NWC falls, and the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, under which the NWC falls, to acquire funding simultaneously for the programme.

"We are going to have to synchronise our activities so that we don't get flak," he added.

However, he said whatever form the programme takes in the future, the NWC will verify all the roadwork done before any money is paid over. He also confirmed that the two government agencies had agreed on a programme last year, under which the NWC committed to providing some $8 million per month.

"You may imagine that the cost may exceed $8 million, but we are seeding the account and we will be putting money into that account to facilitate that," Meggoo added.

The NWC says it has already assigned one of its managers the responsibility for road repair costs, and that separate and apart from the work financed by the fund, private contractors have also been engaged.

The commission appealed to consumers to use its e-mail and text lines to inform its communications staff about delays in road repairs.

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