Neglect costs taxpayers $26m

Costly neglect - Scramble now on to repair impassable Mount Ogle road

BY JAVENE SKYERS
Observer staff reporter
skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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The State's failure to repair a road in Mount Ogle, St Andrew when the first signs of erosion emerged last year is now costing taxpayers $25.9 million and has left residents worried about the distance their children will be forced to travel when the new school year begins in less than two weeks' time, as the road is now impassable.

According to the National Works Agency (NWA), which revealed the repair cost, work on the road eventually started in June this year but has been hampered by rain, which has led to further erosion.

Acting communications and customer services manager at the NWA Janel Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the road was reduced to single-lane traffic until June this year when an advisory was issued barring all vehicular traffic.

The contractor for the project, Keon Hinds, told the Observer yesterday afternoon that while the rain has been one of the major hindrances, they have made some changes and are putting plans in place to ensure they meet their completion date which, he said, has been submitted to the NWA.

“We are on schedule. I understand the public that they need it [by] September but, based on the schedule, we should be completed by October,” Hinds told the Observer. However, he said he has increased his staff complement and resources with the hope of completing the job “by the first week of September”.

In addition, he has two teams of 12 to 18 men working 12-hour shifts to ensure the work moves at a fast and steady pace.

However, despite the increased work effort, the setback by the rain has not gone over well with residents who, after struggling with their own daily commute over the months, are now beginning to worry about their children's journey to school, should the road not be completed in time.

“With school I know that it will be chaotic. Even now you have to get up earlier and there's no guarantee that you will get a pass through the breakaway. So if you come and there is no way through, you have to go all the way around; so that's more bus fare and you might just reach late,” Kerry-Ann Whittle, who has lived in the community for over 12 years, told the Observer.

She explained that the alternative route through Stony Hill is much longer and, while there is another road within the vicinity of the breakaway that can be used, she is not well acquainted with it. Therefore, she chooses not to traverse it.

Whittle said that for her daily commute she tries to get out earlier than the workmen to make the precarious walk through the work site. But this is a gamble, especially as it becomes even more difficult to make it across once work has started for the day. She stated that this is not something she wants her children to deal with when school opens.

“I'm thinking about school, but I don't know how it gonna work, honestly. Especially for persons with children in Temple Hall and Mount Ogle, I don't know how it going to work because you cannot allow your kids to risk this because they are young; and to send them all the way to Stony Hill, that's just a no-no, so I don't know what to do, honestly,” Whittle lamented.

She maintained that the problem has been a long time in the making, as it started with a small breakaway that could have been easily fixed a few years ago.

Another resident, Marshalee Dawson, explained that the breakaway has greatly increased her daily transportation costs.

“It has been chaotic. So this started way back in June and I had work then, as I'm a teacher, and I had to pay to come from where I live to right here (Mount Ogle)… then pay to go to Half-Way-Tree, then pay from Half-Way-Tree to go to my workplace,” Dawson said.

“Before, it was less because we would get something at Lawrence Tavern, which would take us straight to Half-Way-Tree,” she explained.

She said that transportation becomes more problematic in the evenings as once it gets to 5:00 pm, “yuh can't get anything to come up here”, resulting in long and costly travel home.

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