Quality of material triggers rejection of road rehab projects

Quality of material triggers rejection of road rehab projects

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committee yesterday turned back three multimillion-dollar road rehabilitation projects for St Elizabeth South Eastern after Chair Juliet Holness and others raised strong objection to the quality of the proposed material for the works.

The parliamentary committee had suspended discussions on the projects last week to seek technical advice from the National Works Agency (NWA) and the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation.

The roads are Mount Pleasant, Fairmount, and Retirement in Malvern in the breadbasket parish.

Weighing in on the discussion, experts from the NWA and the CDF Project Management Unit argued against going forward with the surfacing that was being proposed.

The projects, which have been costed at $6.76 million, call for a solution of chip deal or chip and spray material to effect repairs.

Referring to the auditor general's damning report on the management of the CDF, which made headlines last week, Holness stressed that legislators have a duty to be very thorough and cautious in the use of taxpayers' money.

Holness, whose St Andrew East Rural constituency was devastated by flooding, landslides and breakaways during recent heavy rains, received the support of both Government and Opposition members as she made clear that she would not sign the documents brought to the committee.

“I am not prepared to support the notion of chip and spray. If we get one dollar and that can only do one chain of proper roadway, let us do that one chain,” the Member of Parliament for St James Central Heroy Clarke said.

Chief executive officer of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation Errol Lebert said the best option would be asphaltic concrete, but given the exigencies of the situation and the corridors being part of the farming belt of the area, double surface dressing could be effectively utilised.

“Asphaltic concrete is durable and it's waterproof, but double surface dressing itself does provide some level of security [and] it covers a larger area,” he said.

The NWA's director of regional implementation and special projects Andrew Sturridge said the agency understands the funding constraints driving the choice of double surfacing, but had shied away from it over the years due to quality control and maintenance issues.

“Double surfacing has not held up as it did, say, 30 years ago, because of increased traffic management on the corridors. The bottom line is that we would not recommend double surfacing even if you get an extra five kilometres because the next shower of rain you can guarantee it will most likely be gone,” he stated.

Orlando Grant, project officer at the CDF Project Management Unit, pointed out that the Mount Pleasant road, in particular, had not stood the test of time following resurfacing in 2016.

He said the unit has recommended that the funds be directed to one road, or the municipal corporation could help to fund the works.

“Basically the road has deteriorated [and] what we saw, especially with the other two roads, we recommended that the method employed on the Mount Pleasant road was not in keeping with the CDF operational standard of sustainability,” he said.

But St Elizabeth municipal engineer Kenneth Brown was adamant that there was no significant damage on that corridor, and that what was being requested now was a continuation of the project, not a rescoping of the works.

“The corporation has implemented many projects in phases, with funding from CDF... and they are all standing,” he said, pointing out that the damage seen on roads managed by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority should not be used to make an overall judgement, as that agency has no in-house technical expertise and is therefore dependent on the contractors.

State minister for local government and rural development Homer Davis, who is also the MP for St James Southern, pleaded the case for rural constituents and farmers, insisting that it was unlikely that these parochial roads would get any urgent attention for asphalt.

“It is how the application is done and the maintenance of that road. It all depends on the supervision and the application [of the surfacing]. All these roads will stand up based on the character of the contractor,” the former Montego Bay mayor asserted.

The committee chair charged the NWA to provide the necessary support to the parish council to facilitate changing the projects to micro-surfacing.

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