'Talk to Us'

Pressure mounts on National Works Agency over the closure of Rock bridge in Trelawny

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern Victor Wright is among the increasing number of stakeholders in the parish pressing the National Works Agency (NWA) for answers as to when the Rock bridge will be reopened.

The Member of Parliament complains that the closure of the heavily traversed bridge on the night of Wednesday, February 27, has since resulted in the crippling of commercial activities in the community of Rock and businesses on the stretch leading from the bridge into Trelawny's capital, Falmouth.

“The closure of the bridge will have even more serious implications on businesses entering into the Christmas season.

“Rock is already gone and I was there three weeks ago, it is affecting the residents, it is affecting the businesses and so you can see the difference. The small businesses have already gone, they have closed and we will continue to lobby,” Wright shared.

He was speaking at the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce and Industry's luncheon held on the grounds of the Falmouth Port on Saturday.

Wright also lashed out at representatives of the works agency for their failure to respond to queries about the bridge from stakeholders in the parish.

“The custos, the mayor, the chamber, at every opportunity we get we would put this across to the NWA and they are quite unresponsive. They have been unresponsive to e-mails, they have been unresponsive in their presence at meetings, but they are an important stakeholder that we will need to drive this growth of which we speak,” Wright rued.

Delroy Christie, president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce and Industry also expressed disappointment over the failure of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and executive director of the NWA, E G Hunter to respond to correspondence from the chamber about concerns over the closure of the bridge.

“I have written to the PM about it, I have written to E G Hunter, and I have not received a response,” Christie bemoaned.

Also bringing remarks at the luncheon, Custos of Trelawny Paul Muschett articulated the negative impact the closure of the bridge has had on the business community in Rock, implored the guest speaker, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw, to lobby for even a Bailey bridge to replace the existing bridge which has become unsafe for motorists.

“Businesses in Rock are suffering badly. I am imploring you [Shaw] to use your good office to try and make a Bailey bridge installed as a temporary measure,” Muschett advocated.

But, speaking to The Jamaica Observer West, Hunter noted that the acquisition of Bailey bridges “are not precipitous undertakings, they require a certain degree of due diligence to ensure that whatever we buy is the right product and we are getting value for money”.

“We don't have Bailey bridges in-store to simply go to the store and take out a Bailey bridge. No! Bailey bridges would have to be designed and ordered from overseas,” Hunter, who asked the stakeholders to be patient, explained.

He pointed out that the NWA is looking at the possibility of putting another structure in place but expressed that the Trelawny stakeholders should also be mindful of the other communities across the country that are also awaiting the erection of bridges.

“Yes, we are looking at the possibility of having a different structure there, whatever form that may be, but one has to bear in mind that there are several other communities islandwide whose bridges were closed for safety reasons.

“So, we have to do a comparative analysis involving not just the Rock bridge, but all other bridges that were similarly closed and while we understand and appreciate the anxiety of the community we also have to take on board the needs and the anxiety of other communities similarly affected,” the head of the NWA argued.

“Our not moving to replace the bridge simultaneous with the closure of the bridge is not evidence of malice or lack of care or any such thing. Remember that we have an islandwide perspective and we are replacing bridges, for example, in Westmoreland we are doing the Paradise bridge, we have done several other bridges. The prime minister just opened the Chesterfield bridge in the Junction.”

Businessman, Dowen Virgo, operator of Johnson's Petroleum in Rock, said despite the significant dip of business at the pumps, he has refused to cut staff.

“Our volumes drop by more than 65 per cent. We haven't laid off the workers because they don't have anywhere to go. These are workers that have been with us for more than 10 years. So we can't just throw them out,” Virgo said.

“We are hoping that somebody will listen and somebody will at least talk to us because until now there is no one that has talked to the business community about it, not one single person. Not one. Until now no one has sat with the business community.”


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