Gov’t forks out $1.4 billion to patch roads, other civil works
IN the aftermath of the severe weather system that impacted the island last week, the Government has approved an allocation of $1.4 billion to carry out minor civil works and other activities across the island.
In making the announcement in Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the funds will be provided under the constituency-based mitigation and clean-up programme.
“The programme will allocate $22 million for each constituency to undertake minor civil works and public sanitation which becomes necessary at the end of the hurricane season in November and coincides with the Christmas period in December,” he said, noting that he anticipates work beginning as soon as possible.
He noted that the programme, which will be carried out by the National Works Agency (NWA) and the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), will implement targeted interventions with the key priority rankings of: reopening of blocked roads; cleaning of critical drains which have now been heavily silted; patching of main thoroughfares, which have been scoured; construction of new structures such as retaining walls; river training, and small river training.
“As funds become available we want the Members of Parliament (MPs) to also look at minor rehabilitation of roads that have been [impacted]; for example, we notice in St Thomas that a part of a road was undermined by water flow. So the resources that you have, if you can use it to correct those small small civil works that would also be approved in this project,” he said.
He said that all agency fees will be covered by the project funds, ensuring that no fees are deducted from the constituency allocation.
At the same time, the prime minister said Cabinet has also approved a special housing response programme for $330 million, noting that $5 million will be allocated to each constituency to assist with minor roof, windows and siding repairs.
“The programme is designed to treat with houses that have leaksâ€¦ The idea behind this is to target those houses that are vulnerable to weather, particularly leaking roofs or compromised wooden structures, to assist with the replacement of zinc sheets, windows or ply sidings that have been compromised,” he said, while advising MPs to target 100 persons and offer grants of about $50,000.
He said that St Thomas, which has been severely affected, will be provided with an additional allocation of $3 million.
The prime minister promised to go back to the drawing board to “see whether or not we are able to extend any further assistance to constituencies which may not be severely affected, but impacted above the average. So there might be two or three others”.
Further, giving an overview of the weather system’s impact, Holness said that 69 roads were badly affected by landslides mud flows, downed trees, and inundation which rendered some communities inaccessible and some marooned.
“The initial damage assessment estimate by the NWA is somewhere in the region of $409 million,” he said.
He noted that several communities, especially within the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, St Thomas, Portland and St Mary were severely impacted by flood rains.