PORUS, Manchester — Residents of at least four districts along sections of the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 want infrastructural damage to their houses, caused by its construction as far back as two years ago, addressed.
The houses are located in St Toolies, Reeveswood, Hampton Road, and Redberry, all close to Porus in Manchester.
Councillor Claudia Morant-Baker (Jamaica Labour Party, Porus Division) told the Jamaica Observer that six householders across the four districts have complained to her directly about defects to their houses resulting from the highway construction.
"I know of cases where the houses [have] cracks due to the activities of the highway. Some people have received letters to say that the houses were not damaged due to the blasting, but if it is not the blasting, we know that it is excessive vibration that impacted on people's dwelling," she said on Friday.
"I hope that they are taking those into consideration and are willing to compensate persons accordingly, because the fact is, persons have been affected," added Baker.
Stephen Edwards, managing director at National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) — which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction, and maintenance of Jamaica's highways — said the project contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), is responsible to remedy any defects resulting from the construction.
"… Any damage that has occurred to persons' properties or local roads will be addressed by the contractor. The contractor is contractually obligated to do this during the defects and liabilities period," he told the Sunday Observer via e-mail last Thursday.
He said the project team is in constant communication with the residents in the communities surrounding the highway.
"Both the contractor and NROCC have community liaisons on staff who are constantly engaging the residents of the surrounding communities. This has proven to be quite helpful, as it has allowed the project's team to address questions and concerns quickly. NROCC has built strong relationships with the communities in the vicinity of the highway which we believe will last a very long time. The agency takes all enquiries and concerns seriously. Persons who have questions or concerns are encouraged to contact NROCC offices directly," said Edwards.
However, residents in Redberry said there isn't effective communication between themselves, NROCC, and CHEC.
"I haven't heard from anybody at all," said Annette Francis, a resident of Redberry.
She pointed to a damaged staircase, balusters and cracks on walls on three houses in her yard.
"I have to build a different one; it [staircase] shake out. We had to knock it out and turn it the other way," she said.
Another resident, Olivia Williams, has painful memories of when the highway was being constructed. She, too, said she hasn't received a favourable response to address cracks on houses in her yard adjacent to the highway.
She added that she had to paint her house several times during the construction phase of the highway.
"The dust was unbearable. If you saw what the dust did to the house, to the verandah. Mi tired to paint it. Since the highway finish now I painted the house [again]," she said.
"You see all when they were blasting, I couldn't stay here until the blasting finished and they said they don't pay dust money," added Williams.
Olivia Miller, who is also a resident of Redberry, said after her property was photographed she hasn't received an update from NROCC or CHEC.
"The house has been there for 30-odd years and we have never had a crack like that. After they did their blasting, we noticed that the crack on the front of the verandah from the column to the other end and then in the front the cement dropped out exposing the steel. They came and took pictures, but now they have finished the highway and nothing is being said to us," she stated.
Steven Griffiths, who moved to Redberry in 2017 to build his house, said he is frustrated by the lack of a suitable response from CHEC and NROCC to repairing cracks at his house.
"The first time I showed NROCC the cracks the [representative] said I should use Band-Aid to address the cracks in my house. What kind of talk is that?" he asked.
"I bet if this is where the rich people of Jamaica live would they leave the roads out there like that, would they leave people's houses like that?" asked Griffiths.
"All you get is phone calls being pushed from pillar to post," he said.
The irate homeowner also said the construction of an underpass, changes to the parochial road and subsequent piping adjustments had left him without suitable water supply.
"I have nothing against the highway, it is needed, but at what cost?" he asked.
Another resident of Redberry, who identified herself as Channa, said she, too, was awaiting a favourable outcome from CHEC and NROCC.
"They said that when they finish the highway they are going to compensate everybody. Right now I have a problem where the mud is about four inches thick, dirt and gravel run off the road. We have to put sticks and stones to cross to get into my yard. I spoke to them on several occasions and they said they are coming to finish it as soon as the road is open and all the complaints they would rectify; until this blessed moment I see no one," she said.