Residents anxious for repairs to damaged homes, roads
Residents in Manchester communities close to the under-construction May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 are calling for China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the project contractor, to give a timeline for repairs to parochial roads and houses damaged during the process.
“Right now, a watch mi a watch dem, y’know, fi see weh dem a deal wid because if dem nuh come come look pon mi house by January, mi a get wah lawyer and sue dem ... . A try dem a try go ‘round wi, but wi a watch dem,” St Toolie resident Dennis Edmond told The Gleaner.
Edmond said that the walls at the back of his house as well as some tiles inside were damaged while CHEC carried out blasting to clear a path for the US$188-million roadway.
“A not even 40 feet backa mi house di highway deh. All dynamite dem put backka mi house and lick di hill; mi house jerk up,” he shared.
Pointing to the cracks in the walls of her house, Redberry resident Kiesha Pommells said that a pre-blasting assessment was carried out on her house. She is now awaiting the completion of another to see the extent of any damage now that the exercise has been completed.
She is also concerned about the incomplete repair work done on the parochial road in her community.
Pommells told The Gleaner that she had been informed that the road would be repaired when the highway was almost completed.
“Mi nuh know how dem leave di banking like dat, and mi nuh know if dem intend to come back and fix it. Dem only fix dat road weh di Chinese dem responsible fa. Dats it,” she said.
Another community member, 33-year-old Oshane Francis, had similar concerns regarding the area repaired.
“What they dug up, they just fixed it back ... . I don’t understand. The trucks are using the roads, and they only fix actually under the bridge,” he said.
While he views the highway construction as a major development, Francis contends that its construction has resulted in an increase in the cost of living.
“This is a area where we usually depend mostly on rainfall to catch water, but now wid the dust from the highway, you haffi to buy more water. You usually clean once. Now you have to clean twice,” he explained.
Over in the neighbouring St Toolies, residents are contending with a dust nuisance resulting from the damage to their roads as a result of the construction.
Christine Rodney, who operates a shop in the community, was hoping that the road would be fixed in time for Christmas.
“When they just come with the construction, they told us that they were gonna fix the road, so I was hoping for that to be done, especially now in the Christmas,” she said. “There is a lot of dust, and when the rain falls, even if the rain just [drizzle], we have a lot of water coming down, where we didn’t have that before. It is affecting us, and I wish that they would fix it.”
Councillor Claudette Morant Baker told The Gleaner that representatives from the construction company have assured her that road repairs will be carried out in St Toolies, Breezewood, Redberry, Hampton Road, and Trinity.
“I am expecting them to fulfil their commitment ‘cause once they impact the parochial roads, it has to be repaired; they must be,” Morant-Baker said, adding that she is anticipating that this will be completed by next March, when the highway construction is expected to be completed.
The councillor said she will also be advocating for quick repairs to homes damaged during the blasting exercises.
“My house was burst as well, so I do have a concern, but the reassurance was given to us that once you can establish that this was the activity of the highway that caused the cracking, it will be repaired,” she said. “So far, nobody has told me that they have been compensated or that any repairs have been done.”
Stephen Edwards, managing director at the National Road Operating and Constructing Company, which is responsible for overseeing the design, construction, and maintenance of Jamaica’s highways, told The Gleaner that only roads that were damaged because of construction would be repaired.
“The contractor will not extend repairs to roads in any other communities as they have no legal obligation to repair roads outside of the construction right of way. Roads to be repaired will include damaged roads that were a result of construction activities or roads within the right of way,” he said.
Edwards, who disclosed that a team is currently evaluating the state of the roads, told The Gleaner that while no timeline has been set for the repairs, they would be done before the completion of the project.
He also acknowledged that post-blasting assessments are being carried out on houses in affected communities.
“If there are differences between the previous conditions and present conditions of the structures, the contractor will conduct repairs and will make good on any damage that was caused by blasting,” he said.