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Minister of Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill is threatening more stringent action against utility companies, which continue to undo and ruin roadwork completed by the National Works Agency (NWA).
“We will be watching very carefully the operations of these utility companies when they operate either on the road surface or on the embankments or sides of the roads,” he said.
The Minister, who was speaking at a recent press conference at his Maxfield Avenue offices, told reporters that companies and agencies that dug up roads or embankments along the road network were mandated to “bring the road back to the standard in which they found it”. He noted that in many cases repair work was substandard.
“The experience in Jamaica is that even when it is ‘properly’ done, you find that where they cut these channels, they sink below the level of the road after a while, so really, where they can be avoided, it should be avoided. And it can only be avoided if, when something is being planned, everybody is on board,” said the Minister.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NWA, Ivan Anderson disclosed that the NWA had “developed a Code of Conduct or an agreement indicating how utilities should operate, and how co-ordinated planning will take place to try to ensure that the situations are not repeated”.
“We are hoping that this level of disruption will be minimised in the future,” Mr. Anderson added.According to Mr. Pickersgill, all Government agencies and utility companies were notified of planned road works. However, “although everybody is on board, everybody might not be ready at the same time” and this has led to problems, he said.
He noted that sometimes there were extenuating circumstances, which led to roads being dug up shortly after being laid or rehabilitated by the NWA. Citing an example, the Minister pointed to the current situation on the North Coast Highway, where National Water Commission (NWC) pipelines are being replaced.
“The National Water Commission was told, but they were processing a loan application, and at that stage they were not in a position to tell us what they were going to do, so we [NWA] had to go ahead. While we were proceeding with our work, they got the go ahead and some accommodation had to be made,” Minister Pickersgill informed.
Chairman of the Road Maintenance Fund, Prakash Vaswani stressed that utility companies “should be paying a fee to maintain the public infrastructure”, and as such efforts would be made to recover the cost of these road rehabilitation projects from the executing utility company.
“We in the Road Fund are actively looking at a document where we will no longer fund these works, because it is unfair for the taxpayers of this country to fund these works, when the utility companies have their assets and are able to fund it themselves. I think it’s time that we stand up and get who is liable for these costs to pay for these costs,” Mr. Vaswani asserted.
Mr. Vaswani also suggested that these companies consider setting aside money for these projects annually, as is now done by the National Water Commission. “If they have ‘x’ amount of manholes, they know what the repair cost is, and we charge them and bill them accordingly at the beginning of a year, so they know it is a part of their maintenance costs and we will execute the repair works on an on-going basis. I think that is where the discussions have to go,” he pointed out.