NWA blames protest for road repair delay

SHETTLEWOOD, Hanover — Monday’s peaceful protest by residents of Hanover has been blamed for delaying the start of a $17-million project to repair the roads they are complaining about.

The demonstration has left Member of Parliament for Hanover Eastern Dave Brown fuming, and the National Works Agency (NWA) has claimed that the work will begin today, stressing that, that is not a knee-jerk reaction to the protest.

From as early as 4:30 am, angry residents, mostly from Hanover, used debris and fallen trees to block a section of the road in the vicinity of Shettlewood in Hanover and Mackfield, Westmoreland. They were later joined by bus and taxi operators. The thoroughfare is the main gateway into the city of Montego Bay from St James Southern, Hanover Eastern, Westmoreland, and St Elizabeth.

“Every time that something is going to be done there is a demonstration,” bellowed MP Brown during an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

He said a contract had been awarded and bushing was done last Friday in preparation for road repairs to begin on Monday.

“Why not have dialogue. Why not find out what is the scope of work. What is going to be [accomplished] in having a demonstration or protest?” questioned Brown.

Community relations officer for the NWA’s Western Region Janel Ricketts told the Observer that a major repair job, valued at approximately $17 million, is to be undertaken along the Shettlewood to Mackfield road.

On Monday morning, she said equipment had been mobilised from St James and the plan was to begin working. By late Monday afternoon Ricketts said the NWA team had been unable to start the project.

“The road was still blocked, so that was the emphasis to have the road cleared. So away from the bushing that they did last week, no [work has been done]. It will have to be tomorrow. The road was heavily blocked at different sections,” stated Ricketts.

She explained that the plan is to repair the worst affected sections of the road over the next three months.

“We are going to be patching some sections of the road and then for other sections that are in a worse condition, we are going to be removing soft spots, doing base work, and reshaping those sections of the roadway and then asphalting them,” Ricketts said.

She described Monday’s protest as unfortunate and said that the start of the NWA’s work in the area was not in response to the blocked roads.

“A project of this nature — $17 million — we just can’t get up today because the road is blocked and start it. It is something that was already in train,” she said.

“It will help to alleviate the condition along that particular stretch of roadway. So we are asking them to hold strain over the next few months,” Ricketts appealed.

Brown expressed similar sentiments.

“I want to say to the residents and motorists in general, just be a little more patient. I know the road is extremely bad but you have to understand that procurement is the issue. We just don’t go to the drawing board and get the funds like that. It is a system that I cannot do anything about as an MP. I have done my part. I have lobbied for the road to be fixed. I have no control over procurement. So we will just have to be patient,” he urged.

The police and military tried cleaning debris from the road, but residents insisted that they would continue their protest until they get answers.