Alternative routes no comfort for residents of Mount Ogle

BY JAVENE SKYERS
Observer staff reporter
skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 24, 2017

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RESIDENTS of the rural St Andrew community of Mount Ogle, who are now unable to access the district via the main route because of a major breakaway, are far from happy with the alternative route which they are forced to traverse.

The frustration grows when they speak about the slow pace of the work on the main access road, especially with the opening of the school year coming on September 4 — less that two weeks away.

It all started with a fallen mango tree, or at least that's what several Mount Ogle residents, including Neville Phillips claimed is the main reason for the now completely eroded roadway in front of his home that has prevented vehicular access for the last few months.

While Phillips is among a number of residents in the St Andrew community impacted by the breakaway, for him it is a little too close to home — literally.

His home is perched just in front of the roadway and his front gate opens directly to the large chasm below where work is ongoing to get it fixed in time for the new school year next month.

But while the problem is being fixed, Phillips is left confined to his home, with the only options available for him to leave the premises being use of his neighbour's yard or down a small and dangerous track just beside his gate.

Phillips, who returned to his childhood home in Mount Ogle three years ago, said the whole experience has been nerve- racking for him and his family.

“You have some indisciplined people [as] there was a barrier up until (last) Friday and people kick it down twice; it's like they don't care,” the Mount Ogle resident told the Jamaica Observer.

According to Phillips, the barrier, which was near his gate, was erected on what little of the roadway was left, but this made no difference to persons who were determined to make their way across at any cost.

He said that he was told that before the roadway was completely eroded that he could have parked his vehicle outside as security would be provided.

However, he explained he decided against doing this, which was fortunate for him as he said the security in place leaves much to be desired as it seems like, “anybody can do what they want”. The vehicle now cannot leave the premises until the repairs are completed.

Phillips said that he knows situations like the one he and the other residents are facing are not unusual, and while he doesn't cast the blame on anyone, he believes it could have been prevented.

He explained that a mango tree that has been close to the roadway since he was a child finally fell over a few years ago, causing a small erosion in the roadway that would have taken about a week to be fixed if the proper attention had been paid to it.

Although stating that “it should never have gotten to this”, Phillips is hopeful that the repairs will be finished soon so life can go back to normal. As such, he said he welcomed the night shifts by workmen which he said started last week and lasted for three nights.

He explained that it was the first time men worked during the night on the repairs, but said that the work pace has since seen setbacks.

Phillips reported that around two weeks ago one of the machines — a hydraulic excavator — overturned on site and it took about 10 days to get it back up and running.

He said despite the setback he is hoping that work will continue at a steady rate so that he and other affected residents can return to their normal lifestyles.

“It's very uncomfortable… but I understand that these things do happen so I'm trying my best to bear it as such situations happen from time to time,” Phillips stated.

But while Phillips is trying his best to deal with a dire situation, other residents like Anthony Phipps are at their wit's end.

“Maybe the contractor is the problem because from time di man dem start the work the work should be finished; them dig out, do excavation and a days before anything more [is done], then it cost the country; them should tek it out a dem pocket,” Phipps told the Observer during a telephone interview Tuesday morning.

Phipps maintained that the work has not been going as it should and that the rains now hampering activities were just an “excuse” in light of pre-existing problems. These, according to the resident, include a recent report that cement and other materials were finished and that the men were not working nights and weekends until around last week.

“School start within two weeks,” said Phillips. “The thing they [are] doing now is not even five feet and it keeps on breaking away; it dig out so long, for weeks, and so the soil irritated, so if little rain fall a it dat… I don't think it can finish (in time for school) because it really don't reach anywhere,” Phipps said.

He noted that it is “very hard” on the people in the community and while they were advised to use alternative routes, the options such as going through Old Stony Hill can be dangerous, and so very few buses traverse the route.

The problem is just as bad for residents who have their own vehicles, as according to one resident who requested anonymity, at least one of the alternative routes causes 'more wear and tear' on a vehicle, in addition to being more costly.

The resident explained that while driving from Stony Hill to Essex Hall is fairly manageable, when it comes to driving on the road from Burnt Shop to Lawrence Tavern, this is not the case. She explained that the road, which is narrow with several sharp corners, can be difficult to manoeuvre, especially as it is steep and winding.

There is also concern when it comes on to the evening hours, as one resident who lives on the Burnt Shop road said few drivers want to enter the community as sections of the road are hilly, narrow and without guard rails. One mistake could cause a motorist to fall over a precipice.

However, while there is increasing concern among residents about the state of the road in Mount Ogle and whether or not it will be completed in time for the new school year, liaison officer for the Brandon Hill Division, Roger Brown stated that the work is progressing as fast as possible, considering the circumstances.

He noted that the initial breakaway had resulted in some broken pipes, which has helped to further erode what was left and also hinder ongoing work.

“We know we have a lot of people calling and thing [but] when you have to deal with it day-to-day like how we deal with it (by allowing residents to walk where work is being done) it [is difficult].

“By right we should have fenced up with workers alone. We know about the extra money and we understand all a that, but give and tek, hold it, suck salt fi di next couple months [and] it ago alright,” Brown stated.

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