Roadblocks cripple St Thomas

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

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PLANNED protests in several St Thomas communities yesterday forced a number of schools, including St Thomas Technical, to suspend classes after residents used debris to block sections of several main roads, preventing the movement of vehicular traffic.

Vice-principal of St Thomas Technical Ricardo Morgan told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that fewer than 10 students and staff members turned up for classes.

“It affected us [so] we had no school today (yesterday). We have lost a day and we now have to wait on the Ministry [of Education] to advise us about how to proceed,” Morgan said.

Chief education officer at the Ministry of Education Dr Grace McLean told the Observer that the school is required to “follow up with their education officer to determine how they should make up the day, days or even hours”.

A message circulated via social media urged residents to come out and protest against the parish's poor infrastructure which, it said, has deteriorated over the years.

“St Thomas, we protest on November 6, 2017 for better roads parish-wise. St Thomas, we will not be content by patchwork; we want real roads. St Thomas, we want roads and we want better roads,” the message, which was posted on Facebook and sent through WhatsApp, read.

One social media user, Omar Ryan, said the parish must be placed on the front line for development and brought up to par with the general road infrastructure of Jamaica.

“…A matter of fact, we should have the best roads and when they are damaged, be fixed in 72 hours. All of what is needed to do the job is abundant in St Thomas. St Thomasians have remained silent for too long. We [are] raising the revolutionary banner once more,” he said.

Communication and customer services manager at the National Works Agency (NWA) Stephen Shaw, however, told the Observer that there will be no major roadwork in the parish until 2018.

Shaw said between Bull Bay in St Andrew and Pamphret in Yallahs, St Thomas, were blocked, so too were sections between Yallahs, Morant Bay and Port Morant, and between Church Corner and Trinity Ville as well as the main road in Seaforth. The police were called in to clear the blockages.

“We have some patching work that we have undertaken and that is actually going along all those roads that they blocked, and they all know that this is happening. but their argument is that they don't want any patching, they want complete reconstruction.

“I don't know that reconstruction can happen tomorrow, next month or early next year. What we have said to the people out there is that the road is slated to get attention in the segment of the Southern Coastal Highway improvement programme,” Shaw explained.

He said there are a number of deliverables NWA is currently working on, a key one being the completion of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study from the Harbour View to Albion section of road.

“This EIA is now done and we are moving to the next phase which is to have a public presentation for persons to view it, read it, write down their comments, and come to two meetings that we are scheduling — which are slated for November 21 and 22 in Grants Pen and in Bull Bay,” Shaw disclosed.

He said that this phase is very important as it relates to the current contract so, realistically, work is expected to start sometime next year.

“So I don't know that any major work will take place outside of the context of that any time soon …Given the budgetary constraints that we have, I don't know that we can do that.”

In the meantime, head of the Police Traffic Division Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Allen said the police will respond to future protests in the parish in a similar manner it did yesterday.

“When situations like this happen we can't throw up our hands. We have to find ways and means for people to reach to their destinations. The police will respond to any further roadblock,” he said.

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