Councillor gets tongue-lashing for deplorable road

Councillor Carlene Benjamin and members of her team on Tuesday were on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from taxi operators who are livid at the condition of the Palmer’s Cross main road in Clarendon which, they say, is severely affecting their health and finances.

The taxi drivers’ anger reached boiling point when Councillor Benjamin (Jamaica Labour Party, Palmer’s Cross Division) and a small team of supporters sought to intervene as the drivers and residents complained to the Jamaica Observer about the state of the road which, they pointed out, was marled two years ago but has not been asphalted.

Benjamin attempted to assure the taxi operators and residents that roadwork would soon resume and said the project was stalled to allow the National Water Commission (NWC) to lay new pipes underground and make the necessary connections, in order to solve a water issue in and around the area.

However, her audience expressed frustration, saying it appeared that the people leading the project were improvising as they went along while the dust was creating serious health problems for them.

“Mi nuh waaa hear nothing from you,” one taxi driver told Benjamin, shrugging her off, before directing his attention to the Observer.

“Every time dem keep meeting, a di same thing. A two year now the road gone. Dem need fi fix the road. If a just fi put likkle asphalt inna di middle and mek di edge dem stay. Look pon di dust inna di people dem yard,” he said, pointing to trees in nearby residences with leaves that have turned white from dust.

“This yah car yah a new car, enuh, and a $27,000 it cost me for bushing inside the rack and pinion. A three different mechanic mi go. A long time di road a gwaan suh. Every time a promise pon top a promise. We need the road fi fix. Every day we haffi wash we car and a $500 fi wash di car, enuh,” he said.

The councillor’s team indicated to the Observer that it made no sense to have paved the road only to have it dug up again if pipes underneath kept bursting. They shared that the NWC had changed the pipe network from Palmer’s Cross to Twin Palm and is gradually connecting residents to the new line to ensure they receive adequate piped water.

“If water commission completes everything, then after the meeting this week Wednesday the roadwork should resume. I think most times we are not communicating with the residents and that causes a bit of frustration. All they are hearing is that the road soon fix and they are not seeing anything and they don’t know what is happening,” one member of her team said.

When contacted for comment, Pearnel Charles Jr, Member of Parliament for Clarendon South Eastern which includes Palmer’s Cross, told the Observer that the roadwork should resume any time now, as the NWC has completed connecting the respective households to its system.

“I have been in constant dialogue with the NWC and NWA (National Works Agency) and the contractors. The work had been stalled, so that the NWC could complete some water system work and thereafter NWA would continue. The NWC work was prolonged because of a number of different events, including the circumstances with COVID-19 and the different protocol issues. NWC has confirmed that their side of the work is complete and the contractor should be completing the work in short order. The people in the area have been patient. They have endured a lengthy delay. I understand their frustration. We are pushing to ensure that the work continues and is completed in a timely manner,” Charles said.

“Wetting of the roadway to reduce the dust was not being done as consistently, so we spoke to the contractor about it and we have gotten assurances that it will be done. When the NWC put in the new system, a lot of breaches were revealed so they had to go through a lengthy process to complete water rehabilitation in the area. That is complete now, so the roadwork should move hastily so the people can have the benefit of the road they deserve,” he added.

One of Charles’ constituents, Virginia Pennant, expressed disappointment, saying that one of the main reasons she decided to vote for the first time in her life was that residents had been promised good roads. However, to date, numerous bad roads exist throughout Palmer’s Cross and other areas in Clarendon.

One senior citizen who was seen walking along the road said, “Dust a kill we”, and lamented that the schedule to wet the surface to keep the dust down was not being kept.

A bartender said she was tired of having to constantly wipe dust off the bottles of beverages on the shelves inside her bar.

“A pure dust. You will outside a talk and dust just hoist up,” she said.

Robert Sewell, a taxi operator who shared that a protest over the issue was imminent, said, “The dust a affect the people dem in the surroundings, their households and shops.”

He pointed to a doctor’s office across the street, saying, “Yu see that doctor, that doctor a mek money around the area and people not even have money fi medication. Inna Palmer’s Cross, people a sick off.”

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