Independence Street residents concerned about “scratch and patch” road project

A section of the recently patched road
A section of the recently patched road

By Lakhram Bhagirat

The seemingly quiet community of Independence Street, La Grange on the West Bank of the Demerara River is now up in arms over the quality of rehabilitation works being executed on their road.

They are now calling on the Public Works Minister Juan Edghill to intervene before the project is completed.

The project is currently being executed by Puran Brothers and was initially pegged at over $70 million and would have seen the one-mile roadway being resurfaced. However, the project was revised to just 14 per cent of the rehabilitative work being done, a walkway from the La Grange Public Road to the La Grange Nursery School in Independence Street, and a just a portion of the roadway being resurfaced.

The savings, according to sources close to the project, will be used to execute other projects within the La Grange – Nismes Neighbourhood Democratic Council’s (NDC) constituency.

Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited constructed the road about 15 years ago and the road was in good condition prior to the commencement of the current rehabilitation project.

The residents have accused the authorities of not having any consultation prior to the commencement of the project.

“No one came out and say anything to the residents (before they start the project). This project was conducted without any consultations and we have over 350 houses with children and grandchildren and this is what they doing and destroying this road,” resident Bissoondial Ramsaran related.

According to the residents the “scratch and patch” is causing more damage than good.

“On the 10th of March, I spoke with Mr Edghill, I told him about the scratch and patch like a bicycle tube them doing on this road and it is not good enough. I told him that we want two feet wider on the southern side of the road and he said that he will investigate. He will send an engineer and we show him and the bai go back and when them come back the said that them can’t give we that,” Ramsaran said.

The man said that he has been living in the village for all his life and work in close association to road projects.

“They are not supposed to trouble the road. The road could have given us another 15 years of service and what they are doing now is where they scratching and patching. The (patch) line will now leave a water log and the water log will sink down in the road and destroy the whole road. They now trying destroy this whole road…them not doing anything beneficial,” the irate man explained.

Another resident, Reshma Ramsaran, said she contacted the Public Works Minister after they realized that the project is causing more damage to the road which was in a better condition before it started. She added that the topic of a 2ft extension to the roadway was broached with the Minister who explained that on one side there are utility poles and the other is GWI’s water line hence the reason that cannot be done.

In relation to the ongoing rehabilitative work, the woman said that the contractor used an excavator to dig up parts of the road and then repairing it haphazardly.

“Plenty part where dem dig up was good. This whole road was good and we ask them to give we an extension. We didn’t even know they was doing this road till them come and start dig up,” she said.

“Them man done mek this road here and right by me gap down deh by the hump, the piece what them done mek done bruck off. The Minister said on the news that when ayo road building in ayo area, ayo don’t come and say nothing when it done build. So we a talk now,” resident Ragnauth said.

The man said that the road is already breaking up where they would have rehabilitated just weeks ago.

Meanwhile, housewife Surujdai Baksh said when the contractors first started the project, she contacted NDC Chair Anjanie Narine who informed her that she knew nothing of it. Baksh related she was surprised that Narine would claim to have no knowledge of the project.

“We don’t see the Councillors and the Chairperson. The Chairperson told me that they don’t know nothing when I complained concerning the road,” Baksh said.

Why the impatience?

When contacted, the Public Works Minister related that residents would have contacted him about the project and sought to have the road widened. He accused the residents of raising issue because “they would like to have their own way.”

Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill

He explained that in order for him to accede to the demands of the residents and widen the Independence Street road then it would require uprooting all of the utility poles and relocating them and questioned whether the residents would bear that cost.

The Minister explained that the initial contract was for the entire road to be recapped with asphalt but a site visit by the team of engineers from the Ministry showed that several sections of the road was in pristine condition.

“So rather than scarifying the entire road -which means breaking it up and relaying in – what the contractor is doing based upon the engineer’s instructions is that the sections that are failing, they are cutting it out, they are putting in an engineering solution and when they have remedied those solutions then they would cap the entire road and you would have a level road. Why the impatience?” Edghill said.

He said that a meeting was held with the NDC and residents and the engineer from his Ministry was sent over to explain the design and what needs to be done. He reminded the residents that the road is not yet completed and urged that they remain patient.

However, the residents have formed themselves into a group and are bent on becoming the watchdogs so that when the road is completed it can withstand the daily traffic. The Independence Street is one of the three main ingress point to the Parfaite Harmony Housing Scheme and substantial traffic passes through the road on a daily basis.

“It is not our fault”

When this publication contacted Puran Brothers, General Manager Kalesh Puran related that when they initially tendered for the project, they were under the impression that it would only entail resurfacing the entire road.

“When we did the site visit with the Ministry of Public Works, they changed the scope of work, instead of asphalting the road entirely, the Ministry’s engineer changed the scope and said that they don’t think the road need asphalting in its entirety so let us cut the road and repair it rather cover the whole scope of work.

“Some of the residents are very unhappy because of the work but it is not our fault. We did a lot of asphalted road but this one I don’t know why the Ministry would have instructed us to change the scope and cut the road rather than asphalt,” Puran related.

He related that the revised scope of work makes their work even more challenging since they have to cut individual portions of the road and patch that. However, he commended the residents for being watchdogs and related that his engineers would have met with them where they were told of what is expected.

“We never had no faults with our construction but this particular work is a very tedious and disgusting work because you have to literally go and cut every section that is bad and it is a lot of time and effort that we didn’t cater for…Whatever is not done properly, we will do it to the standard the road was supposed to be done…had it been a resurfaced from the start to finish then we would have finished that work and moved on to other work. That is a very time-consuming work and very challenging,” Puran related.