– offer to clear canal for far less than contract cost
Yesterday’s attempt to remove dwellers along the West Ruimveldt Front Road Reserve was met with fierce resistance, as residents blocked roads, forcing the demolition crew to hastily abandon their mission.
The situation led to the intervention of armed police ranks, who had to resort to clearing huge boulders and pieces of wood with their hands.
The issue at hand is the clearing of what is known as the Front Road canal, which is clogged up with weed.
The City Council is contending that the more than 80 households situated on the reserve are impeding efforts to clear the canal.
Notices were delivered to the dwellers informing them of the council’s intentions. But the residents are claiming that for them to remove, the government will have to make good on a promise to provide them with house lots.
According to one resident who has been living on the Ruimveldt Front Road Reserve for 25 years, officials from the Ministry of Housing had delivered forms for them to fill out for the purposes of obtaining house lots. That was more than a year ago, and to date, that initiative is still to be manifested.
“They bring paper and tell we to apply for house lots but up to now we ain’t get no land,” the resident explained.
“I gon go whey I gat fuh go, if I gat fuh go in de burial ground and build I gon go. I got to live. Me family got to get somewhere to live. You can’t break me down and I ain’t got no place fuh go,” added a frustrated female resident, when asked where she would go if her home is demolished.
The residents said that they are prepared to remove once the promised house lots are provided.
According to the residents, around mid morning yesterday, without any proper notice, several employees from the Mayor and City Council swooped down on the area and began demolishing some of the structures on the reserve.
This led to a brief standoff which ended when Mayor Hamilton Green was contacted by telephone and alerted about the situation.
Immediately after the phone call, the City Council employees abandoned their mission and left the scene. But the residents were wary that this was not the end and they began protesting the actions of the City Council by blocking the roadway with boulders and other debris, which led to the intervention of the police.
Soon after the police cleared the road, City Mayor Hamilton Green arrived on the scene and immediately told the residents that he was unaware of the actions undertaken by the Council’s workers.
“I instructed some time ago, the town clerk and the engineer and senior staff, that whenever they are to do work in these areas, and generally, the Mayor is to be told. That should be a normal thing. Ten days ago, I reminded the Town Clerk and Engineer
that I wanted to know because I’m the person who can talk to the public,” the Mayor stated.
He said that interfacing with the public and getting their cooperation was of utmost importance in matters involving the disruption of people’s livelihood.
He said that he learnt of yesterday’s demolition exercise only when he was contacted via telephone by persons at the scene.
“You know we can talk, but the time has come for us to act,” the City Mayor said.
“What is happening today is that these senior officers (of the Council), either through fear, stupidity or their own self preservation, are taking instructions from the minister or a PPP Councilor doing work in these areas. That is the impression I’m getting,” Mayor Green stated.
He explained that clearing the canal was done before and the City Council should have engaged the residents to facilitate the work as was done on previous occasions.
According to Heston Bostwick, who is also a resident of the Front Road Reserve, a proposal was sent to the M&CC offering the services of residents to clear the canal for a fee that would have been far less than what any contractor with machinery would charge.
However, the Council did not even acknowledge the proposal, according to Bostwick.
“I got everybody on this front road to agree to clean the canal. I wrote the Council and asked them to provide the necessary tools and we will do the work. I gave them an estimate,” Bostwick said.
Meanwhile, Bostwick believes that a similar arrangement that obtained with the Lamaha Embankment dwellers should be applied to the residents of West Ruimveldt Front Road.
Under that arrangement, the Lamaha Embankment residents were given house lots and were facilitated financially to relocate.
Bostwick said that all the houses on the West Ruimveldt Front Road have lot numbers which he added can be verified by the Ministry of Housing.
He said that with the presence of the front road reserve dwellers, crime in the area has been significantly reduced.
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