During his Mid-Term Budget address, the Hon. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Public Works appealed to the public for its assistance in sending a “strong” message to utility companies through the use of its newly introduced Whatsapp line. “The Ministry of Public Works now has a Whatsapp line. The number is 376-0936. I’m begging members of the public to save that number,” he said “If you see a pothole, take a photo and WhatsApp it to us. If you see anyone cutting into the road and they cannot produce a permit, take a photo of them and the work that they are doing and WhatsApp it to us. If the road is not being restored in a timely or proper manner, take a photo and WhatsApp it to us. In each case be sure to tell us the location, and the burden will be on the Ministry to respond quickly. We have a job to do, and we have to take it seriously and get it done to the satisfaction of the Bahamian people.”
Minister Bannister said utility companies routinely excavate roads every day without permission and do not reinstate them to an acceptable standard. He has advised utility companies that it is the Ministry’s intention to amend the law under the Roads Act for unauthorized excavations and negligent reinstatements to $10,000. The fine is presently $75. “Quite often, utilities are set on one side of the road. In order to provide service to homes on the other side, the utilities excavate, or in layman’s terms, cut into the road. The law requires them to reinstate the road at their own expense. Very often they are not responsible enough to reinstate the road, or do not do it in a timely manner, or do it poorly. In all of these cases the roads are weakened, and can be easily damaged further by ordinary traffic,” he said.
The Minister told Parliamentarians that a major challenge is that fact that New Providence has so many old roads and no tax base for raising money for road preservation and repair. Hence, ten million dollars annually goes to paving roads, although not enough to scratch the surface of what is required for road paving and maintenance. “The Ministry has three pothole patching crews. We ought to be able to respond quickly to do the job that the Bahamian people want us to do, and we have to appreciate that we will be judged by our efficiency in getting each job completed professionally. I, therefore, implore members of the public at large to take those photos of potholes and to send them in. We are going to have to improve our standards so that we may no longer be criticized for mediocre service. Whilst we are short on vehicles, our staff has the requisite skills and the leadership to set a higher standard, and we shall do just that. “Potholes can be caused by any number of factors. Sometimes there is caving below the road, which may cause the road to sink. Sometimes we have heavy vehicles that cause damage from overuse. Sometimes water damage can cause them; but all too often utilities excavate the roads and do not reinstate them properly, leading to progressive weakening of the roads and the inevitable potholes,” he said.
Minister Bannister said nine companies under contract to repair potholes throughout New Providence, four of which are now on the job. They are:
- Arrows Urban Development in St. Annes and Fox Hill
- Ground Crew in Marathon, Nassau Village, and Seabreeze
- Evans Paving in Carmichael, Southern Shores, Tall Pines and Garden Hills
- Southern Trucking & Paving in Golden Gates, Bamboo Town, Pinewood and South Beach.
He said he expects the other five contractors will mobilize soon to serve the other areas of New Providence. “If that does not happen quickly they may expect to be replaced. My Ministry expects the highest level of professionalism and efficiency from them in filling potholes promptly. We will not compromise that standard,” said Minister Bannister. Weekly meetings by the Ministry focus on road repairs and are conducted by Melanie Roach, director. Representatives from the utility companies along with the Minister and director coordinate road paving initiatives.