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Causeway repairs must wait until ‘economy turns around’

Public Works Minister Michael Weeks vowed to put unemployed Bermudians back to work by putting more jobs out to tender for smaller contracting firms to get a piece of the economic pie.

That was one of the disclosures made during the debate on the budget allocations for the Department of Works and Engineering and the Ministry of Public Works.

The debate was held in the House of Assembly on Wednesday night. Works and Engineering has a new operational budget of $33.6 million.

An estimated $32.7 million will be spent in capital expenditure, and there’s a $1.5 million capital acquisition plan.

Public Works Ministry is responsible for seven major areas of government services, which includes maintenance of Bermuda’s highways.

The Minister said he plans to use more contract labour in the new fiscal year in the highways section to help give work to unemployed Bermudians who are increasingly struggling just to put food on the table.

Some of those contracts will go out to tender in the next few weeks. When contacted by

The Royal Gazette Mr Weeks said: “The first bus shelter will be tendered within the next few weeks; another bus shelter will be tendered in the middle of the financial year,” said Mr Weeks.

Contracts to repair dangerous walls and rockfall will be tendered throughout the new financial year.”

Once appointed on November 18 last year, Mr Weeks said: “I went in challenging the team to create jobs for average Bermudians.”

The team created the new small jobs initiative for jobs to cover jobs the main crews don’t get around to during the course of the year.

“I realise that things will get worse, but I’m a community man so I see it firsthand. Every other day the conversation is about unemployment and not being able to find a job.

“These are not people who don’t want to work, they are hardworking men and women out of work and having a difficult time finding another job. They are people who want to make an honest living.

“We will put a lot of small job projects out to tender over the next few months to ultimately feed families. If I could give a crew of say five men a job to build a new bus shelter, that will feed five families, multiply that by six or seven shelters it adds up.”

The Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation will oversee the construction of any new bus shelters, the plan is to construct two new shelters a year.

In 2011 a rockfall caused an accident at Wellington Lane, design work is being carried out to make this rock cut safe again. $8.1 million has been allocated, the department has spent $48,000 so far.

The new budget allocation for road works is $500,000, the revised estimate is $400,000, of which $266,000 has been spent.

Government will spend an $2.4 million on road maintenance, and another $2.4 million on road cleaning.

When asked how small contractors will know when to look out for the new jobs up for tender he said: “They should make sure their name is down on the list at the Department of Labour and Training, it would be advantageous to be on that list.”

Major capital projects include work on the drawbridge portion of Somerset Bridge and the expansion joints at Watford Bridge. $6.7 million has been earmarked for this project, the revised estimate is $100,000 of which $36,300 has been spent.

Another $17.3 million has been set aside for work on the Island’s ferry docks and public landings. The steps at Elbow Beach were replaced and further works are planned on the access to the beach before the start of the new tourist season.

Despite constant calls for repairs to be carried out on the Causeway over the years, Mr Weeks stepped up to become the first Minister to actually say no repairs will be carried out until the recessionary times change.

“I decided to answer the call once and for all by assuring the people of Bermuda that Causeway is stable, repairs are still on the cards, but not until the economy turns around.”

While the Minister admits that this link is at risk during severe storm events, he said: “I can report that this Ministry is managing that risk effectively. No repairs have been necessary since Hurricane Igor. It was fortunate that the 2011 hurricane season was very quiet from Bermuda’s perspective. The security and integrity of the Causeway continues to be monitored.

“As the economic environment will permit, the project can be advanced. $65.3 million has been allocated, of which $2.5 million has been spent.”

Garbage collectors pick up 400 tonnes of residential waste per week and ship 90 shipping container loads of special wastes overseas annually.

The $18.7 million budget for waste management has been split into two operational areas, one for solid waste and the other for the Tynes Bay waste facility, which is $7.9 million.

Seventy-thousand tonnes of solid waste is incinerated at Tynes Bay annually, which generates up to 15,000 megawatt-hours of electricity for distribution by Belco.

On Morgan’s Point Mr Weeks said: “It’s important to ensure the clean-up operation leaves in place a safe legacy for this area for both the immediate and long term future.

“The total estimate on this phase of the project is $38 million, there’s a clause that said if the clean up has to start as of April 8, if not there will be penalties.

“My involvement is only for clean up not the development and this brings it closer to becoming a reality, and also put more Bermudians to work by way of the clean up.

“I’m just relieved overall that I didn’t have to lay off anybody, there are no job losses. That’s my biggest relief, there’s even a $289,000 allowance for the Hustle Truck initiative.”

Photo by Mark Tatem In this 2010 file picture a Works and Engineering crew work on a section of the Causeway damaged by Hurricane Igor. Future repair work on the Causeway is being postponed until the Island's economy turns aruond.

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Published March 09, 2012 at 9:26 am (Updated March 09, 2012 at 9:26 am)

Causeway repairs must wait until ‘economy turns around’

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