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Budget cuts mean less routine work - David Burch

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Budget cuts mean that the public works ministry will not be able to do as much routine maintenance as it used to, it was admitted yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said that the ministry budget had been cut by $3.75 million because of the economic problems faced by the Government.

He appealed to the public to be patient as the ministry tried to strike the right balance with a reduced budget.

Colonel Burch said: “We simply cannot cut as much grass, pick up as much trash or fix as many roads as we used to.”

But he added that, despite the budget cut, just under $14.6 million had been allocated for capital expenditure, including $2 million for improvements to bridges.

This included $1.3 million for work on Watford Bridge, at first scheduled for last year, and $700,000 allocated for work on the Swing Bridge in St George’s.

Another $1.23 million was earmarked for roadworks – primarily for trenching work in collaboration with Belco – and $500,000 was allocated for improvements to St George’s water and waste water system.

The news came as Colonel Burch outlined the 2021/22 budget for the ministry.

Colonel Burch said $500,000 was set aside for repairs to dangerous walls and rock cuts.

But he added that when damage was caused by crashes, Government would work harder to collect money from insurance firms.

He said $400,000 had been budgeted for work on the Pembroke canal to help tackle flooding problems.

Colonel Burch told MPs that the Bermudiana Beach Resort was expected to open its doors to guests in October.

He added $640,000 had been spent on improvements to the site in the last year.

Further work on the South Shore, Warwick site is expected to take place this year.

The resort – constructed as an affordable housing complex – was expected to welcome guests last summer, but plans were pushed back by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was revealed earlier this year that the Government had given a $10 million guarantee for the resort.

Colonel Burch told MPs that the ministry had seen better results from leases on unused Government buildings, rather than outright sales.

He said it was hoped work would start soon on Teucer House on Cedar Avenue, Pembroke, once Government offices, soon.

Colonel Burch added the ministry had had an inquiry about the former prison service headquarters on Happy Valley Road in Pembroke.

He said that the problems that forced the closure of the former TN Tatem Middle School in Warwick had been “resolved” and the school’s gymnasium and a single storey building on the site were now occupied.

But he added the ministry had put a hold on further occupancy at the school as the Ministry of Education continued its consultation on the future of the public school system in case the buildings were needed.

Colonel Burch said the 108-strong Bermuda Housing Corporation waiting list was not unusual.

But he added that the number of people in need was higher than the list suggested.

He said: “We argue about that number, because I believe people lose hope and don’t bother to re-register.”

Colonel Burch also confirmed that the Ministry wanted to expand the Hustle Truck programme, which now has 260 participants a year.

He said: “They are a resource that can assist us in meeting a number of needs that the Ministry has that we may not have funding for.

“They have basically taken over the large equipment and supply dumping that the ministry used to carry out.”

Colonel Burch added the ministry had joined forces with the Marine & Ports department to remove abandoned boats.

He said: “We are dealing with legislation that is more than half a century old and if Government moves a vehicle they have the expense of doing that, as well as taking the oil out and disposing of it.”

Colonel Burch added that the Ministry was considering legislation that would force the boat owners to shoulder some of the costs of salvage.

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Published March 23, 2021 at 8:30 am (Updated March 23, 2021 at 8:30 am)

Budget cuts mean less routine work - David Burch

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