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‘Time to be honest’ about publicly owned quarry, says minister

A feasibility study is expected to be carried out in relation to the Government Quarry Depot (File photograph)

It is “time to be honest” about a publicly owned quarry so that steps can be taken towards improving its operations, MPs heard today.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said that a financial feasibility study is expected to provide recommendations for the Government’s consideration.

His comments to the House of Assembly came after a Request for Proposals was issued for an organisation to look at options for the facility in Hamilton Parish.

Colonel Burch said: “It’s time to be honest with ourselves — we must take a serious look at how we do things and then take the necessary steps to effect improvement.

“The review at the quarry depot is the beginning of taking such steps to improve our operations and make them more efficient.

“I am confident that together we can agree a plan to make significant improvements to the operations at the quarry depot.”

He explained: “The mandate for the quarry depot is to act as the Government’s functional authority on all matters related to fleet management, mechanical engineering and maintenance activities including ensuring all government vehicles are TCD tested and licensed annually.

“Its primary function is to manage the distribution and maintenance of approximately 800 motor vehicles and equipment as well as operate and maintain the Government’s limestone quarry, asphalt and recycling plants.

“As many currently serving in this House on both sides of the aisle can attest, due to a plethora of reasons including lack of financial investment under successive governments, inadequate strategic planning and ineffective management, the facilities and staffing expertise at this location have deteriorated significantly almost to the point of exhaustion over the last 30 years.

“Subsequently, this has caused Government’s assets to become increasingly unreliable and more expensive to maintain, thereby resulting in heightened criticism from the general public and government employees who rely on the services provided by the quarry team.”

Colonel Burch said: “Many in the public may question whether the Government is doing anything to improve the conditions at the quarry.

“The short answer is yes.

“As of June 2022, the Government completed a major infrastructure investment programme which installed two new buildings that will be used for a heavy equipment workshop and a stores facility. Both were desperately required.

“The Ministry of Public Works has also hired a consultant to manage the quarry operations following the sudden departure of the principal mechanical engineer.

“This has proved very successful. For example, since the addition of this new manager in May 2022, the refuse truck operational fleet has increased from two operational trucks to nine operational trucks — and as high as 12 on occasion.

“The goal is to methodically tackle the most critical vehicles such as those used for garbage collection, then work through the remainder of the fleet.”

He added that more needed to be done to address all the outstanding issues of the quarry.

He said that questions "worth serious consideration“ included whether the Government should invest the tens of millions of dollars needed to bring the quarry up to standard and how much money is saved thanks to the quarry’s in-house services.

Colonel Burch added: “Are the succession and training plans adequate?

"What is the best direction the Government should take in planning for the future to ensure value for money?

“These are the types of questions we are anticipating the financial feasibility study will answer.”

He highlighted that the Government needed "a thorough, unbiased and independent review to make the most effective decisions moving forward“.

Colonel Burch said: “The report will provide recommendations for the Government to consider.

“This consideration will not occur without the full involvement of the Bermuda Industrial Union, with whom a collective bargaining agreement exists and we fully support.

“To be clear, the Government views the Bermuda Industrial Union as a partner and will have open dialogue with them throughout this process.

“Our union partner has also been made aware of the intention of Government to avoid redundancies.”