Where will we go? - 87-y-o stumped by highway relocation puzzle
Red Berry, Manchester:
Residents of Red Berry, near Porus in Manchester, are still not satisfied with how their matters surrounding their dislocation, especially in terms of compensation and relocation, are being handled by officials overseeing the construction of the South Coast Highway
Yesterday’s meeting with representatives of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) failed to clear up issues for some residents, who told The Gleaner that the discussions only raised more questions in their minds.
Among those not satisfied is Winnifred McClarty, whose 87-year-old mother, Lena Patterson – who has lived in the community for more than 50 years – is yet to find a suitable place to relocate to without compensation upfront.
“They are not relocating her. They are removing her because they haven’t found anywhere for her to move. She lives in her own house and has her title, and for her to move, it is going to be rough. They said they are going to give us $160,000 to pay rent. To go where? I don’t know,” McClarty said.
She told The Gleaner that they were told that they had to relocate in six weeks and would only receive full compensation once there is proof that they have moved out of the house.
“We don’t even know how things are going to go long term because where we live and where they are planning to build the road, only a fence would part us,” McCarty said. “I hear there is also going to be an overhead bridge, and we may very well be affected when it rains because the house would then be in something like a gully.”
Another resident, Annette Francis, said that she left the meeting with more unanswered questions than before.
“We went into the meeting expecting to hear about the dust, noise, and the disrespect because they come in the area and start the work without meeting with us,” she said. “We had to stop the work last week Friday by protesting. We finally got to some NROCC people, and I think that is how we had this meeting today.”
Francis said that she was dissatisfied with the representation from Manchester Southern Member of Parliament Michael Stewart and that the residents were, basically, fighting on their own.
“Me nuh know wah the MP a do, but him nah represent we. Even at the meeting today, wah him a say nuh mek no sense. There are two liaison officers there, and he is saying he did not send anyone there and knows nothing about their work. So we want to know who send them,” she said.
Efforts by The Gleaner to reach Stewart proved futile.
With at least four old graves on a section of land to be cleared, residents say that they believe major work will be resumed as soon the contracted funeral home completes exhumation.
“We are partially satisfied with the meeting because they say they will pay us for any crops and fruit trees that have to be removed, but I am not happy with the fact that people have to move by August 30 and they don’t pay any money,” one resident said. “Also, I don’t know what they plan to do about drainage because Porus, especially Red Bottom, is known for flooding.”
When The Gleaner contacted NROCC Managing Director Ivan Anderson, he said that yesterday’s meeting was productive and that the company was in the process of acquiring houses for residents who would need to relocate.
“Where we are acquiring houses. Once persons have agreed and signed the documentation, persons are paid an initial sum in advance to allow them to relocate, and the balance is paid within seven days on proof that they have vacated the premises,” he explained.
“The period of time that the homeowners need to relocate is always agreed between both parties,” he added.
Anderson also said that a misunderstanding had caused CHEC to clear a section of land they were not authorised to touch and that the issue has been cleared up with the residents.