Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
Minutes after announcing that everything was in place for a new multimillion-dollar bridge for the community of Kintyre, in St Andrew, junior minister for works, Richard Azan, seemed to acknowledge the tough task he would have getting sceptical residents to believe him.
The residents, some of whom have lived in the community for decades, say the bridge was first damaged by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and since then, successive administrations have made numerous unfulfilled promises.
"I don't make promises and don't keep them," Azan insisted to reporters yesterday after he and members of parliament Damion Crawford and Andre Hylton visited the community to view the damage done to the bridge by the heavy rains on the weekend.
Still, the residents were not impressed. One woman declared that "now is the time for action."
"We have heard a whole lot of promises. Stop the talking, talking, talking ... we don't need anymore of that," she added.
Government is ready
But Azan insisted that save for concerns about the weather, the government is ready to commence construction of the bridge.
"The funding is in place and the bridge parts are here and we are ready to start as soon as possible ... so it is not to say that we are making a promise and nothing will happen," he said.
He said the project, which will also include river-training work, is budgeted to cost close to $100m and is scheduled to start this month or early next month.
Scores of residents from Kintyre and Hope Flats were left marooned on Monday after they were unable to drive across the bridge to get out of their communities.
They claim that their only way out of their communities was the use of a 'swinging bridge' which some senior citizens and school children are 'scared' to use.
An elderly couple, Alice and Leslie Town told The Gleaner they are both sickly and on medication, but were stuck in their community.
Another resident, Ray Williams, said this was a recurring problem whenever there are heavy rains.
Williams said this endangers lives as the communities of Kintyre and Hope Flats are usually cut off from the rest of the Corporate Area when the bridge is washed out.
"What if people tek sick and need to go to the hospital ... ? Over and over we have been neglected," Williams complained.
Full Caption: From left: Andrew Zhu, engineering department manager, China Harbour Engineering Company, Leslie White, flood control officer, National Works Agency (NWA), Brian Duquesnay, clerk of works at the NWA, Stephen Shaw, head communications at NWA, join minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport,Works and Housing, Richard Azan, and Member of Parliament for Eastern St Andrew André Hylton, and Edgar Llewellyn, manager river training, NWA, in examining a blueprint for a new bridge that is to be constructed across the Hope River. Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer