'Clean my drain or else!' - Residents at risk as property owner blocks storm water run-off in protest
Nadine Wilson-Harris, Staff Reporter
A property owner's decision to block access to a drain in his yard, which was built by the Government to divert storm water from Omara Road in the Corporate Area, has sparked anger in the community, but the man is adamant that he had no choice.
Audley Wynter believes his decision is justified as he has not been able to get much-needed help from the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), which has the responsibility to clean the drain regularly.
Noted on the title to the property, which he purchased with his wife in 2000, is the fact that the KSAC has "full right and liberty" for cleaning, maintaining and repairing the drain.
Wynter insisted that this has not been the case, as often times the men contracted by KSAC to carry out this work would generally clean behind his house and avoid the drain running through his yard entirely. This has resulted in him having to hire men with his own money to clean the loads of silt and garbage that back up in his yard.
"Before I got the place to buy, you could sit down in the drain, because they used to send man come clean it; everyday they used to send man come clean it, but that just cut off. Them just stop," Wynter told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Everyday a man used to come sweep it, and now, sometimes all a year it's not cleaned," he said.
According to Wynter, he had been renting the property for 20 years before he decided to purchase it. He said in the first few years of homeownership, workers contracted by KSAC would stop by frequently to maintain the drain. However, he has noticed that in recent times the work has been subcontracted to random men in the community, who avoid his yard completely.
"All in last year August, them clean it, but them clean around the back alone, and they don't clean this yard, and people still collect money to clean everything," said Wynter.
He said because the drain is not being cleaned regularly, his house had been flooded on several occasions. The build-up of garbage in the drain is also posing a health risk to Wynter's family, which includes his wife, two daughters and granddaughter.
"It's disturbing, bad and unbearable, because my little granddaughter can't get to go around the back. Every time she goes around the back, is doctor she end up," he said.
Wynter said he has sought to speak to someone at KSAC on several occasions, as well as the councillor for the area, without success.
"Them just have me round and round, and I go to (National) Works Agency, and it's the same thing. No one wants to take responsibility," said Wynter, who explained that the men who usually come in the area to clean the drain are from the NWA.
"Couple years ago, I looked at the councillor and I tell the councillor, 'build a wall on my side go straight down and forget about this; I don't want anything to do with this', but nothing," said Wynter.
Frustrated, the homeowner has decided to block access to the drain in his yard, and this has caused the water that would normally run through the drain to settle on the road. However, this is posing a danger, as vehicles are having to veer to the other side of the road to avoid the water that settled following just a few hours of rain last week. Residents told our news team that a huge pothole has developed where the water settled.
The decision to block the drain has also placed Wynter's neighbours at risk of their properties being flooded in the event of heavy showers. One business owner told The Sunday Gleaner that the storm water often finds its way into his business place.
"It is affecting everybody, because the people them getting flood out; you have mosquitoes and accidents. It is causing a friction now because him and people a get in a argument over the same thing everyday," another neighbour said.
But Wynter insisted that he will not allow water to run through the drain in his yard until he is guaranteed that it will be cleaned regularly by the authorities.
When contacted, Town Clerk Robert Hill said the KSAC will be looking into the situation so that arrangements can be made to formulate a schedule for cleaning with Wynter.
"Most of the times when you have it like this, we will do a preliminary visit first, assess it and then we schedule with the home/landowner when we can access the property without being sort of prevented, and then we do it for them," said Hill.
"If they (workers) need to get access to the property, we can't just access the property like that, unless it's in a case of emergency, so we will now have to co-ordinate with him and see what sort of tools can be placed on the property to clean it. Depending on the width of the drain and what is blocking it and how it needs to be cleaned, all of this needs to be taken into consideration," added Hill.