Dec. 3, 2006 – Whenever it rains, Damian Darius must use a shovel and water from his cistern to clean sediment from a road in Williams Delight because improper drainage causes flooding throughout his neighborhood.
On the western side of Williams Delight, near where he lives, getting through the road is akin to an obstacle course because of crater-like potholes, many of which form stagnant pools on roadways.
If you dont have a four-wheel drive youre not going to get too far, Darius said Sunday afternoon at the Williams Delight Multipurpose Center. He was among the 30 residents attending a meeting with Public Works Commissioner George Phillips and staff on road and drainage improvements.
Lt. Gov.-elect Gregory R. Francis and his wife, Cheryl, were also present at the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours.
Williams Delight is a known swamp area, but the larger problem, Phillips noted, is the clogged gut usually clogged with illegally dumped large appliances and furniture that overflows whenever it rains.
Homeowners like Darius and Ivan and Joan Hurtault, who have resided in the area for 25 years, have long complained of improper drainage that causes flooding in yards and having to deal with sediment from unpaved areas washing into their cisterns.
The lush vegetation all around is an indication of both whats good and bad. While the soil is rich, the swampy areas where water collects are havens for mosquitoes that spread dengue fever. In fact, the V.I. Health Department has designated the area as high-risk for the disease.
Road conditions are so terrible that during the recent election campaign, residents posted neatly painted signs that read simply: No Roads, No Votes.
Phillips said that contractors from Tip Top Construction and Virgin Islands Asphalt Product Co. (VIAPCO) are scheduled to begin mapping out the area Monday and work will begin Dec. 11.
The road- and drainage-improvement project, for which Phillips said he secured a little over $2 million in Legislative allotments, is scheduled to be complete in nine months. If necessary, Phillips said, he will approach the Legislature for more funding.
The power is in your hands to keep your community beautiful, Phillips said. Old cars, old refrigerators, old sofas, old beds should be discarded at the landfill, not in the guts of Williams Delight.
Once the roads are repaired and repaved and a new culvert built for improved drainage, the value of your properties will increase, he said to residents.
The worst roads will be fixed first and some roads are fairly decent, but we will fix them up so all of the roads are uniform, Phillips said.
Roberto Cintron, a Public Works engineer working with the project, said that the roads will feature a two-inch surface and will be completed in such a way that water wont collect on roads but run off into the gutters. The roads will last 20 years, he said.
Following the meeting, VIAPCO General Manager Walter Golden said that his company will be responsible for road improvements — completing paving and building curbs and gutters — while Herman Daley of Tip Top Construction said his company will build box culverts to improve drainage.
During a question-and-answer period, concerns were raised on whether Public Works would maintain the roads. Phillips said that his department would like to see that happen but that manpower is a problem. He brought a hush to the crowd when he noted that Public Works at one time employed 800 people territorywide but that the number is down to 200.
Joan Hurtault was among the homeowners who questioned whether they would be compensated for easements on their property for the drainage improvements. She said that the government has said it needs some 12 feet of her land. Phillips said that in her case, the government would get the 12-foot portion through eminent domain. However, he said that compensation for others would come in the form of improvements.
We intend to re-create whatever we disturb, he said. In the process, we may even do improvements that are the bulk of the compensation.
Hurtault said she has fruit trees and a chain link fence that would have to be destroyed but said she was ready to do her part.
I have to do it for the betterment because there is an area opposite of me that gets flooded each time and I want them to fix it so Im not at risk [for dengue], she said.
Questions were also asked on whether the project would stall with a new administration being sworn in Jan. 1. Both Phillips and Francis said that work continues regardless of whos in office or who is Public Works commissioner.
Francis encouraged residents to do their part.
We could have all the plans in the world, but its going to take teamwork, he said in urging residents to help construction workers and government employees who will be in their neighborhoods doing the work, so there wont be delays.
Phillips also asked for support.
If we leave equipment overnight, make sure its not vandalized, he said.
In the past, he said, tires have been stolen and gas and oil siphoned from vehicles and equipment.
Phillips said he will hold meet with residents for regular updates but did not specify meeting dates.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.