STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR TRANSPORTATION, WORKS AND UTILITIES
HONOURABLE KYE RYMER
ON THE PROGRESS OF HIS MINISTERIAL PORTFOLIO SINCE TAKING OFFICE
FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2019
Mister Speaker, I am pleased to report to this honourable house on the progress of my ministerial portfolio since taking office on 1 March 2019. The Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities (MTWU), formerly known as Communications and Works, is responsible for several key departments, units and statutory bodies.
Mister Speaker, the work of my Ministry is largely driven by the Laws of the Virgin Islands, and as such work has begun and in some cases, resumed, on addressing the needs of our people to enjoy a comfortable existence in the Virgin Islands. Key policy areas being addressed are:
- Reviewing the current restriction on the importation of motor cycles over 125 cc engine size, so Mister Speaker, the limit can be increased to perhaps 600 cc with the appropriate control measures in place to continue a safe cycling environment.
- Mister Speaker the same applies for Jet Skis, and must I add here that when this particular restriction is relaxed there will be specific areas designated for the use of Jet Skis for the pleasure of locals and visitors alike. Foremost will be the introduction of Jet Skis to the life guard programme as key beaches.
- These initiatives would create economic and social activities for the people of the Virgin Islands.
- The public transportation system, more specifically, the Community Bus system, so Mister Speaker, a reliable and affordable means of transportation can be put in place using a phased approach firstly for coverage of the whole island of Tortola. Once this pilot is successful, we intend to model on the sister islands.
Currently the Ministry is in the process of sending Tender Documents to start the Mass Parking project which will be located at the festival grounds which will hold up to 270 vehicles. A shuttle service will be put in place to shuttle residents into Town once parked at the Festival Grounds. This space Mister Speaker will then become dual purpose for the festival events when that time comes.
Fire and Rescue Service (FRS)
Since taking office a visit was conducted on the premise that houses the Department which has a completion date of 31st May. Since such, the territory has been faced with the outburst of wild fires which is a result of dry conditions been experienced. It has been noted by the Chief Fire Officer that the Department is in dire need of additional equipment and tools to execute their jobs efficiently. I am happy to report that that the Fire Services in collaboration with Department of Disaster Management and the RDA, under the direction of the Premier’s Office, will receive additional apparatus which will improve their communication systems.
As the minister I have pledge to fully support the department in providing the instruments, apparatus and equipment required. A visit was conducted on the sites of Anegada and Jost Van Dyke Stations and it was revealed that both buildings are in dire need of repairs. In addition vehicles are also needed.
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Mister Speaker, The Department of Motor Vehicles continues to see an increase in the registration of vehicles as our people continue to get back to the standard of living that we all enjoyed pre-Irma. As such a strategy is being created to ensure that the Department is fully equipped with resources to ensure an efficient licensing scheme is run at all times. Like many others, Mister Speaker, the Virgin Gorda branch of DMV office location sustained extreme damages and as such a new location has been sourced and normal business hours are expected to resume in the coming weeks. The substantive replacement for the position of Commissioner of Motor Vehicles is going through the HR process to ensure my successor will be the best fit for the job.
Mister Speaker, I have previously voiced my concern on the importation of vehicles into the Territory. In particular, one of the shipping lines lands in the Territory monthly which brought 259 motor vehicles between January and May 2019, of which less than 10 vehicles were newer than 10 years. [January 58, February 26, March 51, April 54, May 59]. As such Mister Speaker, we as a Government must put mechanisms in place to control the follow/importation of vehicles in to the Territory. The reality is that older vehicles impacts the environment negatively and does not help in reducing our carbon footprint. Sadly Mister Speaker these same vehicle quickly become derelicts and we are challenged in disposing of them.
Water and Sewerage Department
As we work to address the waters woes in the Territory, I am pleased to report what progress I have seen thus far.
Mister Speaker, on Virgin Gorda, Work to erect a new glass-fused-to-steel water reservoir at Perot Hill, North Sound, has commenced. It is anticipated that this project will be completed by the 3rd week of June 2019. With this new tank, Customers in North Sound, especially The Bond, will see an improvement in water to the home/business, once the water plant is producing water.
Mister Speaker, On Jost Van Dyke the water pumps stations were occasionally burning out, which negatively impacted the delivery of water to customers. The Department was able to isolate the problem, and with the assistance of BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC) to correct the pump station closest to the water plant. (side note: the parts for the top pump stations were received last Thursday and should now be installed).
As it relates to the Cane Garden Bay Sewerage, on Tuesday, 14th May, 2019 power was restored to three (3) of seven (7) sewer pump stations. Power should be restored to all stations by the end of this month. This effort would eliminate the need for manual pumping of waste from these seven (7) stations, as the waste would now be pumped directly from each manhole to the intended treatment plant located in the vicinity of Ivan Dawson Primary School.
Mister Speaker, as the 2019 hurricane season approaches, efforts are ongoing to ensure that all of the reservoirs are in good shape, and that alternate systems are placed underground to provide service should any damages be experienced to our storage tanks. Generators are also being repaired and/or serviced.
Facilities Management Unit (FMU)
Mister Speaker, I must highly commend my Facilities Manager, Mr. Arriel Donovan and his team, who has breathed life in to what was, considered a war zone by some, yes, the Central Administration Complex. Mister Speaker, the Central Administration Complex is the seat of Government and through Facilities’ diligence; many offices are able to function from the Complex, though not in an optimal conditions. The re-insurance of the Complex after 30 June 2019 is presently being tendered so as to secure continued coverage through out the remainder of this year and in to next year, during which time major rehabilitation works will continue. Mister Speaker, like many properties in the Virgin Islands, the Central Administration Complex also suffered extensive roof damage which based on the experts will necessitate a complete replacement of the special roofing membrane to restore the roof back to pre-Irma state – a leak free roof. Mister Speaker, given the specialized works involved and the same company that restored the roof in 2012 is in discussion with my team. Once our roof is in order Mister Speaker, I believe the other priority areas will be tackled accordingly.
BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC)
The BVI Electricity Corporation continues its work in “hardening” the distribution network through its varied preventative maintenance programmes, following the restoration of the national electrical grid infrastructure which was severely damaged by the 2017 hurricanes.
Mister Speaker it is important to note here that key work in the recovery effort of the grid infrastructure involves replacing missing public streetlights destroyed by the hurricanes, and rectifying unplanned maintenance issues which would arise from time to time on the grid which encompasses eleven (11) islands inclusive of Tortola. These issues take the form of trees/vegetation, wildlife (birds and snakes) along with problems that arise on various generating equipment and/or even human impact when motorists occasionally collide with poles.
Mister Speaker, what I have just said about the Corporation’s work may seem trivial but often times when we are in the comfort of our homes, for those who have been blessed to have arrived back to some normalcy and take for granted the fact that the BVIEC team are out at whatever hour of the night restoring the power whenever there is a power outage. This Mister Speaker, must be noted and the Corporation commended for their continued and untiring effort in keeping our homes lit.
Mr. Speaker it must be noted albeit the challenging circumstances under which the BVIEC has had to operate to provide the best possible service to all residents of the Territory. The Corporation continues to progress its efforts to diversify energy production utilizing renewable energy as part of its medium term strategic objective to introduce further resilience into the national electricity grid infrastructure. And as minister, I am confident that this initiative will be realized before the end of 2020.
Wickhams Cay Development
Last evening, May 16, 2019, the Ministry, hosted a city improvement meeting at Maria’s By the Sea conference room. This meeting, a first in a series, was geared towards the stakeholders for the business community and landlords of the city of Road Town here on the main island of Tortola. On hand at the meeting was the Chief Planner in the Town and Country Planning Department, Mr. Gregory Adams, who along with his team presented the concept improvements to be made in key areas of the city as we move towards making the city more pedestrian friendly, reducing vehicular traffic congestion and creating more open spaces. Might I add here that the meeting was well attended by current and prospective business owners/operators, the discussion was fruitful and this Mister Speaker is one of this Government’s ways for public consultation in order to take their valuable input.