Government has requested expressions of interest for the designing, financing and building of the Palm Grove Shopping Centre, according to Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer.

Speaking on July 31 in the House of Assembly, Mr. Rymer explained that successful candidates will be shortlisted and invited to submit proposals.

Once a partner is selected, he added, they will be required to engage in discussions with the centre’s original lessees, who will have “preferred options” to lease the space.

Recent fires During the HOA meeting, the minister also gave updates on other areas of his portfolio, including fire response, sewerage, water, roads and other issues.

In response to questions from Second District Representative Mitch Turnbull, he spoke about an upsurge in fires in the territory, explaining that two private cisterns were used to help extinguish five recent fires in the Second District.

Donated water

One homeowner donated the water, and government is in the process of compensating the other homeowner, he added. Part IV, Sections 12 and 13 of the Constitution gives the chief fire officer the authority to use private cisterns in such situations, he added.

He also said that the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service has relationships with water truck operators in case there is a fire in an area without an accessible hydrant.

Mr. Turnbull also pressed him on these relationships, claiming that on at least three occasions water truck operators did not want to come because they felt “they are being used.”

Mr. Rymer said he was unaware of such instances, but added that he would investigate the issue and work on a remedy.

CGB sewerage

In response to more questions from Mr. Turnbull, Mr. Rymer said works for the Cane Garden Bay sewage treatment plant were publicly tendered on July 22 and are expected to be completed within nine months.

He added that he could not disclose the cost of the project because it is currently out to tender.

Cane Garden Bay residents currently are “plagued” by sewage lift stations near their homes and businesses, he said, adding that he hopes the new plant will reduce the lift station count from 36 to less than nine duplex systems.

The new plant, he said, will be an “Extended Aeration System” and will operate under World Health Organisation standards.

The TWU Ministry will also tender the maintenance of the treatment facility with whichever bidder is selected for the construction, he said.

In the meantime, he added, his ministry has retrofitted the existing treatment plant, assessed the lift stations sites, identified areas with high flows, and ordered eight lift stations to transfer sewage directly to the plant as well as a government pump truck to pump sewage daily as needed, with “private services” on standby for extra support.

Two of the new lift station pumps have been received and installed, and he said the remaining were expected to arrive in the coming days.

Crafts Alive Village

On the issue of the Crafts Alive Village, Mr. Rymer said his team met with the lessees on July 3 to discuss rent payments, patronising the shops, and cooperation among the lessees.

As a result of the discussions, the lessees agreed to “revert to the rules of the Crafts Alive Village” and to improve product pricing, product displays and merchandise variety and to introduce “entertainment and cultural exhibitions,” he said.

He added that he extended the grace period for merchants who “intend to make good” on outstanding rent payments.

Water services

Mr. Rymer also said his ministry completed the construction of the new Perot Hill Reservoir on July 9 with an increased capacity in order to provide water to North Sound, Virgin Gorda, residents around the clock.

The residents, he said, have suffered from frequent water supply disruptions since the original reservoir was damaged in the 2017 storms and could only hold half of its capacity due to leaks.

In the event of a disruption, he said the new reservoir still has capacity to provide water 24/7 for three days.

Longstanding JVD issues

In response to questions from Mr. Turnbull, Mr. Rymer explained that there have been longstanding problems getting water into the reservoir on Jost Van Dyke and that since he took office he has hired a team of technicians who ascertained the technical failures causing the water pump to burn out.

He added that the materials required to fix the problem have been procured.

Asked when the pump would be replaced, Mr. Rymer responded that the issue was not with the pump itself but with a sensor, but did not give a date on when the sensor would be repaired.

Mr. Turnbull also inquired about the “deplorable” state of buildings in which employees for the Public Works Department and the Water and Sewerage Department in Jost Van Dyke are housed.

Mr. Rymer said the PWD is working on bills of quantities for construction works and that funding has been approved for minor repairs to the structure.

However, he said that no funding was allocated in the 2019 budget for heavy equipment like a backhoe and three-yard truck that the department needs to carry out its duties.

Instead, equipment will be rotated throughout the sister islands to clear roads, drains and ghuts, with privately owned equipment from contractors available to assist when necessary.

In a follow-up question, Mr. Turnbull informed the minister that the one truck employees need to do their work has had a flat tyre for two and a half weeks.

Mr. Rymer responded that he was unaware of the issue and would investigate it.

Roads and drainage

Mr. Rymer also said that his ministry has started cleaning and clearing ghuts and critical drains throughout the Virgin Islands to prepare for a potential storm in the ongoing hurricane season.

He added that the programme will ramp up after the August Emancipation Festival and that he is working with Premier Andrew Fahie, the finance minister, to secure additional funding.

The works, he said, will take place in all districts and present an opportunity for VI citizens to secure temporary employment.

He added that he is also working with Mr. Fahie to obtain funding to tend to overgrown trees and bushes.

He also gave updates on repairs to various roads in the territory in response to questions from Mr. Turnbull.

On Jost Van Dyke, the PWD has hired an engineering company to prepare designs for repairs to East End Road and Doghole to Foxy’s and will determine the contract and pricing once the designs are completed, with hopes to begin the work before the end of the year, he explained.

Mount Healthy, Ballast The resurfacing of Mount Healthy Road to the community centre in Brewers Bay will start at the end of September, according to the minister.

Additionally, he said, contracts have been signed and works are expected to begin “immediately” for the Ballast Bay alternate road leading to the residence of Esmie Stoutt.

In regards to the road leading from Harrigan to Century House Montessori School, he said the PWD has prepared a design and cost and that he instructed the agency to prepare a petty contract to complete the repairs before the beginning of the school year in September.

Meanwhile, he said, designs for Luck Hill Road and Mayaba Road will be completed by the first quarter of next year.

He added that the PWD will assess and determine a solution for Mountain Road on Jost Van Dyke, as well as for Ridge Road from Chalwell to Stoutt’s Lookout.