Statement by Honourable Kye Rymer
Minister for Transportation, Works and Utilities
At the Ninth Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth
House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands
June 11th 2020
Mister Speaker, I rise to provide this Honourable House with an update to the current progression of initiatives under the portfolio of the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities.
Water and Sewerage Department
Mister Speaker, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands approved the suspension of the water charges for customers of the Water and Sewerage Department for the period of 19th March to 1st June 2020. This initiative benefited many residents throughout the territory and further to this government assistance, if customers experienced water interruptions during those times, free water delivery was provided in those rare cases.
The Water and Sewerage Department has moved one step closer to the implementation of its Base form initiative; this is a software program that was designed specifically for the department. Among other critical tasks, this software will contribute to the department being more proactive in its repairs and maintenance activities. The activities include proper hydraulic modeling, which has been lacking for 15+ years and is the cause of many of the current system failures in the field; leak detection, advanced planning and budgeting, water balancing, managing the pump stations more efficiently, and water flow controls, just to list a few of the strategic activities this software package will be offering. The package also comes with training and technical support for the team at the department to ensure that there is a seamless transition to the new system.
The first shipment of the new Ultrasonic meters for distribution to customers has arrived on the island and is currently in the possession of the Water and Sewerage Department. In January of this year, ten (10) water meters were ordered in advance, with a proactive effort to have them field-tested and monitored. I am pleased to announce that these new modern meters are performing excellently, as guaranteed by the supplier.
Additionally, there is also another metering program initiative that is taking place within the department; this entails the installation of bulk meters on the main lines leading into communities and districts. The function of these bulk meters is to measure water flows into each community; these readings will be reconciled with the collective readings from each domestic, business, or government assigned water meter within the respective communities. In cases where the readings do not match, the department would know that there is an issue in the area – be it a leak or some other abnormal activity. All of this information will be controlled from the department’s home base, via the Base Form platform. Mister Speaker, I am happy to report to this Honourable House that this system is to be installed shortly.
Mister Speaker, it is my sincere pleasure to inform this Honourable House that the contract for the renovation of the Carrot Bay and Zion Hill reservoirs was signed on 7th May 2020, and works are underway. An additional contract was signed this morning 11th June 2020 for the renovation of the Long Bush reservoir. The successful contractor for all works is Autland Heavy Equipment.
Department of Motor Vehicles
Mister Speaker, the Department of Motor Vehicles has introduced a “drive-through service” for customers due to the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the Heath Emergency System. As this department offers vital service to the general public, some services are suspended until further inspections can be done and approval granted. Learner’s permits are now being issued, as to allow for learner drivers the ability to practice. Cone test and driving exams should resume shortly, once given the approval.
Mister Speaker, it is said and now proven that in every crisis there births opportunities, and after many years of operations, the Department is now serving customers on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The Department of Motor Vehicles is cognizant that most customers work Monday through Friday and are usually off from work on Saturdays. With this in mind, the Management and staff are going the extra mile to meet the customer’s needs. The new appointment system is working well as we adapt to the New Regular. The drive-through service is working better than expected as social distancing is being encouraged, despite the temporary minimal inconvenience of some customers having to be served outside and shaded by a tent.
Mister Speaker, I am pleased to announce that starting Monday, 15th June 2020 services will be provided to customers inside the offices but in a controlled manner, which allows the department to be in conformity with social gathering guidelines.
Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities
Mister Speaker, my Ministry is now in the advanced stages of the planning process for the redevelopment of the space known as the Market Square, Road Town. Town and Country Planning has partnered with the Ministry and presented a rendering of the proposed design for the area to the business community of Road Town in May 2019.
Mister Speaker, as preparations progress for the rehabilitation of the Market Square, I can inform this Honourable House that 3DE Limited was contracted to design and develop architectural drawings based on the rendering that was presented. These drawings are to be completed in the coming weeks and once completed; they will be presented to the public and then submitted to the Planning Authority for approval. Also, Mister Speaker, on 18th May, a successful meeting was held to formally inform the vendors that a temporary site was identified and is being prepared in relation to the plans for the Market Square where they are operating. This Government has committed to beautifying the Capital, Road Town, with a specific focus on the revitalization of the Market Square area.
Mister Speaker, on Sunday 14th June 2020 the Virgin Islands will be able to experience the third and Final Traffic Simulation before the historic traffic transformation slated to go live on the following day Monday 15th June 2020. We are confident that after the second simulation was completed on Monday 1st June 2020, sufficient data was gathered and information collected in order to make this change to the traffic flow in Road Town. Motorists which included the Emergency Services, Police and Fire Officials and citizens had the opportunity to share their concerns and were able to offer suggestions for specific areas.
I wish to commend the motoring public, the businesses, and the general public for the support during this traffic turnaround initiative. This is only the first phase in making Road Town a more pedestrian-friendly capital where we intend to have a more efficient flow of traffic. So, Get ready BVI these are exciting times, as this is slated to be the new regular. Pay attention to the road markings, the traffic signs, and exercise patience and extra caution and vigilance as this may take some time getting acustomed to. I take this time to say a special Thank You to all agencies involved in this project, Premier and Honourable my Permanent Secretary, the entire Ministry Staff, Public Works Department, Town and Country Planning, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Dr. Drexel Glasgow, Elridge “Skellie” Gumbs, and his team and you the general public.
Live Forum on the Restrictions for Motorcycle Use
The Ministry of Transportation Works and Utilities hosted a Live forum yesterday Wednesday June 10th To address the restriction of use of motorcycles in the Territory that will end on the 25th of June 2020.
This amended regulation is in accordance to the Road Traffic Act (CAP. 218), Section 56, restricts the movement of three-wheel or less vehicles, which includes motorbikes and scooters from 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. for the safety and convenience of the public, and to bring awareness to the motorcycling public as we have already lost 3 young men in 2020.
Restricting the movement of vehicles is nothing new as there are laws that restrict the movement of certain types of vehicles from Monday to Friday, between the hours of 8-9am, 12-2pm and 4-5:30pm from Port Purcell Roundabout to Slaney’s Roundabout.
Mr. Speaker, This Government is not against the use of motorcycles but is Pro motorcycle usage, as Cabinet already approved to increase the CC and is awaiting the endorsement of the amendment in this Honourable House.
Mr. Speaker, already in 2020, we have lost 3 young men to scooter accidents with over 60 accidents to date and more than 7 being severe. Mr. Speaker, in 2019, there were only 224 motorcycles licensed within the Territory, and this must change. As we are aware that there are much, much more motorcycles that are unaccounted for.
As a result the DMV has started a motorcycle licensing and registration drive where we are encouraging riders to ‘GET RIGHT GET LEGAL RIDE SAFE’ and maximise on the opportunity to obtain your motorcycle license, and register. Insurance companies are on board to offer reduced rates as they partner in the message that ‘Save Driving Saves Lives’.
Mr. Speaker, this is a long standing issue and this Government is addressing and admonishing motorcycle riders to follow the laws, wear your helmet, take the loud pipes off your motorcycles and ride safely.
During the forum the public was educated on the persons exempted during this restricted period. They are persons employed in the essential services; security guards employed by a private security service provider; a custom officer; an immigration officer.
Persons working in these fields, which require a pass to operate outside of the restricted hours, were encouraged to go to the DMV for the necessary pass.
The Forum yesterday engaged our community of motorists, and allowed for the public to speak out and share concerns, give suggestions and open the dialogue on ensuring that motorcyclist operate legally and safely using this mode of transportation.
Mister Speaker, I thank you.