Tempers flared at a public meeting organised by the Vieux-Fort South Constituency Council, aimed at seeking the public’s opinion on its plan to erect a bailey bridge on Bridge Street, Vieux-Fort which will serve as an exit route out of the town.
The bridge will be erected over a river, where a wooden bridge was once erected many years ago. The bridge will connect a road leading to the Vieux-Fort /Laborie Highway, in the vicinity of which the Desert Star Holding (DSH) project is expected to extend to.
During the meeting, supporters of the two major political parties engaged in a war of words, with supporters of the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) vehemently opposing the project, while supporters of the United Workers Party (UWP) giving it their full support.
In her address to the small but boisterous gathering, Mayor of Vieux-Fort Orricia Denbow Bullen, said the bridge will be erected for the safety of residents.
“If something happens in Vieux-Fort town how will you get out?” she asked.
She added: “As a council, we have to look after your interest. We have to make sure you are safe. We don’t have to wait for when something happens to react.”
Bullen said with the impact of climate change around the world, disaster can happen at any time.
According to the mayor, whenever the bridge is completed, it should be seen as an improvement in the community.
In expressing his concerns about the project, a resident asked whether the idea to erect a bridge in the area was a gimmick to facilitate the DSH project, which is now a controversial issue.
“No, it’s not a gimmick… It has nothing to do with the DSH project,” Bullen replied.
By this time the questions were coming fast and furious, as the opposing factions became agitated, eager to vent their concerns.
A number of persons wanted to know why the bridge will be a temporary one and not a permanent one.
”It’s a temporary bridge but can last a long time, and could be removed,” Bullen said, adding that the Piaye bridge is a bailey bridge.
Another resident asked whether the bridge will negatively impact residents anywhere, but the mayor was unable to answer the question because according to her, she is not a technical person.
A section of the crowd was infuriated when someone asked why was the district representative for Vieux-Fort South, Dr. Kenny Anthony not present. But even before the mayor attempted to answer the question, the section of the crowd responded by saying he never attends anything the government invites him to, drawing reference to the recent sitting of the House.
“Who is our district representative? Where is our district representative?” a resident shouted.
Residents say they hope the person contracted to do the project will employ as many persons as possible from the area, and will not come with his own workers, which has happened in the past.
One concerned resident called on residents of Vieux-Fort to unite for the betterment of the community and stop involving politics in every attempt that is being made to develop the community. According to the resident, a number of communities with less infrastructure than Vieux-Fort is developing much faster than Vieux-Fort.
A number of other concerns and questions were mentioned at the meeting, but the mayor said they required a technical person to answer them.
The engineer on the project, according to the mayor is Rayneau Gajadhar. However, she could not say when it will commence.