October 17, 2002
(Works, Services and Transportation)

No rakes required: Minister responds to concerns of South East Bight residents

Percy Barrett, Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, today responded to concerns raised by Elena Whyte, chairwoman of the local service district of South East Bight, in a recent media article.

"I am concerned that Ms. Whyte would represent the actions of my department in such an erroneous, sensationalist manner," said Minister Barrett. "We have been dedicated in the development and maintenance of the roadways in the community of South East Bight. Since 1992, we have spent more than $300,000 in the community. I did indeed go and walk the roads there and I did agree that some work had to be done in the area and I made, and met, my commitment to the community. Another $70,000 in tendered work has been designated in the area for walkway maintenance and improvement this year. The first phase of this project, the $25,000 procurement of crushed gravel for the area, has been completed and now we are moving into the second phase which is the actual work on the island. Ms. Whyte indicated that the community has a $190,000 problem; surely $70,000 in this fiscal year will go a long way toward dealing with some of these issues."

"Other issues identified by Ms. Whyte, have been surveyed by people from the department," said Minister Barrett. "While we do agree that some repairs are required, the scope of replacement as indicated by Ms. Whyte is unrealistic in the current fiscal calendar. We are quite willing to do maintenance repairs on the bridges and walkways to allow for continued usage; we cannot, however, replace bridges and excavate rock cuts without further capital funding investment."

"As a department, we endeavour to maximize the benefit of our limited funding dollars for all communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. The needs of South East Bight have been documented and will be completed as funding becomes available. In the next fiscal budget, we will examine the continuing needs of the community and assess our ability to perform further work in the area."

The article also indicated that officials from the Department of Works, Services and Transportation had asked residents of the area to ‘spread(ing) crushed stone themselves.’

"This is simply not true," said Minister Barrett. "As a department, we often offer contract work to residents of the area where work is being done. As a matter of fact, most communities are quite upset if we do not offer work to the people from the local area. Fortunately, the community is not in the position to require this work, so it will be completed by the department. I want to assure Ms. Whyte that this offer was not meant as an insult, it was simply an attempt to provide paid work for unemployed local residents.

"We are trying to do what we can for all communities in this province. We are committed to ensuring all communities have access to the infrastructure they need to live enjoyable and prosperous lives. This is true for South East Bight as well. Had a media representative been in contact with my department, we would have made that clear to them and perhaps the story would have been presented in a fair and balanced light."

Media contact: Lynn Evans, Communications, (709) 729-3015

2002 10 18                                        4:00 p.m.

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