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Section of L.B. Scott Road collapses

 page1a78~ Theo re-iterates sanctions for sloppy work ~


SAUNDERS--A section of the recently re-opened L.B. Scott Road collapsed on Tuesday, raising questions about the quality of work executed as part of the Ebenezer drainage project.

  It also has prompted Minister of Infrastructure Theo Heyliger to reiterate his stance that contractors and site supervision firms should face sanctions for sloppy work. In this case, the contractor would be Windward Roads N.V. and the site supervision firm is Lievense N.V.

  Adding to Heyliger's statement, Department of New Works and Projects head Kurt Ruan said he was embarrassed by what had happened. Ruan said that although the situation had been rushed and he understood the pressures, government still expected quality work. "We still stand for quality. Either deliver a quality project or don't do it at all," Ruan said.

  He recalled that the other main contractor, MNO Vervat had had to redo a section of this same road twice last year after sloppy work was discovered. "These things keep re-occurring with these contractors and this is why the Minister has called for them to be held accountable in the future," Ruan said.

  Windward Roads Director Jan Hendrik Boekaar, currently off-island, said the situation was being addressed by the company, but offered no explanation of how or why the road had collapsed.

  However, sources close to the situation explained that it boiled down to sloppy work and, more specifically, a nearby trench that had not been backfilled after it was dug. It was explained that the nearby trench (see photo) had been dug to facilitate the laying of piping connecting nearby properties to the main sewage line, which runs under the road.

  The work crew apparently did not backfill the trench after the pipe was laid and connected to the main sewage line, leaving it void of proper compacting and creating a vacuum. With no compacting, the sand in the foundation of the road moved towards the lowest point of the trench, which weakened the base-course and asphalt and eventually caused the collapse of the road.

  "It's just plain sloppy work and it happens when you have several projects ongoing and contractors rushing to get them finished. It wasn't done with malicious intent or wilfully, but when you rush, these things tend to happen," the source said.

  When asked to confirm or deny the explanation of what happened, Ruan concurred.

  Minister of Infrastructure Theo Heyliger said in a brief statement that the issue was a prime example of why he had requested that the Ministry of VROMI consider implementing a type of "report card" for the two main contractors that execute roadwork in St. Maarten: Windward Roads and MNO Vervat.

  He said with only these two firms receiving the road repair, resurfacing and construction contracts, they must be held accountable if government was not satisfied with their work. He explained that the report card should be a part of the bidding process for any new road project.

  If government is not satisfied with the previous roadwork executed by a contractor, then the contractor should not receive the new contract, according to Heyliger. He said, "We can't spend NAf. 5 million on a road" only to have potholes six months later, and expressed the need for guarantees of five to 10 years for major road projects.

  In the meantime, the edge of the bricked sidewalk at the Dutch Quarter roundabout has also sunk away, apparently due to erosion from rainwater. A number of bricks disappeared into a hole after sand at the foundation of the sidewalk gave way. The contractor for this project was also Windward Roads and the site supervision firm was also Lievense.

Guards say power being abused at Pointe Blanche

 ~ Urge minster to look into their concerns ~


POINTE BLANCHE--Pointe Blanche prison guards have issued a plea to Justice Minister Roland Duncan to visit the prison to obtain a firsthand view of the injustices they say are taking place at the house of detention.

  About 60 guards – about 75 per cent – have signed a letter that was sent to the minister outlining their concerns and calling on him to intervene.

  The letter was delivered to Duncan's office last week Thursday by the workers' legal representative the ABVO St. Maarten union.

  Union Secretary Sigfried Pataca said Sunday that the prison guards strongly believed there was a lot of mismanagement at the prison at the management level. He said the workers were requesting that the minster "take into consideration what's going on in the prison."

  "The guards find that they are being threatened by the prison director [Rudsel Ricardo, ed.]. His way of dealing with situations at the prison is not to their liking for security reasons. They feel as if it is unsafe at the prison," Pataca said.

  He said too that management was placing workers in a position to fight against each other. "Everyone tries to fight each other because that's how he set the workers."

  The prison has an estimated 70-plus prison guards. Pataca said the letter to the minister was urgent and the union and guards were hoping the minister would act on the correspondence.

  "The workers feel that if the situation continues like this, it can only get worse. They had letters to [previous] Ministers of Justice, but they never took into consideration what happens at the prison. We hope that the minister tries to solve this problem," Pataca said.

WIB embezzlement suspect is released

 PHILIPSBURG--W.A., who had confessed to embezzling US $150,000 from Windward Islands Bank (WIB), was released after the judge lifted her preliminary detention on Friday.

  W.A. who had confessed to using her role in the bank's Credit Card Department to embezzle the funds via an intricate loan issuing and payback system was granted her freedom on the grounds that her presence in the general public would not hinder the investigation into the fraud.

  Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos said that the suspension of her preliminary detention had been authorised because "in order to detain a suspect for their confession, sufficient evidence is needed to support the suspect's admission to the crime."

  "Her detention is not crucial to the investigation. She does not pose a threat to witnesses – if any – in the way that a suspected robber or murderer would," Mos explained.

  The Prosecutor's Office will continue its investigation and W.A. remains a key suspect.

Traditional induction for new St. Dominic students

page8a077~In fun orientation at St. Dominic High~

SOUTH REWARD--The 75 new students who joined St. Dominic High School's first forms were served a 'special potion' as part of their induction into the new school during a fun orientation session on Monday.

The session was conducted by fifth formers and the special potion was served in keeping with the school's tradition. New teachers were also required to take the specially prepared potion before reciting the school's pledge.

The ceremony appeared to be fun for the general student population and teachers who attended.

Principal Jose Sommers said in addition to the 75 new students joining the school's first forms, an additional 15 students have joined other forms including the new International Baccalureate (IB) programme. St. Dominic has a total school population of 350 students.

The first batch of IB students will sit exams this year, and Sommers is hoping that the school meets international requirements with an 80 per cent pass rate.

Sommers also said it was very important that students become stakeholders in creating a positive environment at the school and report any bullying that they see.

Positive outlook at MPC on first day

~ Students to be encouraged ~

SOUTH REWARD--Milton Peters College (MPC) officials had a positive outlook on the first day of the new school year on Monday with representatives of the school's three streams highlighting their intent to go the extra mile to motivate students to strive for excellence.

The island's largest high school welcomed more than 250 new students in the various streams on Monday. The students met their new teachers and mentors and some engaged in exercises to become familiarised with their peers as a means of starting the new year on the right track.

A total of 78 new students entered the PKL/PBL section. These former Sundial School students chose to follow the business or technical streams and were transferred.

PKL/PBL Head Vital Carty said that when his generation was growing up, self-motivation was high and youngsters in that generation saw excellence as the only option. However, he said that youths today needed to be motivated. He said there was a higher need today for educators to change their operating method and encourage youngsters to study more. "We have to show them that someone cares, because sometimes they don't get that at home," Carty told this newspaper shortly after welcoming his batch of students to the school.

"I want to encourage parents to also reach out to their kids and pull them up when it is needed. There are many students who just need that extra push."

Mark Soree, who heads the HAVO/VWO stream, said he would be maintaining the level of strictness in the stream and would encourage students to be more responsible.

He said students had to realise that the importance of adhering to deadlines and following rules, as this would help them when they left the school and embarked on their other challenges in life. He said students had to understand that, for example, there would be consequences if they didn't hand in a paper on time. A total of 51 new students joined HAVO/VWO this year.

He would also like students to become familiarised with the school and the relationships between the various subjects taught.

He also plans to continue to place heavy focus on the Dutch language, as this is always "a very difficult point." He said students generally spoke English in their home and social environments and only spoke Dutch while in the classroom. "They also have to sit their exams which are written in Dutch and they do it. We want to improve their Dutch, so students will be getting extra Dutch lessons and extra Dutch conversations."

With 125 new students joining the TKL stream, Head Silvia Carty has her hands full. "We are pretty maxed out," Carty said on Monday. "We are filled to the limit. We maybe have five more spaces," she said, referring to late registration.

An English teacher is still being sought for the TKL stream. Additionally three teachers are out on maternity leave and are expected back between this month and next month.

Silvia Carty remains positive in her outlook for the rest of the academic year. She said alternative arrangements had been made to alleviate the effects of the teacher shortage. "My expectations are positive. I expect to do better than last year," she stressed.

She plans to place emphasis on encouraging students to have a positive attitude towards themselves. "I want students to exude a positive attitude among themselves and we won't just be telling them this, but we also plan to show them. I want to create a sense of 'I want to achieve' among students," she said.

Silvia Carty said brainstorming sessions would be held on how this goal could be achieved and how everyone could support each other in the school and work as a team.

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