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Published On: Thu, May 17th, 2018

Dutch Quarter sewage project starts in August

Audience Dutch Quarter town hall meeting - 20180516 HH

PHILIPSBURG – The long awaited Dutch Quarter sewage project is becoming a reality. Contractor Van Boekel will begin the work with a survey next month and start the actual work in August. The project is scheduled to be completed in a year. But there was one Dutch Quarter resident who did not  have a lot of confidence in the story he was told during a town hall meeting at the Dutch Quarter Community Center on Wednesday evening. “Promises, promises, and nothing happens,” he said.

Ir. Kurt Ruan, head of New Projects at the VROMI-ministry took the wind out of his sails. “In 2015 we had one contractor who bid on the project and the bid was way over the available budget. We were kept hostage with this project for years,” he said.

The contractor’s bid was for €6.1 million, while the available budget is €4.3 million. Most of the funding comes from the tenth European Development Funds. St Maarten contributes 800,000 guilders this year and another 500,000 guilders next year.

Ruan said that the government had to re-tender the project – a process that caused a delay of four months. With three contractors in the mix this time – the original bidder, Van Boekel and a French-side company – the government finally received a bid that fit the budget.

Ruan said that he is as frustrated as Dutch Quarter residents about the delay in the project. “Because what is the first thing people arriving from the French side see? A shitty area,” he said.

Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo, VROMI-Minister Miklos Giterson and Ir. Kurt Ruan were present at the town hall meeting, together with Lars Brands of contractor Van Boekel, Federico Berna of the European Union and Ravindra Patandin of Ilaco Suriname NV.

Marlin-Romeo noted that this was the third townhall meeting about the sewage project; the first one took place in 2012. “I understand your sentiment,” she told the audience. “After all these activities, the project has not started yet. I apologize for the delays, they are due to unavoidable challenges. The project is now scheduled to start in August. Dutch Quarter: it is now time for implementation.”

Minister Giterson said that for more than seven years the government has attempted to realize the project. It includes upgrading of the main road, building sidewalks, installing streetlights and of course building a sewage network.

Ruan went back to the flash flood of July 30, 2005 that took two lives in the Cul-de-Sac basin. That disaster triggered a study into flood prone areas on the island. Cul-de-Sac topped the list, but Dutch Quarter turned out to be the second most flood-prone area. Trenches were built to channel excess water, and Dutch Quarter has them too.

There is only one problem, Ruan said: these trenches have to continue on the French side until they reach the pond.

The Dutch Quarter project will also see to it that all cabling – from GEBE, TelEm, Cable TV and UTS – goes underground.

Ruan said that the cooperation of landowners in the area is essential for a smooth progress of the work.

Lars Brands, representative of construction company Van Boekel, said that his company has been doing projects not only in the Netherlands and Germany, but also in Saba and Statia.

He told residents that execution of the project will cause inconveniences. “You may not be able to reach your house with your car all the time,” he said.

But the contractor wants to maintain strong communication lines with the community. A spokesperson from Dutch Quarter will work for Van Boekel to keep those lines open and the contractor opens an email address where residents can express their concerns and complaints (dutchquarter@vanboekel.com).

The contractor also wants to work with as many youngsters from the district as possible. Those who are interested in a job should report to the Dutch Quarter Community Council or its chairman Sidney de Weever.

Brands explained the phases of the project in detail. At Christmas, there will be no construction activities. Resident will get notice two weeks before the work in their street begins.

Ravindra Patandin explained that his company Ilaco Suriname NV is responsible for quality control. The company has been involved with the project since 2016. “We don’t look at the pictures, we look at the details,” he said. “We will safeguard the objectives of this project.”

Top photo caption: The audience at the townhall meeting in Dutch Quarter on Wednesday evening. Photo Hilbert Haar.

Ravindra Patandin addressing Dutch Quarter townhall meeting - 20180516 HH

Photo caption: Ravindra Patandin (right) assures residents that his company will control the project. From far left: Lars Brands, Kurt Ruan, Minister Giterson, Prime Minister Marlin-Romeo and Federico Berna. Photo Hilbert Haar.