With residents in several rural parishes still facing serious water woes, a group of small business operators in The City today cried out to the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) for relief of a different kind.
Quite apart from the water outages that have left villagers reeling in St Lucy, St Peter, St Joseph and St Thomas in recent months, operators on Lower Roebuck Street said it was the dust and noise emanating from the BWA’s mains replacement programme that was proving most intolerable for them and their customers, most of whom have been driven away over the past six months, putting the businesses at risk.
However, while the BWA remains mum on the issue of compensation, the operators say their costs, like the dust from the project, were simply piling up.
“Yesterday, I experienced a situation where two compressors were pressed into service at the front of my property. It was way over the noise pollution level. It was over 90 decibels with the two compressors operating at the same time,” reported 42-year-old Ryan Thorpe, who is the owner of Mumtaz Deli.
In addition to the disruption caused to his business, Thorpe complained to Barbados TODAY that the ongoing excavations posed a health and safety challenge to his customers, pointing out that “every hour I have to wipe away the dust from the surface of the tiles, counter and tables”.
Thorpe, who spent 12 years in building maintenance in the United Kingdom before deciding to return to Barbados three years ago, is very concerned about the survival of his eating establishment, explaining that he stood to lose his entire investment of $850,000.
However, he lamented that neither the BWA nor Infra, which is the private contractor for the project, had seen it fit to respond to his written inquiries about compensation for loss of earnings.
Thorpe pointed out that before the Roebuck Street project began last August, employees from several nearby businesses, such as the state-run Transport Board and the National Housing Corporation, as well as the Metropolitan High School, patronized his restaurant.
However, he said as the project was hit by several delays, “my sales have dropped 70 per cent.
“Servicing my mortgage now presents a serious challenge to me,” he said, adding, “I have to look at alternative revenue streams to keep myself afloat.”
Fellow restaurateur Maurice Brewster, who operates Strams Restaurant on Lower Roebuck Street, voiced similar concerns about the BWA’s main replacement programme, saying the survival of his business was also at stake.
While appealing to the contractors to speed up the work, Brewster said: “At present I am in the red. I will soon have to make a decision on whether I should continue to open my doors to business. I have lost a lot of business, yet I still have overheads and staff to pay.”
He also lamented that “nobody from the BWA spoke to us”, adding, “It seems as if they do not care about small business”.
Brewster also pointed out that “even lawyers who have their chambers on this street are complaining. You can check upstairs my business and you will see that the hairdressers there are not doing any business”.
When the team from Barbados TODAY visited a nearby beauty parlour, the owner and some friends were sitting around engaging in light banter.
While requesting anonymity, a spokeswoman for the group said: “As you can see, no one is coming to have their hair done with all of this dust and noise. Business is dead.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Infra, who also asked not to be identified, said: “We are waiting on BWA for some taps to douse the area.”
However, the BWA’s Project Manager Kim Best said the BWA was continually dousing the area in a bid to keep down the dust.
Best did not address the issue of compensation but she told Barbados TODAY the project was likely to be completed by the end of April.