... Officials, citizens appeal to Public Works
With less than three weeks to the re-opening of the 2019/2020 academic year, more than one thousand students from Up the River are slated to be adversely affected as a result of the collapse of a major bridge linking a main part of Montserrado County, including Mount Coffee, Millsburg, Arthington, White Plains, Harrisburg, Crozierville, Louisiana and Caldwell.
The bridge also connects two of Liberia's major infrastructures--the Mount Coffee Hydro-Electric Plant, situated in Mount Coffee, and the Water and Sewer Plant in Harrisburg, which feeds electric power and water to most of Montserrado County, including the nation's capital, Monrovia, as well as other surrounding areas. These settlements and townships in rural Montserrado comprise a population of approximately five thousand.
The Crozierville-White Plains bridge, following a heavy downpour on August 17, 2019, collapsed, causing business people, motorcyclists, drivers, as well as passersby a great difficulty in moving from one point to another in rural Montserrado.
The Daily Observer, following the incident, visited the area and spoke to prominent citizens, including Madam Ruth L. James, Township Commissioner of Crozierville.
"Our bridge has finally collapsed," Commissioner James told our reporter, "and schools are about to re-open, and we are now finding it difficult to cross from Crozierville to White Plains and other sounding areas."
Madam James, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer last week, said that the leadership of Crozierville, White Plains, Louisiana and Harrisburg had earlier on written several communications to stakeholders, including the Ministry of Public Works (MoPW), the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), the Water and Sewer Plant, and some companies that are operating in the area, informing them about the deplorable condition and eventual collapse of the bridge. But until now none of these institutions have responded.
She further said they also sent a communication to District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris, the Chairman of the Township of Crozierville, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, who paid a recent visit to MoPW, to seek their urgent intervention to repair the bridge and curtail the major transportation crisis facing that part of rural Montserrado.
Mr. Best said he was told by a senior Public Works official that the ministry had absolutely no machines to deal with such emergencies as the collapse of the Crozierville-Harrisburg bridge.
The MoPW official lamented that with the change of government, the former Public Works officials walked off with most of the equipment that was on the ground, and therefore the ministry has been left paralyzed due to the lack of operating equipment.
"The only thing we might be able to do, Mr. Best, is to borrow some equipment from some of the construction firms to help us in this emergency," the official said. He promised to discuss this with Minister of Public Works Mobutu Nyepan, a former Senator of Sinoe County, in order to see what can be done.
Commissioner James further told our reporter, "We have the Antoinette Tubman Elementary and Junior High School in Crozerville, where many children from Harrisburg and White Plains attend. School is about to open within a few days, beginning September 3. How can these children attend school with the bridge broken? Even if they attempt, in desperation, to cross the river, they will be going over a death trap," she said.
Mrs. James appealed to the government through the MoPW to swiftly intervene so that students would be able to resume their schooling.
It can be recalled that on July 16, 2018 a heavy downpour swept away the road passing through White Plains and Crozierville, leading to the collapse of the bridge. It was in the wake of the said incident that residents in the two townships called on the MoPW to urgently come to their aid.
"The ministry gave a temporary remedy. Now the bridge has collapsed again. We pray that this time Public Works will find a permanent solution to this all-important bridge," Commissioner James said.
As a quick-fix solution, residents erected a makeshift bridge from reed poles, on which commuters would have to walk to cross. They also built ladders for others to use in order to climb down into a hole and climb up on the other side, an option that has been more practical for motorcyclists, who needed to continue their journey on the other side.
Abel Kollie, a motorcyclist, also expressed disappointment due to the incident, saying, "Because of this situation, prices of commodities have increased. As we speak, one cup of rice is L$50 in White Plains, while other areas it is L$60 to L$70; this is a serious problem for us."
Kollie, who spoke briefly with the Daily Observer, further said, "If this situation is not addressed by the government by the first week of September, we are going to mobilize citizens to protest."
Marie J. Davis, a mother of seven children, said despite efforts by the three commissioners in the area to engage the authorities, nothing has changed. According to her, 5 of her children are attending the school in Crozierville.
Ms. Davis expressed her frustration over the way things are going in the country, especially the economic hardship. "Why things are getting worse day by day?" she asked. "If the government doesn't address the issue of the bridge it means our children will not be in school this year."
She said that Liberia is now 172 years old, and the issue of our roads and bridges should not be a priority. Instead, we should be talking about how to get improved technology systems in our country, the absence of which, after all of these 172 years of our country's existence, she has attributed to bad governance over the years.
Meanwhile, a source close to Rep. Morris (name withheld) quoted him via text message as saying: "I have continued to engage the MoPW. Government must do something about this desperate situation we are facing in this part of rural Montserrado."