Administrator for South Abaco, Joshua Smith, and Members of Local Government were praised for organizing the community meeting on September 18 which brought together community members from all of the settlements in the south along with representatives from several government departments, Winding Bay and Schooner Bay. The well-attended meeting was held at the J.A. Pinder Primary School in Sandy Point.
Chief Councilor for South Abaco, Stanley White, explained to the audience that the meeting was designed as an open meeting for everyone to get to know what is going on in the south and for concerns to be aired and questions answered.
Joshua Smith, having recently taken up his post as the new Administrator for South Abaco, outlined his responsibilities as administrator. “Some people in the community have more power than the administrator. Council members are elected to do your business and the job of the administrator is to lead and guide. The administrator is responsible for government funds and must give account to central government but cannot give a single job and must never be political. My purpose in my heart to be the best person I can be in this district. I will respect you and I ask you to respect me. I will always do what I know is best and right,” he told the people.
Dr. Lenora Black, Superintendent of Education, Science and Technology for the Abaco district, stated that; “Good education is a pre-requisite for short, medium and long-term economic growth. This year we have challenges but we see these as an opportunity for growth.”
Kimberly Wells, representative from Environmental Health stated that the department has many challenges. “The way the community is going things are out of hand,” she lamented. “We need to control rodents, mosquitoes and garbage. We need to band together as communities; tourists travel all over the island and we are responsible for keeping our surroundings clean.”
Clint Kemp, representative from Schooner Bay, invited everyone to go and visit the Schooner Bay development. “It is a new Bahamian town, not a resort and not a private gated community. It will be an open community where everyone is welcome. There will be two areas, the Village and the Commons, by the road where agricultural projects will be developed.”
Sgt. Jocelyn Smith, who is responsible for Urban Renewal 2.0 which was formerly designated Community Policing, gave a detailed account of her work here on Abaco. “I and my assistant are here to work along with a few of the government entities such as Ministry of Education, Social Services and Ministry of Works on social issues. The responsibility is an awesome one especially on Abaco” she stated and stressed how community involvement stems from the home.
“Because of the high number of incidents in schools, Urban Renewal is proposing a program for kids to join,” she stated. “We need programs for the kids to build character and discipline and to work as a team. Young people have to learn to get along with all races, colours etc. so one of our major focuses will be on kids in school. We need volunteers and community builders to assist in the schools.” Sgt. Smith also spoke about the serious stray dog problem stating that dog owners must by law have the animals licensed and contained in an enclosed yard.
Preston Roberts, co-chair of the Hole in the Wall Restoration Project, spoke of the need to get South Abaco involved. He asked for volunteers to help clean up the area which when restored will bring tourists to the area. He stated that Disney Cruise line needs places for people to come and visit on the mainland.
Other representatives were Andrew Fry for the Cherokee Community Clinic, Freddie Munnings, Director of Human Resources at the Winding Bay resort, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Gregory Barr, Winsome Darville of the Ministry of Tourism, Elaine Martinborough, Ministry of Housing, Jeremy Saunders, Fisheries Superintendent and Roy Pinder of the Sandy Point Volunteer Fire Department who requested that the community to come together to raise funds to restore the fire trucks, keep them running and provide housing for them.
A question and answer period followed during which many people were eager to voice their concerns and offer suggestions. Some of the points covered were as follows:
- Socialization of children. Dr. Black responded that what is needed first is the socialization of parents and that re-education has to begin in the home. She stated that parent teacher associations are a pivotal point and that since it is difficult for parents living at Sandy Point to get to school meetings in town the PTA will come to them.
- Cost of land in Sands Cove. Elaine Martinborough advised that the price of lots will not come down.
- State of the roads. No representative from the Ministry of Works was present to address this issue. However Administrator Smith stated that he hopes to get some perma-patch on the boat this week to patch the potholes in the roads of South Abaco.
- Children being expelled from school. Concern was raised over all of the young people, especially boys, who are being put out of school for bad behavior and just left to roam as there is no one to deal with them and families often do not want them. Sgt. Smith said that she will address this issue.
- Continuing education classes. The need was mentioned for classes for students who have dropped out of school and also for adults who cannot read and write. The audience was told that the College of the Bahamas is coming back to Abaco and it might open classes to older persons. Evening Institutes may be introduced in the subjects of mathematics and English to enable persons to attain high school leaving certificates.
- The offer was made by a gentleman to teach chess to high school students since chess is a game which teaches minds to solve problems. He also asked if one of the development companies could help establish a tennis court in Sandy point where he could begin teaching tennis to young people.
Following this lively period of discussion the meeting was brought to a close and it was agreed that it had been a most productive meeting and should be followed up with another in three months’ time.