Moores Islanders and government agencies came together for a Town Meeting hosted by the Moores Island District Council to discuss a number of issues facing the isolated community on April 25.
Minister of Parliament for Central and South Abaco Edison Key noted that he had sent $10,000 from his Constituency Allowance for 2013/2014 to assist the community with whatever they felt was needed most. After hearing the needs of the people of Moores Island Mr. Key pledged at the end of the meeting to give Moors Island $25,000 when he received his $50,000 allocation for 2014/2015.
He reassured Moores Islanders that he is still fighting for them and thanked them for their support over the years. He also told them that he would like to see Moores Island have a nice harbour believing that this would be a great benefit to the community.
Chief Councillor Thomas Hield said that the Council negotiated with the Department of Environmental Health Service (DEHS) to clean the island’s dumpsite which had grown out of control and got it cleaned up. The Council also hired a person to clean cemeteries and the school grounds, but had to cut him due to budget cuts.
He said the Council’s main concern is the public dock which is deteriorating and he wants something done before someone gets hurt or worse. He said it seems when the government comes and sees their issues they throw their notes in the garbage when they leave.
Jeremie Saunders officer with the Department of Marine Resources noted that he saw a number of fishing boats in the harbour with compressors on board and advised that if they go fishing and are caught with the compressor on board they could face fines.
He noted that there have been recent sightings of a manatee in the Moores Island area and advised that the creature is protected under the act as a marine mammal which says that persons shall not fish for, interfere with or harass it. The only exception is for persons conduct scientific research which requires permission.
Olivia Patterson, Deputy Director of Friends of the Environment added that they welcome any reports of sightings and movements of the manatee.
Marques Williams, the newly appointed Port Administrator, said that he will not toss their concerns in the garbage and expects to return to bring assistance to Moores Island as he can see the hazard. He said he will definitely antagonize on their behalf to assist them. He also noted that they will look at the channel lights as well.
Gaynell Rolle, head of the Department of Inland Revenue, noted that there are challenges in the cays in collecting business license fees an advised the community to get their renewal applications in as they will be sending officers around in May to inspect shop licenses. She also advised everyone with property to register it even though they may not pay tax on it so that they will have a record of the property which will assist when persons face property disputes.
Superintendent of Police for Abaco, Noel Curry, congratulated Moores Island for being a good statistic when it comes to crime as he reports no issues on the island, despite a few challenges. He added that they will be sending new officers to the island soon to replace the ones presently there. He noted that there has been some issues with alcohol being sold to minors which has led to some bad behavior among some teenagers.
The Principal of Moores Island’s school, Ms. Ruthamae Rolle, said they have requested a maintenance man as presently the two male teachers on staff have to assist with those issues. “We do our best with the little we have,” she said.
Pastor Anthony Williams spoke of the changes he is making in the lives of the 16 boys who live with him and asked for whatever assistance could be provided to help him build five showers for them.
Persons in the community also expressed concerns about the bathroom facilities at the school requesting a new block of bathrooms be built. There was also a request for a fence to be put up around the school so that children don’t wander off and get in trouble. Some would also like to see a security guard at the school. It was noted that the preschool was far too small and that they should have a larger facility.
A teacher from the school noted that some teachers work overtime and that they need a PE teacher as presently they have a resident who volunteers twice a week to do PE with the students. She wants to see the students in Moores Island have the same opportunity that other children have across the country.
Residents said that their track has produced some good athletes and some have even earned scholarships and they are overdue and deserving of better facilities for these young athletes.
Another resident said they would like to see the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture have a presence on the island as there is not enough positive activities for youth to be involved in.
Concerns were voiced that there has been times, purportedly about a year, when no doctor visited Moores Island. In recent times the doctor has only shown up every other month. Residents said there is a need for the doctor to come at least once a month but other believe it necessary for them to visit twice a month.
Gaynell Rolle said that the government is looking to hire 30 doctors most of which will be sent to the out islands.
It was also noted that the clinic building has outlived its ability to serve the needs of the community. The Nurse said that Moores Island deserves the same courtesy afforded to other settlements. The clinic also needs to be located on higher ground.
The nurse also noted that blood work is challenging due to the lack of a regular flight in and out of Moores Island and she has often had to pay out of pocket to have them shipped.
There is also a need for a fire truck on the island as residents have no means of tackling fires when they occur.
Another resident noted that there is a growing stray dog population on the island and some persons have been harassed and attacked by them.
Concerns were expressed about the sea wall that was damaged in Hurricane Sandy and that there is a lack of shelters when storms come through.
People spoke up that they are fed up and tired and a constant chorus from the audience was that “they don’t care about us!”
Mr. Key noted that the majority of the issues Moores Island face came about due to lack of money and its isolation.