The Hope Town District Council met on August 21 to award annual contracts for town services and to resolve current issues.
An early item on the Council’s agenda was a request by Road Traffic Authority in Nassau for a public town meeting soon concerning the Hope Town traffic issue. Council members were concerned that this is not a good time for the Nassau group to come for several reasons: this is not the busy tourist season so few visitors and residents are presently here, traffic is very light so a walk-about through town will not give the impression of the congestion issues and, lastly, with minimal traffic, parking is ample which does not convey the parking issues.
However, Nassau is presently revising the Road Traffic Act and wants to ensure that the Hope Town situation is properly addressed. Hope Town’s traffic congestion, parking issues and the infamous gate have been widely discussed in the past with reports being sent to Nassau without official resolution.
A seminar is scheduled in Nassau on September 30 to October 2 for chief councillors and deputy chief councillors. Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting asked if other delegates could attend instead as he and Deputy Chief Councillor Harold Malone are returning council members but Arthur Elden and Tad Sands are new and would benefit from the seminar. Administrator Preston Cunningham will ask about this.
An application for a mooring in Man-O-War’s Eastern Harbour will be reviewed on-site with the possibility of a subsequent town meeting in Man-O-War to discuss the mooring issue.
Several moratoriums put in place three years ago by the previous council expired with the formation of this new council and these moratoriums were reviewed now as to their future. The moratorium on additional moorings in Hope Town’s harbour is to be extended for another three years, the length of this local government’s term. The moratorium on commercial moorings off Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay’s south end is to be extended for another three years.
The pit bull moratorium for Elbow Cay has been extended by another three years.
The present moratorium on self-drive plates for rental golf carts on Elbow Cay was extended for another three years. One Council member noted that there were more than 160 rental golf carts available now on Elbow Cay with possible shortages occurring only at Christmas, Easter and early July.
A lack of parking and traffic congestion in the Hope Town business district is a major concern. Rental carts add to the hundreds of carts owned by home-owners and available to house guests.
Traffic, Parking & “The Gate”
A plea was made to Council for financial assistance to improve the dirt road at Turtle Hill. Council was agreeable but did not pledge a specific amount. Homeowners along that section of road will be asked to contribute also.
The locked traffic gate that stops vehicular traffic from entering Hope Town village was discussed extensively. This gate is a local attempt to comply with the Bahamian Road Traffic Act that prohibits motorized vehicles from passing north of the Methodist Church. Most people concede that the original purpose of this law has outlived its usefulness, but it is not clear what a better solution would be.
Essentially, parking of any sort is non-existent in Hope Town’s historic center. Furthermore, most of the town’s streets are just wide enough for a cart and one pedestrian at the same time. Normal sized automobiles and contractor’s trucks add to the traffic dilemma on roads better described as sidewalks.
The gate was installed years ago by the Elbow Cay Association with keys allowed to those with a demonstrated need for a vehicle in town. Those with a key pass at their own risk as neither the Hope Town District Council nor the Elbow Cay Association has the authority to contravene the law that states “No vehicles shall pass . . . .” Revenue from the issuance of gate keys is used by the association for improvements on Elbow Cay. Examples are the two shelters on the public docks built by funds accumulated by this association. Local government is not allowed to tax or collect money.
Current discussion by Council members on the gate leaned toward an automated card system with a fee assessed for each use. It was felt that being charged a fee for each access would either reduce or perhaps eliminate frivolous trips through town.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Gregory Barr attended the meeting at Council’s request. He was told of vehicles being shipped to Elbow Cay from Marsh Harbour without licenses or insurance. ASP Barr said drivers will be issued summons to appear before the magistrate in Marsh Harbour. He was also told of underage cart drivers on the road.
Objections to Gambling House
A senior member of the Methodist Church voiced his objection to a gambling business adjacent to the Mission House. Gaynell Rolle of the Business License Department also was in attendance as Council members wanted an explanation about a web shop application for a site beside the Methodist Mission House. She was told there are presently three web shops south of town and the Councillors did not feel that another one in town was needed.
No application had come to her office although it is possible that an applicant is assembling the required documents from the departments concerned, police, works, environmental health and possibly others in preparation for presenting her office with an application. She assured Council members that they will be advised of all business license applications within their district and their written recommendations will be requested and be taken into consideration by her office.
Ms. Rolle asked the Council members and any town residents to write to her office as it can only respond to written objections.
Bids for annual contracts for services to the three towns were opened, reviewed and awarded as appropriate. Residential refuse collection is the largest of these services. Other routine contracts are for janitorial services to public buildings, schools, cemeteries, cleaning town roads and keeping the verges mowed and clean.
Two bids had been submitted for taking the accumulated pallets on Guana Cay back to Marsh Harbour and the Snake Cay landfill. An interesting solution to disposing of these pallets is being pursued. It was asked if these could be used to augment the fuel used in the Baker’s Bay resort incinerator.
Like Elbow Cay and Man-O-War Cay, the refuse generated by the Baker’s Bay development is barged to Marsh Harbour as these small cays do not have space to create a dump or landfill. As a contribution to Guana Cay, Bakers offered to consolidate town refuse with theirs and pay for its removal which is a substantial expense. Elbow Cay alone pays in the neighbourhood of $130,000 a year just for barging refuse to Marsh Harbour.
Baker’s recently installed a commercial incinerator to reduce the volume of barged refuse and is including the Guana settlement refuse with this disposal method. A phone call to Bakers was made during the meeting and burning pallets in the incinerator will be considered. The call disclosed that the incinerator’s operators would like bottles and cans collected separately as these materials do not incinerate and they reduce the efficiency of the process.
Council members hope to have an answer on the pallets for the next meeting.
Other business was the routine review and authorization for issuance of building permits and reviewing applications for docks and marine structures.
Three Council members will be attending a sister city ceremony in Stuart, Florida, on August 30. Subsequently, they will be guests at a West Palm Beach city council meeting. The three are Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting, and Councillors Arthur Eldon and Don Cash. As a matter of protocol, the Bahamian Counsel in Miami will also attend these functions. The Bahamian chief councillor’s position is equivalent to a mayor in Florida.