It’s a new year with new adventures ahead for Abaco. But to put our future in context we should reflect on the past. In putting this list together we decided on what we felt were the most impactful stories for Abaco of 2014. They could not be annual events (sorry Regatta, Stranded Naked, Business Expo and Box Cart Races) and could not be a “national” story (sorry VAT, Leslie Miller and BahamasAir Strike).
Of course the choice and rankings on this list are purely subjective and based solely on our opinion. If you feel we have an egregious omission or think one of these shouldn’t be on this list feel free to write in and make your voice heard.
In the meantime, The Abaconian presents: Our Top 12
12. Bulldogs / Falcons Beat National Competition
OK, right off the bat we are cheating by combining two stories. But the over-arching theme here is how Abaco people have gone down to the Capital and stomped national competition.
Also since the Bulldogs were champions last year and we’re convinced the FHA falcons will take it again in the near future, they are at the bottom of our list.
Congrats to both squads!
11. Teachers and Salaried Workers Credit Union Opens
This Shopping Plaza opened on April 11 in Murphy Town. $15 million dollars was spent on the complex and it shows. It’s a beautiful building in an area that greatly benefits from the economic boost.
The business complex is still growing in terms of tenants, but big plans are still in store.
10. Government Inaction Grounds Promising Sea Plane Venture
Oh boy, this could have been a match made in Heaven.
Regular flights out of Florida directly on to a beach in Elbow Cay? Sand under your feet and a cold drink waiting for you right in the shade of the Abaco Inn? An airline company that is currently operating in The Bahamas with the experience and credentials?
What could go wrong?
Weeks and weeks went by after the inaugural flight with all the international media hoopla that had already primed the tourism pump. However, despite receiving verbal confirmation from government officials, IJet and the company operating the Sea Plane, Tropic Ocean Airways, were never able to get the paperwork signed by government to proceed fully.
9. CHEC Breaks Ground for North Abaco Port
The controversial $39 million Cooper’s Town Port project, initiated under the Ingraham administration and carried on by the current PLP government, finally saw action on June 20 when an official groundbreaking ceremony took place.
Former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Hubert Ingraham, and current Deputy PM, the Hon. Philip Davis, shared a shovel to make the first strike in the soil as China Harbour Engineering Company and Chinese Government officials looked on.
A special moment seeing members of the two parties cooperating.
8. Chief Justice Holds Court
In another historic moment for Abaco, Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett visited Marsh Harbour to hear a Supreme Court matter at the upper court at the Government Complex on June 4. The matter he was hearing was related to the Quieting Titles Act.
This is the first time a Chief Justice has sat court on Abaco.
7. Chinese Ambassador Visits
On April 2, the Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas, Yuan Guisen, arrived on Abaco for a few days of tours and relaxation. Along with his wife, Madam Yang Hong, he spent a day touring some of the Cays. He was especially impressed by the Elbow Cay Lighthouse and the boat building yards in Man-O-War.
North Abaco MP, Renardo Curry, said that ideas are being exchanged for a “People to people” program and that the Ambassador would be encouraging his government to make investments on Abaco as well as pro¬mote it as a tourist destination.
6. Elbow Cay Lighthouse’s 150th Birthday
Early Elbow Cay Natives didn’t want her, fearing it would destroy the wrecking economy. Now they celebrate her as the most iconic of Abaco’s landmarks.
The Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society held a day of festivities in celebration of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse on June 24. The ceremony was moderated by Tania Duncombe, who invited Jeffrey Forbes Jr. along with his father, Jeffrey Forbes Sr., who was a lighthouse keeper for 40 plus years, to participate in the flag raising ceremony.
Standing 120 feet above the high-water line, it embodies the first verse of our National Anthem: ‘Lift up your head.’
5. Hope Town-Stuart Sister Cities
The Mayor of Stuart, Florida, Troy A. McDonald, along with his wife Portia Scott and Ricardo Treco, Consul General of the Bahamas Consulate in Miami, Florida paid a formal courtesy call in the Hope Town District from July 25 to 27, during which a resolution was signed making the two townships ‘sister cities’.
Mr. McDonald was warmly welcomed at the Leonard Thompson International Airport Terminal, where he was presented with a Key for the City of Marsh Harbour from Member of Parliament for Central and South Abaco, Edison Key.
Jeremy Sweeting, Chief Councillor of the Hope Town District Council, said that the signing of the agreement marked “a special day in the history of Hope Town and the Hope Town district. We consider this the start of our official relationship with the City of Stuart.”
4. Winding Bay Sold
A huge development for South, and all, of Abaco.
Southworth Development purchased the Abaco Club on Winding Bay from Marriott Vacation Worldwide Corporation. President and CEO of Southworth Development, Mr. David Southworth, said he was pleased to be doing business in The Bahamas and that he and his family looked forward to taking up residence in The Bahamas, demonstrating their commitment to their project.
Hundreds of millions are in the pipeline for renovations and upgrades to the property.
Winding Bay has been mired in stagnation for several years under the previous ownership, with many Homeowners at the Club pushing for a change. Now that the change has been made locals and Club Owners alike are interested in what happens next.
3. $500,000 (Still) Missing
Marsh Harbour brings in roughly $40 million in customs duty every year at the Port. In May, a roughly $500,000 deposit was given to one Customs Officer to deposit at the bank, as is the standard procedure. On this day, during the two minute drive from the Port to the bank the deposit disappeared. The Customs Officer wasn’t robbed. The money just disappeared. Mysteriously.
Fast forward several months to September – the case is unceremoniously closed with no suspects ever being brought in. Even though “only” $30,000 of the half million was cash, and therefore non-recoverable, the point remains that half a million tax dollars can go missing from the public sphere with no consequences.
This is a nasty, ugly blight on our justice system.
2. Peas / Sand Banks Fires
One year ago on New Year’s Eve a massive fire broke out in the shanty town village known as the Pigeon Pea. Over 70 homes were destroyed with more than 250 residents displaced. More tragically, a mother and child lost their life during the blaze.
Due to the congested nature of construction in the shanty town, fire engines were unable to effectively fight the fire. This same problem would rear its head four months later when a fire in the North Abaco shanty town, Sand Banks, burned half the community to the ground. Fortunately no lives were lost in this incident, but many were left homeless.
1. Leonard M. Thompson
The big one.
The $30 million dollar airport and facility began construction all the way back in September 2011. It was not until May 27, 2014 that the Leonard M Thompson officially opened its doors.
After numerous false starts, delays and missed deadlines, the airport was a source of frustration and morbid humour for Abaconians.
However, the day finally came and despite some hiccups the new terminal is sitting pretty ready to take Abaco to the next level. Here’s to hoping we see an Atlanta direct sooner rather than later!