On August 2, 2017 James Albury, Member of Parliament for Central / South Abaco, met with constituents in Hope Town to hear about the concerns affecting them in their township and in Abaco generally. Roughly 50 people were in attendance and met in the new St. James Hope Town Community Center. The meeting started at 6:30pm.
Mr. Albury was joined by Senior Island Administrator Charles Moss as well as a few members of the Hope Town District Council in the audience.
This was the second Constituency Meeting for Mr. Albury, the first being in man-O-War on July 27. One was planned for Guana Cay on July 31 but was postponed due to weather. Regular Constituency Meetings are to be held in other townships throughout Abaco as well.
Before the question and answer session Mr. Albury immediately put forth three major concerns he felt the citizens of Elbow Cay had: inconsistent power supply, crime and community development.
He noted that Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) had a new Board of Directors and Chairperson whom Albury described as “no nonsense.” He said, to his knowledge, BPL has a lot of issues facing it including failing infrastructure and an outdated grid. He told the audience that special engineers from MAN Diesel & Turbo (the engineering company that built the Wilson City Power Plant) were on Abaco along with engineers from Nassau to inspect and advise changes that must be made.
Specific to Elbow Cay, Albury noted BPL was scheduled to replace a faulty switch station that served the island.
In regards to boat thefts on Hope Town and break-ins, Albury said that he has had, and will have, conversations with the Minister of National Security and insist that Hope Town is not suffering from “Family Island crimes” but serious ones and proper resources need to be directed to combat it. He said he will work with local law enforcement, who he plans to have several candid conversations with, as well as the Min. of National Security and Local Council.
Albury explained that all Members of Parliament are granted $100,000 a year to disburse into projects they feel will benefit their communities. This figure does not roll over, so Mr. Albury solicited the audience to think about projects or causes they care about and bring them to him. He made clear that while $100,000 may seem like a lot, it must be spread out among the cays, Central Abaco, Moore’s Island, Sandy Point, etc. He cannot write a cheque to any individual charity or fundraiser, but he can pay for things with a clear paper trail, e.g. if he is presented an invoice from the Hope Town Junior Sailing Club to pay for food or travel. He asked for submissions to be brought to his office in the Government Complex or emailed to him at JamesAlbury@gmail.com .
The question and answer / comment session immediately hit back to BPL.
The audience suggested BPL use social media to help inform the public in real time during outages. That there is shoddy repair work in Elbow Cay and live wires are sometimes left exposed for unsafe periods of time. Someone floated the idea of Elbow Cay, as a community, investing in its own back-up generator.
One suggested that BEC needs to be privatized. Albury answered that the government is intending on alleviating BEC’s pull on the public purse and this could result in full or partial privatization or public / private partnerships.
Residents’ concerns about crime consumed the majority of the question and answer.
Criminals acting more bold was a worrying trend the audience noted – with thieves often breaking into homes while residents were inside sleeping. The audience noted that punishment does not match the crime as boat thieves are often seen back on the streets in a matter of months or a few years.
Albury said he intended to speak with the Attorney General to voice these concerns to try and get changes to the laws.
Residents noted that Hope Town should have at least two constables and currently the on-island officer does not even have a vehicle. It was noted that it was difficult to find affordable lodging for a secondary officer but plans are in place to acquire a police vehicle for Elbow Cay.
One resident noted that since Elbow Cay acts as one giant resort it should be able to hire private security just like any other resort or hotel – with businesses and residents coming together to fund it. Albury said he would look into the legal ramifications of such a setup.
Other concerns included: Hope Town not getting a fair share of the revenue that it generates for the Treasury; infrastructure problems including North End Road and the Dune Road heading south; Bahamas Telecommunications Company not maintaining their equipment on Elbow Cay; immigration; and poaching.
Mr. Albury noted that the Prime Minister plans to visit Abaco once a month to get a better feel for all the islands’ problems first hand. He noted that his job is to apply pressure to the relevant ministries and that he would relay the towns’ concerns. He also said he would continue to push for a more proportional investment and would recommend a number of projects to the Minister of Works.
In closing, Albury thanked the audience and noted that this meeting would not be the last of its kind in Hope Town and that he would continue working closely with the residents and with the elected local government members.