In their final meeting for 2017 on December 7, members of the Central Abaco District Council expressed frustrations over many issues within their three townships: Marsh Harbour, Dundas Town and Murphy Town. The Council invited guests to discuss some of these problems. They included Kimbilee Wells of Environmental Health, building inspector Paul Curry with the Ministry of Works, and Kevin Mortimer, Superintendent of Police for Abaco.
The Council members named many irritations and obvious infractions within the three towns that included the following:
- Illegal and random dumping of garbage and trash
- Illegal “bush mechanic” garages and shops with collections of disabled vehicles
- Vehicles not observing the traffic light
- Loud and obnoxious motorcycle behavior
- Speeding by cars and motorcycles
- Derelict vehicles accumulating along streets
- Unlicensed and un-inspected food vendors, take-out services
- Food preparation staff without current health certificates
- Rampant building construction without permits, both new and additions
- Unlicensed car wash services
- Clubs and bars not observing their closing hours
- Highway verges not being maintained
It was noted that some agencies have authority to inspect, approve and note deviations for a business license. But in many situations only the police have the authority to close operations for businesses without the required annual documents. Many agencies will respond to written complaints, but few of these actually look for infractions.
After discussing these problems, the chairmen of the three towns, Roscoe Thompson, Faron Newbold, and Gilbert Davis, who would be called mayors in other jurisdictions, are to canvass concerned residents in their respective towns for infractions that can be given to authorities for action. Council members agreed to compile lists of known or suspected infractions.
A common issue expressed by the government authorities present was a lack of funding for staff or equipment. Years ago derelict vehicles were removed by Environmental Health, but successive governments have reduced funding for these efforts. Local government must now undertake this clean-up effort. Abandoned vehicles should now be marked and tow truck operators be approached for a quote to remove multiple vehicles.
Restaurants and others serving food to the public should be shut down if employees do not have health certificates or for the facility not having a current Environmental Health Sanitation certificate. Some businesses operate as if these documents are a one-time effort requiring no further action. In fact, they all require annual renewal.
“Stop Construction” notices on illegal buildings are often ignored with buildings being completed despite the notices. In these situations the Ministry of Works can tear down the illegal construction. However, they do not have the tools or manpower to do this and lack the funding to hire others for this task.
In the case of illegal shops operating, it is sometimes subsequently discovered that they have a shop license issued by Nassau without the knowledge of local authorities. Efforts to curtail this practice are ongoing.
According to Police Superintendent Mortimer, the morale and work ethics of the Police Department are severely impacted by the derelict state of the police station. In looking for relief, he has asked if the recently vacated government clinic on Don MacKay Boulevard could be renovated for the police. He has not had a response, and it is understood that several government agencies would like to use this building. Extensive renovations will be required for any purpose this building might serve.
Supt. Mortimer personally patrols the Central Abaco area every Friday night and Saturday night from 10 pm to 4 am. He said it is a wild, lawless area, not like anything it may have represented years ago. To emphasize his point, he invited Council members to accompany him on one of his nightly patrols to see for themselves.
Over concerns on unsightly road verges, it was noted that the Works staff has only one tractor with a bush-hog attachment, and this is shared with North Abaco. Council agreed to assist with funding to make repairs but asked that the North Abaco Council share this expense. Administrator Maxine Duncombe has asked her superiors for additional equipment to keep the roadsides clean. North to south Abaco’s highway is approximately 120 miles in length giving the bushhog about 240 miles of verges to mow.
The painting of pedestrian crosswalks will be undertaken along with other road markings. The application is done by a thermal process where the paint material is applied by heat, not just painted on the pavement.
In a final note, the Council staff complained about their workload assisting town committees with work the town committee members or paid staff should be doing. They also noted that they accept and handle many walk-in people looking for help due to them not receiving proper help from the respective government agencies.
After a particularly long meeting, council members enjoyed a holiday treat of sandwiches, a fruit platter and dessert.