In its continuing effort to better represent the three settlements in its district, the Hope Town District Council conducted its routine, monthly meeting on Guana Cay (as opposed to Elbow Cay where the majority are held) on January 18, 2018.
Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting noted that slightly more than $760,000 property tax money has been forwarded to The Treasury, mostly as a result of his efforts at collecting delinquent property taxes on Man-O-War. Council members are anticipating a response from the Treasury on what their rebate will be. It was originally said by the previous government that Councils would get between two and ten percent of the delinquent taxes collected. The Local Government Act was amended to allow all Family Island Councils to collect property taxes for The Treasury. The Hope Town District Council is the first to actually begin collecting.
It has recently come to light in various newspaper accounts that a foreign company was hired by the previous government to collect delinquent property taxes for which they would retain or be refunded 25 percent. Without giving actual amounts, present government representatives in Nassau were reportedly concerned that the company was being paid more than they had collected. It is believed these efforts were focused on Nassau properties. These recent newspaper revelations caused Council members to question if they should renegotiate the Memorandum of Understanding as issued by the previous government.
Local government councils are required to hold public meetings and the Hope Town Council has scheduled meetings in the following towns: Man-O-War on February 2, Hope Town on February 5 and Guana Cay on February 6. These meetings are to encourage residents to give their ideas about their communities and hear from the councillors about what they are doing. The residents will learn how the Council is using its funding for the benefit of the community.
Garbage removal on Guana Cay is an ongoing issue. Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club allows Guana’s residential garbage to go to Marsh Harbour on the barge Baker’s has hired to remove trash from its development. However, Baker’s does not consider junked refrigerators and other household appliances as household trash.
Guana Cay has no public or Crown Land left for community use. The last 20 acres was leased or allowed to be used by the Baker’s development for its utilities and other infrastructural needs. Consequently, appliances and other large pieces of trash have nowhere to go pending removal and are scattered around the island. Council members are not familiar with Guana’s recent history and wondered if the concrete dock at the community center on the edge of the resort property is a public dock. Council members agreed to investigate the legal aspects concerning this property.
Three representatives from the north end of Hope Town spoke on the continuing issue of the road serving the North End. They claimed that a majority of residents want the present narrow sandy road to remain. However, several bad spots need attention. Residents are willing to contribute for improving those areas with concrete. They asked if the Council or central government would assist with the short portion around the ball field at the edge of town. Council asked the three residents to present cost estimates at the next Council meeting.
A permit application by Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay was submitted for approval for cottages on the point jutting into White Sound and on the reclaimed land beside the road. The single application contained two separate phases. However, phase one for construction on the point was deferred as being too dense as the buildings were only ten feet apart. Cottages in phase two were also deferred pending resolution of the contested reclamation on the Queen’s bottom.
The request for additional keys for the Hope Town gate was postponed pending studies on a gate using a prepaid card. It was felt that a system requiring payment by credit card would reduce the frivolous passage by many vehicles.
The meeting adjourned with Hope Town and Man-O-War councillors returning to their home islands by charted ferry.