The Following is an Excerpt from the Hon. Desmond Bannister During the Mid-Year Budget Debate Regarding Abaco-Specific Projects
Mr. Speaker … I will touch on a short list of some of the critical projects that we will focus on in the upcoming year:
- We will budget for roadworks to create culverts on the Highway in North Abaco so that when we fix the road the stink pond will henceforth be known as the sweet pond.
- We will budget for corrective works to the Dune Road in Hope Town … so that residents can be assured of safe passage.
Mr. Speaker, this is a good opportunity for me to focus on BPL: Bahamas Power and Light Company Limited (BPL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and operates as the provider of electricity across the Bahamas with the exception of Grand Bahama. BPL is licensed under the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA). BPL served under the Management Services Agreement with Power Secure from February 2016 to August 2017. Now a new Board of 23 Directors consisting of Chairman Darnell Osborne, Deputy Chair Patrick Rollins, and Members Ferron Bethel, Nicola Thompson and Whitney Heastie lead the company. Engineer Nick Dean has recently been appointed to the Board. Mr. Heastie now serves as C.E.O., and Mrs. Christina Alston has joined BPL as C.O.O.
For this fiscal year the main objectives of BPL are to enhance the safety culture, to improve delivery of Customer service and improve the reliability of service, particularly during the summer months. In this respect I wish to apologize to the residents of Abaco. They have been long suffering. Long power cuts year after year for two decades is too much to bear. The Wilson City power plant is capable of producing twice the amount of power that the entire island needs, but so many issues have impacted its reliability. In a few minutes I will speak to the actions that we will take to ensure that the power supply is more reliable in Abaco and several other islands.
Mr. Speaker, preparations are on the way to ensure that BPL is ready for the summer season in order to meet the peak demand. The islands of Bimini, Abaco, Exuma and New Providence will be targeted for special attention before June: however, I hasten to advise that generation capacity audits are being conducted of all Family Island locations and will be completed by March 30th of this year.
Bimini and other islands may require backup generation during the summer, and accordingly a Transmission and Distribution evaluation was conducted in both Abaco and Bimini. We want to ensure that BPL is at its best this summer.
In Abaco, BPL will seek to achieve three major objectives:
- Upgrade the cooling water system. This will be a major change, as they will then be able to utilize above ground motors instead of the submersibles that caused so many problems and left the island without power recently; 25
- Improve the power supply to the Cays by adding an additional submarine cable that will be buried so as to avoid the complications with the current cable that is constantly cut by boats; and
- Install a new transformer and a voltage regulator so as to improve the low voltage issues that plague North Abaco.
Mr. Speaker, before I move on to discuss Abaco, it is critical that I discuss the shanty towns from the perspective of BPL, the Water & Sewerage Corporation, and the Ministry of Public Works.
Mr. Speaker, during my recent visit to Abaco I was shocked to see the extent of the lawlessness that exists in the Mudd community. The government has pledged to the Bahamian people that we will end shanty towns, and only a perverse mind will challenge us on the importance of that resolve. We must have an ordered society, where all residents abide by the law. There cannot be one law for most of us and then total anomie for a select group.
Just consider, Sir: We have a building code to protect us, and all construction must comply with it so that our communities are not wiped out by hurricanes and natural disasters; The relaxation of sanitation standards could cause widespread illness and death throughout our country; and Illegal utility connections are unsafe.
The Mudd is a dangerous place for the people who live there and for the community at large. The environment is unhealthy for children and adults alike; and the ad hoc construction and stealing of electricity and water cannot be tolerated any longer. Just one example is the illegal and dangerous placement of huge generators in the middle of that community. To put it in perspective, these generators deliver more than enough power to provide electricity to Moores Island, Crooked Island, Acklins, Ragged Island, Mayaguana and Rum Cay. Their very existence in the community is illegal.
They are stealing much needed revenue from BPL and hence the Bahamian people. The setting up and operation of these generators have created connections that are dangerous and are likely to cause fires and death; and worst of all they are set up by individuals who are taking advantage of their own people by charging exorbitant rates to them for these illegal hookups.
Additionally, illegal connections to water lines have been a major concern with respect to non-revenue water; and holes in the ground as makeshift toilets pose serious sanitation risks. Mr. Speaker, I invite the critics to champion the poor legal residents in these communities, who are exploited by greedy individuals who take advantage of them. I encourage them to work with the government to help those legal residents to find decent housing in which they can raise their families in a clean and healthy environment.
I encourage them to use their immense influence to assist in identifying the criminals who enrich themselves by exploiting and endangering lives through their creation of illegal power plants such as the one that we see here.