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Resolution promised for Ragged Island

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma, the Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds up to 185 miles per hour, devastated Ragged Island, destroying homes, the school, clinic, administrator’s office and police station.

Ragged Island is a small place. The 2010 census counted 72 people there. There are fewer than 60 residents now.

After Irma the island was deemed “uninhabitable”. Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis vowed it would be rebuilt and turned into a “green city”.

Since, there was clean up and some work toward restoration. However, the full rebuild is pending.

During his third national report for 2019 on Monday, Minnis announced the government will invest $8 million to restore public infrastructure on the island.

He said: “The reconstruction of its public infrastructure includes the following new infrastructure: The construction of a school and teacher’s duplex at a cost of $2 million; the construction of a new clinic at $2.5 million; the construction of an administrator’s office, post office and court room at a cost of $2.5 million, and the construction of a police station and accommodations for officers at a cost of $1 million.”

No timeline was given for the expenditure but we suspect this money will come in the new budget. The 2019/2020 fiscal year starts July 1.

“I am also pleased to announce that candidates have been shortlisted to participate in the request for proposal (RFP) process for a solar generation facility in Ragged Island,” said Minnis.

“The RFP is expected to be published soon. Barring any unforeseen circumstances the current projection for completion of the facility is by year’s end.”

The government’s move toward full restoration for Ragged Island has not been swift. No one would argue that. But it is unclear if it is reasonable to say it has been very slow. When infrastructure in remote, sparsely populated places is destroyed planning is required.

The representative for the area is Chester Cooper, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) deputy leader. Cooper has done his part publicly keeping on the government to keep its pledge to Ragged Island. He is still skeptical despite the prime minister’s announcement.

He said after nearly two years of neglect by the government, he will “believe it when I see the shovels in the ground”, referring to the restoration.

“And only then will I, and the people of Ragged Island, thank this government for doing its job and providing the most basic amenities of life that other islands enjoy,” he said in a statement.

“Until then, Ragged Island residents and [their] descendants will be waiting for that apology.”

This hurricane happened under Minnis’ watch and he will be judged on the state of Ragged Island when his term ends. The PLP had Perry Christie on the ticket to be prime minister at the last election. If his party won, and it were up to a Christie administration to fix Ragged Island, we have no confidence that such a thing would happen based on Christie’s record of unfulfilled promised and incomplete projects.

Some Ragged Islanders think more than the $8 million will be needed to get the community to where it needs to be.

Dr. Locksley Munroe is a member of the Restoration Ragged Island Association. Though he said the $8 million is a good start, he thinks it would take $11 million to return the island to its former state.

“They refuse to allow us to put the water on there, our system still doesn’t work the way it ought to so there is no consistency with the water. Certainly, as far as electricity is concerned, that is not available like that. So, in terms of the living conditions since 2017 it really is really primitive,” he said.

“The money that he is talking about investing, in my mind I’m thinking that a fair portion of that is going to be to try and make acceptable living accommodations for the people who would be going there.”

Because of Ragged Island’s size we recall misguided commentary after the storm arguing that the investment to rebuild was not worth it. Both political parties rightfully rejected this.

We hope a year from now the work to rebuild is advanced and the residents’ lives are closer to normalcy. Ragged Island is part of our commonwealth. In times of devastation we should not abandon our own.

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