Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020
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Ragged Islanders cautiously optimistic about government attention

Hurricane damage to the government school caused by Hurricane Irma on Ragged Island. Hurricanes have led to significant financial burdens for the government throughout the years. FILE

With solar power expected to be introduced to the island by the end of the month and construction having started on the government school, some Ragged Islanders are pleased that progress seems to be underway to return the island to normalcy.

More than two years after the island was devastated during Hurricane Irma, and afterward declared “uninhabitable” by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), there is still no functional government school, post office, administrator’s office, police station or clinic.

However, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister in October said construction on the island would start in early 2020, and last week Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey announced that the power company would introduce solar energy to Ragged Island by the end of the month.

“What the government’s doing right now, I’m a little satisfied, a little bit,” said Rochelle Maycock, 34.

“Even with the solar plant what they said they were going to do, they’re still doing their work even though what happened to Abaco and Freeport, they still didn’t leave Ragged hanging; that’s what I’m talking about.”

Erica Wallace, meanwhile, said she feels “so-so” about the progress, but is glad to see a start.

“Things are starting to pick up now. They actually have people to come here to build the school so that’s a start,” the 39-year-old said.

“For now, it looks like a little progress is going on.”

She added, “My main focus is on the school because I have children who need to go to school. So they need to be ready for September. They’re saying it will take about six to seven months, so we’ll see how that goes.”

Wallace said her children have been being homeschooled in the meantime, and that her daughter who is in 12th grade must travel to New Providence to sit the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE).

Maycock also has been homeschooling her 4-year-old daughter, adding that she also hopes the school will be open by fall.

“Yes, I’m thankful they are starting the school because I have a daughter over here and I want her to go to school in September so I feel good about the situation. But we still need a nurse,” Maycock said.

She added, “I’m not even worried about the police station and the rest of them, but I really need that clinic to get up and going, that’s the next project they need to start working on, that clinic. Get that up.

“Because right now they have all these workers on Ragged Island and you wouldn’t believe not one nurse on Ragged Island. Not one nurse if something happens to somebody over here, all these workers.”

Myron Lockhart-Bain, 58, also brought attention to the need for a nurse on the island and had strong criticism about the situation.

“It’s a dumb thing – you bring in close to 100 people, foreign people, on the island, and you don’t have no nurse, no clinic, no nothing,” Lockhart-Bain said.

“People are using saws and drills and this and that and the next. So, the more people you get, the more chance you have of injury, alright? So, I would think you would say if you’re planning to do this construction you would have, beforehand, said, ‘Okay, let’s send one of them trailers there for the nurse or whatever. Or let’s build a little…place for the nurse’.”

He was not too impressed with activity on the island, noting that he believes government buildings should have been installed before solar power was set up. However, he nonetheless expressed gratitude.

“It’s about time. Like I say, ain’t nothing to get too excited about because they gone fool with solar and need the clinic and them things, I would think that would be first. But you can’t complain, hey?” Lockhart-Bain said.

He added, “You can’t give them no praises two, three years later, you know? Praises are done like the BEC people and BTC people, you know who ‘bap, bap’ – they were here, you know.

“They made sure everything was up and going and that’s response. Not this now. This is what I call peer pressure.”

However, he later added: “Like I say, better late than never. It’s great something is being done.”

Louis Pintard, who said he has been a member of the local government council for 12 years, said that he also would have liked earlier assistance but said that he was nonetheless “happy” with the progress.

“I feel happy because it’s progress and if we get what they are doing now it would be much better for the island,” Pintard, 52, said. “Because right now you don’t have no nurse, no policeman, you know, if anything happens on the island.”

He added, “As far as assistance is concerned, I think the most help would have been if they would have come and put most government structures back much earlier. That’s what really has the island crippled.”

While he said he doesn’t believe it was “okay” for government to seemingly focus on Abaco and Grand Bahama following Hurricane Dorian in early September whereas Ragged Island was devastated two years earlier, Pintard said he sympathizes with the two northern islands.

“Ragged Island was spared; no death. And I have a lot of family who lives up in Grand Bahama and Abaco and it’s devastating,” Pintard said.

“I went there a couple of weeks after the hurricane, [to] Grand Bahama, and it was heartbreaking. For me, it’s like they need it financially and economically. Those islands are islands that have a lot of employment.”

He added, “I got do bad…but it breaks my heart to see Abaco and Grand Bahama.”

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