Contractors association: At least another year or two before Abaco returns to normal
With nearly a year passed since Hurricane Dorian leveled certain parts of Abaco, Bahamian Contractor’s Association President Michael Pratt yesterday said it will be at least another year or two before parts of the storm-ravaged island start to look like they did before.
Many parts of the island remain in shambles and without electricity, creating what Pratt called a “desperate” situation for not only residents but contractors wanting to rebuild.
“I think if you look at the last response coming out of Abaco, I think…until that infrastructure is put back in place, I think the government is trying to find homes for their workers and to get their workers back in homes, so if the government is trying to get their workers back in homes, imagine the people who lived there before,” said Pratt, who added he regularly communicates with contractors on the island.
“It’s going to be a while to get back to where we were. It’s going to be a while, I can’t really say how long, but I expect it to be at least a year or two before we can begin to see the rebuilding of some of these communities the way they were before.
“That being said, some works and some infrastructure is being put back in place as we speak. So it’s not as desperate as it looks, but really and truly it is desperate. Especially since we are on the eve of another hurricane season.”
In May, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the restoration of power on Abaco is taking longer than anticipated due to mental fatigue among employees.
Defending contractors and construction workers on the island, Pratt said it’s not their lack of ability to complete the work. He said there are many moving parts that have to align in order for Abaco to regain some sense of normalcy.
“It’s not just about talking bad about our workers now. It’s about all of us getting together and seeing what we can do. Even with the banks and the insurance companies and the government agencies, to see if we can make sure this can happen, because this is a new normal. It’s not business as usual,” he said.
“We definitely have the workers and the workforce to do it and the desire is strong. But bear in mind there has been a lot of problems for a lot of our workers who have been displaced, let’s say in Abaco. Believe it or not, Abaconians kind of depended on The Mudd and the Pigeon Peas for those type of level workers and those workers, a lot of them along with other Bahamian workers, have been displaced after Dorian.
“Some of them are in Eleuthera, some of them are doing other jobs, some of them are in Nassau and already moved their children here in school and so now to relocate back to Abaco without having the means, some of them have lost everything, in most cases they haven’t been able to put the roof back on their homes yet. So it’s a myriad of issues we have to address in the country right now.”
The Bahamas Disaster Reconstruction Authority opened the Abaco Small Home Repair Program Office in Marsh Harbour in February to assist Bahamians whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Dorian.
Up to last month, more than 2,600 applications including those from Grand Bahama and Abaco were approved; 804 home repair vouchers had been issued.