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Albury: Private property laws hindering Abaco cleanup

The government is moving as quickly as it can in the cleanup and restoration process on Abaco, Central and South Abaco MP James Albury said.

“Everybody wants the pace to pick up,” he said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.

“I want the pace to pick up. If anyone could be doing it any faster, we’d be doing what we could to make it as fast as possible. So, I do believe we’re working expediently. That’s not to say there aren’t hiccups or challenges that we have yet to resolve. There still are a lot of things that are going to need to be done.”

Central Abaco was decimated by Hurricane Dorian in September. The monster storm left at least 70 dead and thousands homeless and displaced.

Many have been critical of the pace of the cleanup efforts on Abaco in the aftermath of Dorian.

Five months after the disaster, there are many complaints concerning the large amount of debris still scattered about the island.

However, Albury said the already challenging task of cleanup is further complicated by the amount of debris on private properties.

“Especially when it comes to debris removal, that’s a very sensitive thing,” he said.

“There are a lot of stages in that progress because you’re talking about not a neighborhood, but multiple settlements worth of debris, tons and tons of rubble and all sorts of trash, which have to be disposed of very carefully, some not so much and then all the work of separating it.

“A lot of the areas where you still have a lot of debris or semi-standing structures that are obviously no longer structurally secure, a lot of that is private businesses and private lands. Everyone knows that the government can’t just come and bulldoze structures on private property with no sort of notice or communication with the owner of said property. So, I think there’s going to have to be some work there because there is a responsibility on both ends.

“[A]ll of the public thoroughfares have been pushed through and cleared. All of the public utilities, there are still a few government-owned buildings that are in a state of disrepair, but as far as thoroughfares and public access, that’s all been cleared and pushed through.”

Albury said the government wants to be sensitive in its handling of the situation but said it is imperative that the private properties are cleaned up.

“So, definitely going to need to be working with those business owners, with the authority and myself and local government to figure out what the solution is there,” he said.

“Obviously, we can’t be insensitive to the fact that people have just lost everything. And to try and just show up and tell them you’ve got to pay x amount of money to get this out of here, we have to be careful with that.

“It’s their responsibility, their land, their businesses, but it’s also a part of the community that it needs to be dealt with.

“I don’t want to speak out of turn and say there’s any sort of ultimatum or anything like that. That’s not my understanding at all. But I certainly hope we can work towards that, because that’s where a lot of the frustration as far as debris removal is coming from, especially in the central area.”

JUMPLINE: ‘Everybody wants to pick up the pace’  Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clayton Fernander has written to Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson advising that a “special assignment” he was given at the Ministry of Health would not require 12 months and would not require him to leave his desk, according to his attorney, Wayne Munroe, QC.

Upon his return from a months-long leave earlier this month, Fernander was given a “special assignment” requiring him to report to the Ministry of Health for 12 months.

Munroe also noted that Fernander has complied with the task of meeting with the minister of health and permanent secretary, but that he now remains “hampered” from completing the assignment due to written information that the ministry has yet to provide.

“He met with them, he heard orally their concerns. They were supposed to give him something in writing as a record and he wrote a preliminary report to the commissioner to say he’d met with them, he identified the concerns, but concluded that it wouldn’t take a year and didn’t require him to leave his office at headquarters,” Munroe said yesterday.

“To me, he said it’d take a couple weeks at the most.”

He added, “So he did a preliminary report, he was supposed to get [documents] from the minister – who by all accounts got busy with this coronavirus.

“But you would’ve thought these concerns would have been documented before they required a whole ACP, eh? Isn’t that how a government department would work? You accumulate your concerns, you put them in writing and then you send them in writing to the commissioner of police, so they should exist somewhere in writing, hey?

“And you would think that they should’ve been sent to the commissioner before he decided ACP Fernander ought to have this assignment. But it appears they weren’t in writing, and so he’s still waiting to receive it so he could do a final report.”

As he noted that Fernander is still receiving his full pay and benefits during this time, Munroe yesterday called the situation a “farce” and a “waste of resources”.

“I don’t know that the commissioner has given him any other assignment,” Munroe said.

“So it may be that until the Ministry of Health can supply the writing, he’ll just be in a position of waiting to assign resources when he gets it. It couldn’t have been that catastrophic and urgent, could it?”

He added, “Now, I have my view that this is a farce. He has a view that this can’t be that serious. But you have to give people the benefit of the doubt and he has to carry out assignments given to him as an ACP and if you want to waste resources, you waste resources.”

Noting that Fernander is not taking legal action for the time being, Munroe also said: “And if it was a farce just trying to clear the way for your people, then they’ll eventually come to that and if and when they come to that we will be ready to deal with them.”

Fernander is the second senior officer to return to duty and be reassigned.

In December, ACP Ken Strachan was reassigned as the “chief security officer” at the Department of Social Services.

Strachan, who is also represented by Munroe, resisted the move and has since taken legal action.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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