From intermittent potable water supply, to a storm-damaged dock and main roadway, to inoperable airport runway lights, to an island clinic in a “deplorable” state, residents of Moore’s Island, Abaco, say they continue to petition for repairs, upgrades and accountability that have yet to materialize.
Perspective recently spoke with Moore’s Island local government Deputy Chief Councillor Ganvia Johnson, Chief Councillor Cecil Stuart and pastor and track and field coach Anthony Williams, who outlined vexing infrastructural deficiencies on the approximately seven square miles of island still in recovery mode from the ravages of Hurricane Dorian.
Resiliency is a hallmark of Family Island communities and the fishing community of Moore’s Island is no exception, but resiliency is no substitution for the role of basic infrastructure which officials insist is in a dangerous state of disrepair.
Stuart explained that the island’s water supply shuts off each night between 9:00pm and 10:00pm, with Johnson pointing out that pump failures at the island’s water supply system have also resulted in unexpected disruptions, such as one that occurred prior to the first weekend of COVID-19 lockdowns for the island.
With no running water and a lockdown in place, Johnson said, residents were unable to leave their homes to secure water from other venues.
Of the ongoing potable water challenges, she explained, “All they are saying is there is a situation with the pump, but you have to tell us what is the situation and how long will we be stuck in a situation like this? That is what we need to know.
“To be honest, thank God some of us have containers on the side of our houses where you will catch rain water. Other than that, you cannot leave your house to make use of the water tanks that are in the community,” Johnson shared prior to the lockdown.
Water and Sewerage Corporation Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson previously acknowledged that the water system on Moore’s Island was experiencing “challenges”, but both Johnson and Stuart maintain that a resolution has yet to materialize.
Of the nightly water outages, Stuart said, “God forbid that a fire breaks out at night; the water is off. Whatever needs to be fixed, they just need to come in and fix it.”
The risk of disaster should a fire occur at night is just one of the dangers posed by infrastructural deficiencies on the island, according to Johnson and Stuart, who both conveyed concerns about inoperable runway lights at the island’s airport that has impacted the ability of residents to be airlifted for emergency treatment.
Stuart argued, “More lights are not working properly than the ones that are lighting up, and so the pilot that does the air ambulance flight refuses to come. We have written [central government] and called and asked for help to come and repair the runway lights, and nothing has been done since hurricane Dorian.
“After a major storm hits the island, that’s one of the things you would need to come and check even without someone writing.”
Dorian also significantly damaged the island’s dock, which Stuart said residents came together to attempt to fix on their own, but that remains in critical need of repair.
Meantime Johnson, who disclosed that some of the cries for infrastructural improvements predate her three-year term as a local government representative, added that the island’s clinic “needs to be repaired. It is in a deplorable state; I think the roof is still leaking and the whole thing, to me, needs to be knocked down and rebuilt.”
Ever adaptable, residents have used rocks and conch shells in an attempt to fill in the gaping storm erosion of the island’s seaside main roadway of Bay Street; and of the island’s dumpsite, Stuart said, “There is no heavy equipment on the island, the dumpsite is full to capacity, particularly after Dorian.
“We try to burn as often as we can, but we don’t have the heavy equipment here to maintain it or push it back. The last time it was pushed back was under previous administration, when roadworks on the island had also commenced but have not been completed.
“People are coming to look at the problem and confirming what is obvious, including the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, but no works are commencing.”
Johnson said, “Local government has already put in all the information that needs to be in when it comes to our challenges, and their feedback to us is that they’re going to see that it gets done, but nothing is being done. All we are getting is promises with no results.”
‘Don’t deal with us based on politics’
With face-to-face learning still prohibited by emergency order for the Abacos, Stuart bemoaned the island’s poor internet connectivity and questioned the reason for the restriction on Moore’s Island.
He noted, “The most pressing need at this time would be our students with the virtual learning. For the younger children, I feel like they are being deprived because their attention span is so much shorter that they are at a disadvantage.
“Since there are no active COVID-19 cases on Moore’s Island, why can’t a schedule be put together, even if not for full-day, where they can be face-to-face, because the face-to-face interaction works better for them. Why aren’t we allowed to have the children go to school?
“Not to mention the poor internet service we have on the island. The internet here is very slow, and the more people that have to get online at the same time slows it down worse.”
Though the intention and establishment of local government was to lessen the reliance of communities on the central government, local government districts currently must rely on central government for what, in most cases, are inadequate budgetary allocations; and inaction by central government on major infrastructural works leaves local government representatives in a less than favorable position with those who elected them.
Stuart offered of the dilemma, “It’s too much of a challenge, because those who would have elected me, they are under the impression that once they put me there and they bring a concern to me, if I call or write those who are in authority, they think that these people will respond and the problem will be resolved.
“But that’s not the way it’s done. I feel that we are just here as scapegoats, because those who can make the change and get the job done, they are not listening to us.”
Williams, an evangelistic pastor on the island and the former coach of world champion Bahamian sprinter Steven Gardiner, is calling on the government to “remember” Moore’s Island, which is represented by Central and South Abaco MP James Albury.
He said, “Everybody on the island is in a mode of trying to rebound from Dorian. Everybody right now is in survival mode. There were some promises of folk who were to come in and repair homes and that has not materialized as yet.
“Because we are a resilient people and we are always trying to make things work with the little that we have, the people are fighting, but we do need assistance, especially those whose roofs are still leaking.”
Many roofs still bear tarps since last September.
Williams added, “Some residents are constantly changing tarps, some used the small amount they had to try to effect what repairs they can and a young couple whose home was blown down desperately needs assistance.
“Everybody is trying to find a way to move forward as best they can.”
As evidence of his own resilience, Williams has started an egg farm which he said can now produce all the eggs for his wife’s store.
But he stressed that the strength of the people should not be overestimated, as the needs are great.
Williams stated, “I just want the government to remember that we are still here and we are still looking for them to come in and assist the community the way they are supposed to do, and don’t deal with us based on political persuasion.
“This is a time of disaster and we expect whoever is in government to reach a hand out to help the people.”