Grand Bahama News

NIB parking lot a ‘graveyard’ for hurricane-damaged vehicles

The rear parking lot of the National Insurance Building (NIB) is quickly resembling an unkept junkyard, with nearly 100 hurricane flood-damaged and derelict vehicles piling up daily.

The parking lot, which is also used by driving instructors for practical examinations and driving lessons, is now congested and impeding the once-smooth process.

“It’s a mess,” said 22-year-old Austin Major. “It is horrible and a distraction.”

Major said that seeing the vehicle pileup made him nervous, and it almost cost him the practical section of his exam to attain his driver’s license.

“Something has to be done, because I know a few of my friends also were scared when they came to take their test,” he said.

The first-time license holder recalled when he took driving lessons, there were only a few cars in the lot with red government license tags.

“I knew they were not working because I heard that they were flooded out in the hurricane. But after a while, more cars started coming and now it’s just like a garage out here,” Major said.

Grand Bahama News learned that in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the parking lot was to be used as a temporary holding site for damaged government vehicles.

Three years later, however, more cars have been added to the original number.

“This is quickly becoming a problem,” a representative from Pinder’s Driving School told Grand Bahama News during a visit to the site last week.

She pointed out that there are about 17 slots in each of the six parking rows and said some are full.

“Four of the rows are filled, and now cars are being dropped off and left in the middle of the rows,” she said.

“We only have one section of the lot to use for testing and lessons.”

The driving instructor is not only concerned about the limited space for lessons and exams, but said it is becoming unsanitary.

“This is the kind of environment that harbors rats and other undesirables. I would hate for that to happen, because there are a lot of offices around here and we use the lot for convenience and easy access.”

Calls were made to several government departments, including the Department of Environmental Health Services, Ministry of Environment, Ministry for Grand Bahama, and the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) for comment.

While the Ministry of Environment and Ministry for Grand Bahama did not respond, DRA Chairman Alex Storr said that a plan is in motion to have the vehicles moved.

“The derelict vehicle pileup in both Grand Bahama and Abaco has caught the attention of the DRA,” Storr said.

“We have reached out to the minister of environment to present a solution to have these sites cleared.

“As there are laws regarding how derelict vehicles are disposed, we are working to get the necessary approvals to act and clear these sites where derelict vehicles from Hurricane Dorian are housed.”

The storm left tons of debris and thousands of damaged vehicles in its wake, many of which were dumped in the civic industrial/commercial area of Freeport and left abandoned in private subdivisions severely impacted by storm surge. 

Storr said in the last three years, roughly $70 million was spent on cleanup initiatives for Abaco and Grand Bahama. The bulk of that went to the debris management sites, he added.

The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has spearheaded the removal of 500 derelict vehicles in the Central Freeport area.

In an interview earlier this year, Troy McIntosh, deputy director and city manager at GBPA, said another 500 derelict cars were towed by private entities, bringing the total to somewhere around 1,000 vehicles removed. 

He indicated that an additional 1,500 vehicles were still left in the Freeport area.

Dave Atkinson, manager at Kent Motors on Queens Highway, said derelict vehicles are towed to the junkyard to be crushed and exported.

“The crushing machine was down for some time because we had flood damage from Hurricane Dorian,” he explained.

Referring to a massive blaze in June that ripped through the junkyard, destroying more than 500 vehicles that were being prepared for the crushing machine, Atkinson said, “We got the crusher up and running, recently, and then someone started a fire at the rear of the property.”

Thankfully, he added, none of the 300 vehicles that were already crushed and ready for export were burned in the fire.

He said Kent Motors intends to continue the work.

“Old, damaged and derelict cars are towed to the garage for disposal,” Atkinson said.

“It was something that the previous owners began to keep the island clean in partnership with the GBPA, and we are continuing the work.”

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