The Spring City dome debacle

On an April morning a little more than two years ago, eight families took possession of temporary housing domes erected by the government at a site in Spring City, Abaco, after Category 5 Hurricane Dorian visited widespread death and destruction on the island seven months earlier.

The stories of survivors still stung so sharply, the tales of loved ones lost still resonated so deeply, that The Bahamas was generally elated that any help was coming to those affected by the storm on that island.

And the enormity of it all perhaps blinded so many to how out of their depth those who managed the response – right up to then-Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis – actually were.

The aftermath of the storm seemed to foster what appeared to be a national spirit of charity for the former administration, with Bahamians exhausted by just the thought of it.

Little did we know that failure after failure would follow from the then-Free National Movement administration with regard to the recovery and reconstruction – and glaring lack thereof – on Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Granted, we should have seen the disaster after the disaster that was Minnis’ handling of the hurricane fallout when he displayed his trademark insecurity in rejecting the help of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and former Prime Minister Perry Christie, both of whom previously handled numerous hurricane responses, when the offer was extended.

But the domes, which Minister of Transport and Housing JoBeth Coleby-Davis yesterday informed the House of Assembly will be vacated shortly, crystalize the many failures of the former administration most clearly so far.

The previous administration spent more than $6 million on nearly 200 domes that were supposed to be used as temporary housing, and planned to set up 250 domes on Abaco in a tent city.

Of course, that never happened.

It did not occur under initial Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction in the Office of the Prime Minister Iram Lewis, who was appointed a few weeks after Dorian.

Nor did it occur under Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe, who replaced Lewis in March 2021 after he was promoted to minister of youth, sports and culture.

Far fewer than 100 domes were erected between Abaco and Grand Bahama, according to the current administration.

In fact, Parker-Edgecombe said in July 2021, nearly two years after Dorian, that she did not believe the remaining domes should be erected.

We did not understand until February of this year, that, according to new Disaster Reconstruction Authority Executive Chairman Alex Storr, nearly $1 million in demurrage had been accumulated on 48 shipping containers containing domes that had never been erected nor properly secured.

“We assessed the Spring City dome site and it was determined that many of the people occupying the domes could be moved because their placement there was not hurricane related,” said Coleby-Davis as she contributed to debate on the 2022/2023 budget.

She said the “suitability and utility” of the temporary housing units described by the former administration as “state of the art” had long passed.

“We looked at the conditions that many people are living in and it is deplorable,” she said, adding that several of the domes had mold due to lack of proper ventilation.

She said her ministry is partnering with the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development to provide solutions to assist in relocating those who are staying in domes.

Eventually, Coleby-Davis said, the government wants to use the land to build low cost homes.

And so concludes the dome debacle of Spring City – we hope.

An idea cooked up by the former administration that started with a bang, essentially set fire to precious taxpayer dollars for what turned out to be mostly optics, and ended with a whimper, much like the former administration itself.

Politicians are often the last to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, but perhaps this time will be different.

When the Bahamian people repeatedly observe the nonsense you do with millions of dollars of their money, taxed from them and borrowed on the backs of what remains of their good name, do not respond with nonplussed expressions.

They treat what say you will do with a great deal of skepticism and cynicism for good reason.

Speak less, do more and let the people see you working, rather than making proclamations of what you intend to do, then doing nothing of the sort while complaining that they don’t understand how difficult the jobs you asked for are.

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