Government to buy hotel in $1.9m deal to expand hospital

BY DENISE MAYCOCK Tribune Freeport Reporter dmaycock@tribunemedia.net FREEPORT - Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced that the government will buy the old Freeport Inn Hotel for $1.9 million as part of the expansion and upgrade of the Rand Memorial Hospital. While in Grand Bahama over the weekend, Mr Ingraham also revealed plans to acquire another jet so that Bahamasair can take over services now being provided by Vision Airlines. With the addition of a 160-seat Boeing 737-400, he said, Bahamasair will have the capacity to bring 8,800 visitors to Grand Bahama a month. "It will be nearly 100,000 seats a year coming to Grand Bahama," Mr Ingraham told supporters on Saturday at the opening of the FNM Marco City constituency office in the East Sunrise Shopping Centre. He said that in addition to reducing travel time from cities like Baltimore, Maryland; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky, the move will also cut ticket costs by more than 50 per cent, from $600 to $300 round trip. According to Mr Ingraham, the initiative is expected to be a "life-saver" for the airport and the Grand Lucaya Resort. "We also expect that this effort could result in the opening of the Reef Resort by next winter, resulting in the creation of hundreds of jobs directly and spin-off jobs indirectly for you here in Grand Bahama," he said. Mr Ingraham said the government also plans to work with the Grand Bahama Port Authority to aggressively promote the island. "Working with a functional, more focused Port Authority absent Hannes Babak; the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Bahama and businesses, we will aggressively promote Grand Bahama throughout the world, especially in Asia, Latin America and North America, seeking out offshore medical education and research facilities as well as manufacturing facilities specially suited for Grand Bahama," he said. The FNM will work with tourism stakeholders to develop new and attractive tourism facilities throughout the island, Mr Ingraham said. He also said renewed focus will be placed on the second home market in Grand Bahama, and on maximising the use of Bahamian contractors in the construction of high-end homes. "We will promote the development of a marine institute here in Grand Bahama for the training of both Bahamian mariners as well as persons in the region; we will promote the creation of a diesel mechanic Institute in Grand Bahama to train Bahamian and regional students; and we will work to cause Grand Bahama to become the attractive alternative energy capital of the Bahamas to reduce energy costs and encourage the development of additional industrial developments on this island," the prime minister said. "We will make Grand Bahama the manufacturing and industrial giant it was meant to be." Mr Ingraham said his government will also work to ensure that when the provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement expire, all of Grand Bahama benefits from a new agreement. "We are not going to negotiate with the Port Authority in public. We will negotiate with them after the next election," he said.


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