By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AT a well-attended town meeting called by the Coalition for Concerned Citizens, many residents signed letters drafted by the organisation opposing the proposed rate increase by the Grand Bahama Power Company.
Pastor Eddie Victor, founder of Coalition for Concerned Citizens (CCC), told the large gathering on Monday evening at the Grand Bahama Taxi Union Hall, that the letters would be delivered to the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), which has the regulatory authority to approve or deny the company’s application for a rate increase.
Although CCC had extended an invitation for officials at GBPC and GBPA, both declined to attend.
Pastor Victor said that CCC has no ulterior motive and is not misleading the public about the rate increase.
“It is time to break the status quo and change the system that has had Grand Bahama under oppression for many years,” he said, to thunderous applause. “If we don’t do something about this now, it is going to affect our children, and our children’s children.”
GBPC has applied to GBPA for an increase in its base rate. The company has also submitted, along with its application, a study and statistics to justify the rate increase.
Pastor Victor blames the high cost of power for the closure of several businesses on the island, including the Fenestration Glass Company, Butler’s Food World, the International Bazaar and many others.
Also addressing the gathering was Kirk Russell, who said that GBPC executives and Sarah St George, vice chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, are out of touch and disconnected with the common man.
Mr Russell said that while fuel costs have significantly declined since July, residents have not seen any real reduction in their power bills.
Derron Brookes, area vice president of the Bahamas Immigration, Customs, Allied Workers Union, said many homes are without power in the Hudson Estates, Arden Forest, Seahorse Village and Bass Lane areas.
He stressed that residents and businesses cannot afford a rate increase at this time.
“This proposed increase in the power rate will cause a domino effect. The cost of living is high… and many people in Grand Bahama already don’t have jobs.”
He added: “I know businesses are in the business of making a profit, I don’t have a problem with that, but I have a problem if you trying to make a killing.”
Attorney Osman Johnson urged residents to form an association to fight the utility provider.
“Unless we unify and stand together, we are not going to succeed against this company. We have to galvanise and come together and form a collective fist,” Mr Johnson said.
“We have 60,000 people (living here in Grand Bahama) and if we coordinate our efforts and unify we can succeed against the power company.”
Mr Johnson said that electricity bills in Grand Bahama are sometimes ten times higher than what consumers are paying in the United States.
“How do they expect the economy to recover if the cost of doing business is high?” he asked.
The Grand Bahama Port Authority expects to make a decision on the rate increase by December 1.