By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AFTER recent power disconnection at several businesses accused of electricity theft by the Grand Bahama Power Company, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens is calling for “a new protocol” to be established when dealing with customers who may find themselves in a similar predicament.
This week, the organisation said it was alarmed at the “mistreatment” of Bahamian businesses which are longstanding customers of the power company.
Instead of first entering into meaningful dialogue with those business customers, CCC President Pastor Eddie Victor said the company chose to have those customers arrested, disconnected electricity services at the respective businesses, and then afterwards began talking to business owners.
“The CCC firmly believes that a 100 percent foreign owned company like Emera/Grand Bahama Power Company must treat Bahamian business owners with respect and dignity. We have met with the regulator, the Grand Bahama Port Authority voicing our concerns,” he said.
GB Power filed a complaint with police after a metre audit conducted in March uncovered a series of electrical diversions in the Freeport area. Power was disconnected at nine businesses in Freeport that had allegedly purchased an energy saving device, which was later alleged to be fake and a smokescreen for electricity diversion. The businesses involved included seven fast-food restaurants—three Burger Kings, three KFCs, and one Pollo Tropical—owned by the Cooper, Burrows, and Symonette families.
It is believed more businesses and residents on the island have purchased and installed similar “fake” energy saving devices. A local businessman and another man were charged in court last Friday in connection with the complaint filed by GB Power over alleged electricity theft.
Meanwhile, Pastor Victor said: “Considering recent events that have transpired over the past weeks involving local Bahamian businesses, alleged electricity diversion and power saving devices scam, the CCC is alarmed by how Bahamian business owners have been treated by Emera/GBPC.
“Firstly, it is important that we emphasise that tampering with metres, electricity diversion and unauthorised connection to the GB Power grid is wrong. Anyone doing so needs to stop these practices immediately,” he stressed.
Pastor Victor is encouraging customers to find ways to use less electricity. He believes both business and residential customers need to implement every conservation methods to drive down the cost of electricity, including the use of solar energy systems, efficient diesel or propane generators and legitimate power saving devices.
The civic leader claims the high cost of electricity environment created by Emera/GBPC has brought about disastrous effects on the economy.
He said the cost of living has increased, many businesses have closed over the years, and many investments have been turned away from the island as a result of high electricity costs.
Additionally, Pastor Victor stressed that operations and profits of businesses have been adversely impacted and many people live without power.
“The recent allegations by Emera/GBPC levied against Bahamian businesses and the subsequent disconnection of the electricity services, shows the power company is disconnected from the Bahamian community in Grand Bahama,” he said.
Pastor Victor said the CCC will hold a very important town meeting concerning Emera/GBPC on Thursday, April 4, at 7pm at the GB Taxi Union Hall located on Airport Road. He is inviting businesses, citizens, and the public to attend.
He stated the issues to be discussed will be about the high cost of electricity, the treatment of Bahamian customers by GBPC and CCC moving forward to unite Bahamians to fight for justice.