By Natario McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
THE lack of accountability and management is at the heart of Abaco airport terminal's woes, the Out Island Promotion Board's president said yesterday, arguing: "We're not maintenance conscious."
Dr Keenan Larry Carroll argued the issues at the $30m Leonard Thompson International Airport were about more than the government's lack of funding.
Ken Hutton, pictured, Abaco Chamber of Commerce's president in an interview with Tribune Business last week, implored the government to permit local input into solving the terminal's problems ahead of the resumption of peak tourism season in November-December.
Mr Hutton said deficiencies at the airport included a lack of air conditioning, bathrooms that were poorly maintained and did not function, and wildlife that was making a home for itself in the terminal's guttering.
"When you look at the overall picture of the airports it has more to do than just the government not having the money but it has to do with us, the people. We really don't give a hoot. We're not maintenance conscious. We don't realise that this is our front yard and needs to be presentable. The downtown area in Marsh Harbour is the last area you think would be a downtown."
He added: "The airport is run by government. NAD - the pride and joy of The Bahamas - now is run by a private entity. The difference is, the accountability and tight management which goes into NAD is not in our airports.
"One of the things that vexed me tremendously is that two weeks ago I was was sitting at the airport waiting for my ride as the last flight had just come in and left and the flight handlers, the guys who load the plane were out at the front door. They were laying on the floor at the entrance to the airport. They were at their loudest. They were swearing and cursing and our guests, our customers to the airport were walking by and those guys had no knowledge of the impact of their actions. There was no supervisor to tell them they couldn't do it.
"Unless we, the people decide that we will take more ownership of our own products and manage it properly, then we are shooting ourselves in the head. Yes, there is a major problem but that has to do with a larger problem."
Dionisio D'Aguilar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, recently told Tribune Business the Airport Authority is trying to fix these defects and others after they were brought to its attention by the Abaco Chamber of Commerce and others.
He added Marsh Harbour airport, in common with all other Family Island airports, lacked a funding mechanism or income stream to finance infrastructure improvements and maintenance. A passenger facility user charge will now likely be imposed on airport users "in the near term", the minister said.
Mr Hutton, who said he had first written to the Ministry and Airport Authority with his concerns in early July, added he was not opposed to such a charge provided the monies raised were used for maintenance purposes, and there was strict accountability and transparency around their use.