Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister defended the government’s decision to spend millions of dollars on infrastructure at Ragged Island, telling Parliament it came down to a matter of “life and death” for residents.
The minister revealed yesterday new government buildings on the island, which was decimated by Hurricane Irma in 2017, will cost $12m. This contrasts with Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ estimate of $8m during his third national address in May.
According to Mr Bannister, the plan for Ragged Island includes construction of a new school and teachers’ complex at $4m; a new clinic for $3m; administrator’s office, post office and court room for $2m and $3m to build a new police station and officer accommodations.
However, he told the House of Assembly the work would have to be completed in stages and cannot be done within a single budget year, adding the school is to be started first in October or November.
“Mr Speaker, I know that this won’t take any pressure off my colleagues, but I will give you an example of the types of challenges that we face every day at the Ministry of Public Works, and I have to make the hard calls,” the minister said yesterday during his contribution to the 2019/2020 budget debate.
“When I visited Crooked Island with my friend from MICAL, she showed me a road that needed paving. Only six people live on that road, and paving it would probably cost $100,000. On an economic analysis it may make no sense, but to those six people getting that road paved would change their lives. To them it is the most important thing in the world, and we have similar situations in every island in this country.
“Likewise building a school in Ragged Island, which has to double as a hurricane shelter. The ordinary Nassauvian may question spending $4m to build a school in Ragged Island for six children that doubles as a hurricane shelter for a community of 60, but to the residents it’s life and death.”
He also said: “The preliminary cost estimates have taken into consideration the inflationary effect on construction from the cost of transportation to the Family Islands. It is clear that we will have to reconstruct Ragged Island’s government facilities in stages over a number of years, as logistically the engineering and architectural process together with the funding of approximately $12 million cannot be accomplished in a single budget year.”
Regarding Ragged Island’s individual government structures, Mr Bannister said: “The school has been designed for 60 persons as it also will serve as a hurricane shelter. The Ministry of Education has only six students on record. The project design has been completed and currently the tender documents are being finalised. It is planned to tender the project by next month with an expected start date in October/November 2019.”
The clinic’s architectural design is currently under review by the Ministry of Health and designs are ongoing for the other facilities.
Additionally, he said a request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for solar energy provision on the small island, with bids now under evaluation.
Before the end of the year, Bahamas Power and Light intends to issue RFPs for a number of other islands, he said.