By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A LAWYER representing Grand Bahama business owners has claimed that a Grand Bahama Power Company executive refuses to sit down with them to find an “amicable” resolution regarding disconnection of power supply at seven fast food restaurants which are the subject of a police investigation into alleged electricity theft.
Carlson Shurland, of Shurland and Co, said that he made contact with Tony Lopez, chief financial officer at GBPC, by email who allegedly responded to his request by sending him a middle finger emoji.
Mr Shurland was retained by the Cooper family on Friday when GBPC filed a complaint with police after it had allegedly uncovered a series of suspected electricity diversions at several businesses in Freeport during a recent metre audit.
This led to the subsequent arrest of businessmen Paxton Cooper, Elvis Burrows, and Kenneth Symonette, who have all denied any wrongdoing, saying the controversy is due to widely-used energy saving devices installed at their businesses. They have since been released from custody pending the outcome of the police investigation.
The businesses affected include three Burger Kings, three KFCs and one Pollo Tropical, which have been without power since last Wednesday, and are operating on limited power from emergency generators.
On Sunday, the family warned that they might have to shut down the businesses which could result in the unemployment of almost 500 Bahamians if power is not restored.
When asked if he intends to take legal action on behalf of his clients in the matter, Mr Shurland said that it depends on what the power company decides to do.
He said: “I told Mr Lopez to restore the power and asked him if he would like to sit down and discuss amicably a resolution. What I got from him was an emoji of ‘the finger’. And if that is the attitude he has, then once my clients give me instructions, well, like my grandmother used to say, ‘if you can’t hear me, you will feel.’”
Mr Burrows indicated that the cost of power is high and is becoming a bit “prohibitive” for business people in Grand Bahama.
“Those who do not run a business may not be fully cognisant of what we go through,” he said on Sunday. “The energy cost is one of the highest cost on the books, and so we as well as other businesses too were using the same energy conservation device to realise some of the same savings we’re trying to realise.
“We weren’t trying to do anything else than to affect some energy savings, which from a business standpoint... you looking at the bottom line; you looking at line items on your income statement to see how you can affect and manage those costs,” Mr Burrows said.
Meanwhile, Mr Shurland said that many other businesses and residents are using the same device, which is being installed by a licensed businessman in Freeport.
“The person who is installing the device is not stealth; they are driving around with a big logo on his truck. It is a well-known business entity in Freeport,” he said.
Kenneth Symonette, the operator KFC on the East Mall and Pioneer’s Way, said that before they purchased the system it had existed for years.
“The gentleman approached us. We were having problems with high power bills and complications with too many power surges and losing a lot of equipment,” he claimed.
“We were buying cash registers and when I had placed orders for power packs, (the power pack provider) said to me no one buys this amount of power packs in our system in the whole world, what are you doing in Freeport?”
“We went through 20 power packs in one month because they were melting on the wall because of the power surges. And here comes someone who says, ‘my system can clean up your power’ and we say tell us what else it can do, and he said, ‘it will save you energy; you only pay what you use.’”
Mr Shurland believes that the power company cannot prove that his clients stole or obstructed anything.
“They are speculating. That is why I say it is fake news because it was negligent investigation, it was too premature,” he said.