By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
A HEADS of Agreement for a $300m residential resort and marina in South Abaco is to be signed today, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis revealed last night.
Viewed as a project that will aid the economic revival of Abaco, the construction phase alone promises to create 600 jobs, the prime minister said. It is expected to open the door for entrepreneurial opportunities for Abaco residents and other Bahamians in agriculture, fisheries, heritage tourism and many other areas. “I am pleased to announce that the National Economic Council has approved the project for the construction of a five-star residential, resort and marina development in South Abaco,” Dr Minnis said in his first televised national address for the year. “The capital investment is approximately $300m and will help in the reconstruction and revival of Abaco.”
A full size golf course is also a feature of the new residential resort.
“The project is expected to employ approximately 600 people during the construction phase and thereafter. The project will provide a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities for Abaconians and Bahamians in a number of areas including: agriculture, fisheries, heritage tourism and many other areas.”
Once completed, the resort will create more visitors for South Abaco. In anticipation of this, the prime minister said government planned to expand and enhance the Sandy Port Airport.
While the signing of such an agreement is a welcomed development for Abaco, the government has come under much criticism over the pace of recovery and clean up efforts.
Dr Minnis also pledged to beef up communication with the public where government had failed to do so.
“If there are aspects of this reconstruction, and rebuilding that we need to improve on, we will take your suggestions,” the prime minister said. “Where we have failed to properly, or regularly communicate with you on ongoing work, we pledge to improve our outreach.
“I understand the frustrations and I assure you, that we are working very hard, to reconstruct public infrastructure, and to aid in the reconstruction of businesses and homes. We remain, the people’s government. We are servants of the people, who elected us to serve.
“As prime minister, I pledge to you the full effort of the government, to restore Abaco, the Abaco Cays, and Grand Bahama.
“We are one Bahamas, one people, one nation. When any part of our Commonwealth is affected, we are all affected. To make our country whole again, we must continue the long, and hard work, to restore, to renew, and to reconstruct the second, and third most vital economic centres of our Bahamas.”
As government directs its focus toward the broader aspects of storm recovery, victims of disaster have needed social and rental assistance along with the purchase of appliances. Dr Minnis outlined how the government has helped victims thus far.
“The Department of Social Services continues to provide rental assistance to those displaced by the storm. It has assisted some 514 families, and paid out, more than $700,000 to Grand Bahamians.
“Also, appliance assistance continues with some 300 applications, processed to the value of $400,000.
“Unemployment assistance, through the National Insurance Board, provided help to those employees, affected by the temporary closure of businesses after the storm. Over $1.7m in these benefits, has been paid to Grand Bahamians.
“As the minister of social services has advised, the shelter at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium will be deactivated by the end of this month. The shelter at the Bahamas Academy on Wulff Road, will also be deactivated as soon as possible.
“The Department of Social Services, is working with shelter residents, to help them to move in with family members, to transition to rental units, or to relocate to the islands from which they were displaced.”
Ultimately, the government hopes the conditions in the affected islands can return to normal to allow residents to return to their homes.
Dr Minnis said 22 domes are being erected in Spring City, Abaco and more domes are being brought in for individuals who would like to place one on their own land while they rebuild or make major repairs.
He said “quite” a number of people had already called to request domes.
Meanwhile, Bahamas Power and Light is still working to ensure there is complete power supply in Abaco.
A restoration team has been assigned and work is ongoing in Elbow Cay - 60 percent of high voltage overhead work is done and 70 percent of the low voltage systems were replaced.
In Man-O-War Cay, a restoration team was also assigned and poles are being delivered to Guana Cay.
However, in Marsh Harbour and other areas extensive work is needed and continues.
Dr Minnis said; “From Marsh Harbour heading north, a section of 500 poles remains down. A request for proposals is out for this work.
“Treasure Cay, is still not powered up. BPL has to run power from the Green Turtle Cay Ferry Dock, to the entrance of Treasure Cay, in preparation to bring power to the settlement, once work has been completed there.
“An additional 150 solar lights are expected to arrive shortly. They are to be placed in Murphy Town, around Marsh Harbour, out to the airport, and elsewhere in Abaco.”
He continued: “To date approximately 50 solar streetlights, are installed in central Abaco. Despite the progress that is being made, there is still much work to be done, to restore electricity.
“Due to the extensive damage caused by Dorian, areas remain without service, and we are working toward full restoration of electricity to Central Abaco.”