By LEANDRA ROLLE
NEARLY three years after Hurricane Irma ravaged Ragged Island, many longtime residents there still feel “neglected” and “disappointed” with the lack of progress made to fully restore the island to normalcy.
This “blatant” disregard for the island and its residents, according to some locals, is not a new issue, but is a something that has been felt by islanders for several years now.
“You know how long Irma hit?” said Rochelle Maycock, a Ragged Island resident. “From that storm, the (prime minister) been over here once and that was it. He wouldn’t even come to see the people of Ragged Island and try say ‘well. let me see what the people of Ragged Island have to say’ because we are a part of The Bahamas.
“They can’t even tell you what’s going on in Ragged Island.The government should’ve started something on Ragged Island long time…they neglected us for too long now.”
Having lived on the tiny island for some 15 years, Mrs Maycock, said daily living for many is still a struggle.
Her husband, Craig Maycock said: “Plenty people over ain’t have nothing to do. Plenty people ain’t even coming back because they ain’t got no house and they ain’t got this or that.
“I better off than plenty people because I already get my house together and everything but some people ain’t even get no house.”
After the storm devastated the island in September 2017, flattening homes and government buildings, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) deemed the island “uninhabitable.”
To help with the redevelopment of the island, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced during his national address last May that a new school and teacher’s duplex will be constructed on the island at a cost of $2m. Other developments on the island, he said, will include a new clinic at $2.5m, an administrator’s office, post office and court room at $2.5m and a police station and accommodations for officers for $1m.
Still, Mrs Maycock maintains that the rebuilding process has been too slow.
“I mean yeah, they’re making progress now (but) I still think they’re too slow. I think they’re too too slow. They need to really move up the process because this really been too long like I said,” she told The Tribune yesterday.
“I have two kids. One 16 and one ain’t (in) school but another one is, she only four-years-old and I need that school to be finished for September coming because I ain’t into going Nassau. I want to be over here with her.
“…They already started (working) on the school, but they still have other things to do. They have the clinic, the police station (and) they have the local government offices and the post office to finish.”
Now with the government’s attention fixed on restoring Grand Bahama and Abaco after Hurricane Dorian, the country’s second and third largest island economies, some fear Ragged Island’s healthcare and governmental services will be pushed aside indefinitely. The small island had a population of 72 in 2010.
“They ain’t doing nothing much for us. They ain’t even helping the people here like how they do in Freeport and Abaco,” said Mr Maycock.
Another resident, Erica Wallace added: “Yeah, I think they took too long to come and help us because it’s only a small island. We need the clinic and the school but definitely a clinic, but I guess we have to wait and see.”
As a part of the government’s plans to further redevelop island, Dr Minnis also said his administration would transform Ragged Island into the “first fully green island in the region.”
But, this too has also received criticism from residents.
“My thing is why put up a solar plant, if not to make the bill go lower and not to make the bill go higher or stay the same? That don’t make no sense. That’s my thing. Because he is saying that bill won’t go down until they make the whole Bahamas green,” said Mrs Maycock when asked about the matter.
“Then the light bill will drop because I was in the meeting when they had it. I thought the whole purpose of the solar plan is the light bill to go down and not go up or stay the same. That’s what I thought.”
Dr Minnis recently told American news show 60 Minutes on Sunday his goal “absolutely” remains to convert Ragged Island into a sustainable “green” community, with plans to expand the effort.
“After Ragged Island was devastated I made a statement: Let us show the world what can be done. We may be small but we can set an example to the world,” Dr Minnis said on the programme, which aired on Sunday.
Asked by 60 Minutes journalist Bill Whitaker if it was his goal to make the island green, Dr Minnis replied: “Absolutely, absolutely. After which we can expand it. We can expand it.”